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Falcons coach Mike Smith moving into heady company

ATLANTA -- Mike Smith gets noticeably uncomfortable when the spotlight is on him.

Well, he better get used to it.

The Atlanta Falcons coach is starting to keep some heady company.

He's got one of the best winning percentages in NFL history at this point in his career, right up there with a bunch of Hall of Famers. If the unbeaten Falcons defeat the Oakland Raiders on today, he would tie Dan Reeves as the winningest coach in Falcons history -- in far fewer games.

"Uhh," Smith said, seemingly caught off-guard by a question about his personal accomplishments, "that doesn't mean anything in terms of what we're trying to get done."

But Smith's players aren't shy about praising their coach, giving him a large share of the credit for the best start (5-0) in team history. And, rest assured, they'll do something to mark the occasion if he gets his 49th win.

"You get the same Smitty when we lose the game, you get the same Smitty when we win the game," linebacker Mike Peterson said. "There's no cutting corners with him. If he thinks you're doing something right, you're going to know about it. If he thinks you're doing something wrong, you're going to know about it. That's pretty much what you want out of a coach. A lot of them say it, but they don't actually live it. When you get a coach who actually does that, you've got to appreciate it. That's why I, always telling the guys, `Hey, it's not like this everywhere."'

Smith, who had never been a head coach at any level when he was hired by the Falcons in 2008, has guided a mostly downtrodden franchise to four straight winning seasons and three playoff appearances. His record is 48-21, tied with Baltimore's John Harbaugh and Hall of Fame coach Joe Gibbs for the 11th-best winning percentage (.696) in NFL history through 69 games, according to STATS LLC.

The top 10 is a who's who of coaching greats, including George Halas, Paul Brown, Vince Lombardi, Don Shula and John Madden -- all Hall of Famers.

"He's not a head coach who just walks around," safety William Moore said. "He really gets after it, man. He deserves everything he's been getting. I've been here with him since the beginning. I'm really looking forward to the things we're doing around here."

The Falcons have already built a commanding lead in the NFC South, and they're a big favorite against the Raiders (1-3). But Peterson and the other veteran leaders -- tight end Tony Gonzalez, center Todd McClure, defensive end John Abraham -- have been stressing to the younger guys to keep their foot on the pedal.

McClure, in particular, remembers the Falcons starting 6-2 in 2005. They lost six of their last eight games and missed the playoffs.

"You don't get trophies for going 5-0," Peterson stressed. "It's businesslike around here."

For the Raiders, it's business as usual for a team that seems in constant rebuilding mode. Oakland is a decade removed from its last winning season and on its third coach, Dennis Allen, in three years.

"Obviously, we didn't start the season out like we hoped," said the 39-year-old Allen, the league's youngest head coach. "We're not where we want to be right now."