ATLANTA - The Falcons are 10-1 at the Georgia Dome under coach Mike Smith and have won their past six games.
That's the good news.
The bad news is that Atlanta is 5-6 on the road counting the playoff loss at Arizona last season.
The Falcons, off to a 4-1 start after Sunday night's 21-14 win over Chicago, need to learn to win on the road if they are going to grow into a Super Bowl contender, and they need to do it fast.
Four of the next five games are on the road, starting at Dallas on Sunday and including trips to face the New Orleans Saints and the New York Giants.
The Saints, who the Falcons face at the Superdome on Nov. 2 in a Monday night game, lead the NFC South and are one of the NFC's two unbeaten teams.
"You just look at them and keep trying to chase them," Falcons linebacker Mike Peterson said. "The good thing about it is we get a chance to play them twice."
The Saints have to come to Atlanta on Dec. 13, and the Georgia Dome has become a very, very tough place to play for visiting teams.
"It gets very loud in here and it's hard for the other team to hear," Falcons tight end Tony Gonzalez said.
Gonzalez and Peterson were Atlanta's key offseason additions and both enjoy playing at the Georgia Dome.
"It's a great place if you're on the home team," Gonzalez said.
Of course, some other places aren't much fun to play either if you are the visitors.
"You've got to win the home games," Peterson said. "Then you need to pull together on the road. There is no reason that we can't win anywhere."
The Falcons were supposed to be all offense and no defense, but that hasn't been the case. The defense stepped up again against the Bears, especially in the red zone, as quarterback Matt Ryan and the running game struggled.
"You have to find a way to keep them out of the end zone any way that you can," Peterson said.
Jay Cutler was the only quarterback to beat the Falcons at the Georgia Dome last season, doing it for Denver. But he couldn't pull off a repeat for the Bears. Thomas DeCoud helped see to that.
Cutler got familiar with the unheralded second-year free safety and suffered for it. DeCoud intercepted Cutler twice in the first half, getting the Falcons going after the Bears had dominated play early.
"He's a guy who is real confident in his arm," DeCoud said of Cutlter. "He's going to try to squeeze the ball in there. You have to try to make the play."
DeCoud (pronounced Day-Coo) intercepted a Cutler pass at the 9-yard line to end a Bears threat in the first quarter. Then he picked Cutler off again in the second quarter, setting up the Falcons for their first touchdown.
The Bears had a chance to tie the game in the closing seconds, but Cutler's fourth-down throw to Desmond Clark from the 6-yard line was incomplete.
"I don't know if I got a hand in there or just distracted the attended receiver," strong safety Erik Coleman said.
"I definitely got scary at the end," DeCoud said. "When you're playing against a quarterback that good, you know what can happen."
Cutler threw the winning touchdown pass with 5:35 left as Denver beat the Falcons 22-10 last year.
"That was a good team we were playing and the offense wasn't moving the ball like it usually does," linebacker Coy Wire said. "The defense had to make plays to help them out."
Wire, unheralded like DeCoud, did just that. He recovered a Matt Forte fumble at the 1-yard line in the third quarter.
That was one of several key defensive plays in the second half. DeCoud made the two big ones in the first half. It was the first time a Falcons player had intercepted two passes in the same game since DeAngelo Hall did it against Tampa Bay in 2006.
DeCoud, a third-round draft choice in 2008 out of the University of California, played in just 10 games as a rookie and saw action almost exclusively on special teams. He didn't dress for the Denver game last year.
"He's a natural ball hawk," Coleman said of DeCoud. "He has great instincts."
ATLANTA - The Falcons' 21-14 victory over Chicago on Sunday night may prove costly. Starting cornerback Brian Williams tore an anterior cruciate ligament and will miss the rest of the season.
Williams hurt his knee defending a pass in the end zone during the fourth quarter and it was obvious immediately that the injury was serious.
Williams, who played with Jacksonville the past three years, was picked up by the Falcons before the start of the season and moved into the lineup at the corner opposite Chris Houston.
The 30-year-old was credited with 18 tackles, three passes defended and an interception for the Falcons.
With Williams out, Brent Grimes will likely start outside at corner and Chevis Jackson will replace Williams in the slot on nickel coverage.
Running back Jerious Norwood had to leave the Bears game with a hip flexor and rookie safety William Moore suffered a hamstring strain.
- Guy Curtright
SideBar: Falcons at Cowboys
When: Sunday, 4:15 p.m.