FLOWERY BRANCH - Bobby Petrino hasn't exactly enjoyed perfect working conditions as coach of the Atlanta Falcons.
Finally, after eight months on the job and four games into the season, the Falcons rewarded him with a victory. Petrino could feel some levity when he walked into team headquarters Monday morning.
'There is no question about it,' he said. 'We needed a win. There has been a lot stress and tense moments for the last three weeks.'
In reality, Petrino and the Falcons have dealt with distractions, disappointment and disgust since estranged quarterback Michael Vick pleaded guilty in federal court to running a dogfighting ring.
Petrino had been on the job about two weeks when he met Vick for the first time in less than ideal circumstances. The quarterback sat with Petrino, team owner Arthur Blank and general manager Rich McKay to discuss his role in an alleged water bottle incident at Miami International Airport.
Before Vick's dogfighting allegations turned serious, Petrino had the misfortune of walking through the locker room during the NFL draft and seeing standout defensive tackle Rod Coleman laid out on the training table with a torn quadriceps.
As Petrino prepared to begin his first training camp, the Falcons were deep into damage control over the federal crimes Vick committed for bankrolling a dogfighting ring in Virginia.
Then last week, Petrino had to handle cornerback DeAngelo Hall's temper tantrums in a home-opening loss to Carolina that dropped Atlanta to 0-3.
Not once did Petrino publicly lose his cool, a tendency he's shown since taking charge at Louisville four years ago and coaching the Cardinals to a 41-9 record.
'I've always been really calm and not animated,' Petrino said before grinning slightly.
Never too high, never too low. That's the way Petrino wants it.
Late in the fourth quarter of Atlanta's 26-16 victory the day before, Petrino showed almost no emotion on two consecutive plays that could have swiped momentum from the Falcons and given it to the Houston Texans.
Petrino watched as Houston quarterback Matt Schaub made an errant pitch to running back Ron Dayne that prevented a Texans touchdown from the Atlanta 1. On the next snap, Kris Brown missed a 25-yard field goal on the next snap, but Petrino remained stoic.
The coach also won two challenges, the second of which overturned a 13-yard touchdown run by Schaub, but not before making an animated windup to throw the red flag onto the field.
'The first thing my daughters asked me last night was how my arm was,' Petrino said. 'I asked them what they were talking about and they told me that they were proud of me that I crow-hopped before I threw the flag.'
Falcons owner Arthur Blank, whose team missed the playoffs the last two years, appreciates Petrino's seemingly unflappable demeanor. Petrino's predecessor, Jim Mora, showed a wide range of emotions throughout his three-year tenure.
'You're not going to see Bobby way up here or way down there,' Blank said while gesturing with his hands. 'He's even keel, and I think that's what our team needs right now. The way he approaches his job is in everyone's best interests.'
Now the Falcons (1-3) can return to practice on Wednesday and prepare for Tennessee (2-1) without worrying about that elusive first victory.
Petrino gave most of the credit to the defense, namely linebacker Michael Boley, defensive end John Abraham and safety Lawyer Milloy, all of whom combined for 18 tackles, one sack and two forced fumbles.
Quarterback Joey Harrington completed nearly 80 percent of 29 passes and threw both of his touchdown passes to receiver Michael Jenkins. Morten Andersen connected on four of five field goals.
But Petrino wanted every player to enjoy a day off after ending a six-game losing streak that began in Week 15 last year.
'I give the credit to the players,' he said. 'They kept practicing and working. Their effort showed up last night in the game, and we found a way to win. That's what we have to do. I hope every game is a great battle and we keep finding ways to win in the fourth quarter.'