- Associated Press - Monday, October 1, 2012

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. — The Atlanta Falcons are an imperfect 4-0.

That was the message from coach Mike Smith on Monday, one day after Atlanta’s 30-28 win over Carolina.

Matt Ryan, whose health is crucial to the Falcons‘ continued success, was sacked a career-high seven times.

Smith said the defense gave up too many explosive plays to Cam Newton and the Panthers.

Smith also critiqued himself. He says he was too emotional when he grabbed assistant coach Ray Hamilton as the Falcons had only 10 defensive players on the field in the closing seconds after Matt Bryant’s 40-yard field goal with 5 seconds remaining gave the Falcons the lead.

“We were trying to get 11 guys on the field,” Smith said. “We only had 10 guys out there on the field. One thing I’m not going to do, I’m not going to have our team at a disadvantage before the snap. We were trying to make sure we handled that situation.”

Even so, Smith said he shouldn’t have grabbed or bumped Hamilton.

“There was something that happened, and it was in the heat of the battle,” he said. “I’ve had a conversation with coach Hamilton.

“I try to be 100 percent. I wasn’t 100 percent yesterday. I’ve got to do better. I’ve got to be better.”

Smith said his next move was calculated and even rehearsed.

Carolina was about to line up from its 20-yard line when Smith called a timeout — even though the Falcons were out of timeouts.

Smith said his called timeout was a planned maneuver because the NFL doesn’t penalize a team for calling too many timeouts. As an official came over to remind Smith he was out of timeouts, the Falcons had the time needed to get the 11th defensive player on the field.

Carolina quarterback Cam Newton was sacked by John Abraham on the final play, securing the win.

“There’s a lot of pressure out there, but that’s what we signed up for,” Smith said. “I thought our guys handled it very well. We’ve got some things that we’ve got to do better. I’ve got some things I’ve got to do better in terms of managing the end of the game. It’s something we’re all going to learn from in terms of what we’ve got to improve on.”

The Falcons play Sunday at Washington.

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