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Atlanta Falcons say they won't let up in season finale against Tampa Bay Buccaneers

TAMPA — The Falcons could have a very limited ability to impact their playoff position in Sunday's game against the Bucs, but Atlanta maintains it will play to win.

Coach Mike Smith suggested Wednesday that he would not rest his starters or coach differently, but he wasn't entirely specific.

"Our preparation week is going to be no different than any other week," Smith said. "We know there are some things that are set in concrete. We know we'll be playing the following week. We don't know who or where or when, and we've just got to go through our normal preparation and prepare to beat Tampa Bay.

"That's our entire focus this week. We're not thinking about the second season."

The Bucs (4-11) hope to end the season by snapping a nine-game losing streak.

The Falcons (9-6), meanwhile, will know by the 4:15 kickoff if their game affects their playoff seeding. If the Lions defeat the Packers earlier in the day, the Falcons are the sixth seed, no matter the outcome of the Bucs game. But if the Lions lose, the Falcons can grab the fifth seed with a win.

All-Pro TE Tony Gonzalez said the Falcons want to play to win after their 45-16 thumping at the hands of the Saints on Monday night.

"It's business as usual around here," Gonzalez said. "We're going to try to go out and win a football game against a really good team that beat us earlier in the season. I don't think anybody's mind-set around here is that we're going to go ahead and rest, especially after last week the way we performed against the Saints. We have to go out there and put on a good performance going into the playoffs."

WELL DESERVED: RG Davin Joseph's selection to the Pro Bowl this week didn't surprise QB Josh Freeman. And it probably shouldn't have surprised some of the Bucs' opponents, either.

"I remember Ndamukong Suh before the first game said, 'Man, you've got to keep (No.) 75 from cheap (shots),' " Freeman said of the Lions' defensive tackle. "I'm like, 'Are you really telling me this? You of all people?' Guys throughout the year said the same thing. (Texans LB) Brian Cushing comes to mind. They know about Davin. They know what a great player he is, and it's great to have him on our team."

For his part, Joseph, headed to his second Pro Bowl, said he'd take team accomplishments over individual ones.

"If you give me 10 wins, I'd trade it all in," said the 2006 first-round pick out of Oklahoma. "It just shows we have talent, and there's no doubt we put in a lot of work. It just hasn't panned out for us right now. But, soon, it will."

In a season full of negatives, Joseph's play has stood out, according to Freeman: "Davin has been a major bright spot, the effort that guy gives, his intensity. I hear guys all the time talk about, 'You've got to keep that No. 75, watch out for him. Tell him to cut out the cheap shots.' (They) are not cheap shots. They're hustle plays."

INJURY REPORT: The Bucs are limping into their final game as decimated by injuries as they've been all season. The injury report includes seven players who were unable to practice Wednesday in any capacity: WR Arrelious Benn (neck), DE Michael Bennett (toe), DT Albert Haynesworth (knee), DT Roy Miller (back), DT Brian Price (ankle), WR Preston Parker (concussion) and RT Jeremy Trueblood (concussion). The defensive line is particularly thin, with only three defensive tackles available Wednesday: Frank Okam, new signee Jovan Haye and practice squad member Lamar Divens.

Staff writer Rick Stroud contributed to this report.

Atlanta Falcons say they won't let up in season finale against Tampa Bay Buccaneers 12/28/11 [Last modified: Wednesday, December 28, 2011 8:48pm]
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