FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- Although four straight losses and a 13-point defeat at the hands of 1-7 Tampa Bay might suggest otherwise, Atlanta Falcons tight end Tony Gonzalez wanted to make something clear: The players haven't shut it down on head coach Mike Smith, despite a 2-8 record.
"We haven't quit on Coach Smitty," Gonzalez told ESPN.com on Wednesday. "If anything, we've quit on ourselves during certain momentum swings during the game. I think that's been our biggest problem. And I've been on teams before like this. It seems like when something bad happens -- which happens in every game, I don't care how good you are -- we're not responding like we should. We're letting it take control of us, I guess, with a here-we-go-again-type attitude. And we don't need to do that.
"That's something that comes with us individually and collectively. It has nothing to do with the coach. Nothing. ... Don't get me wrong: I love a good pregame speech as much as anybody. But at the same time, once that ball is snapped, that's up to me, especially when I've got to do it consistently over and over. So I would never put that off on any coach because I love doing this for a living. And I would hope all these guys feel the same way."
Gonzalez said he felt the team's week of practice leading into the Tampa Bay game represented the best week of practice of the season. And the Falcons still lost the game.
"And we have to go out there and put a product out there that people want to come watch," Gonzalez said. "There's no way I would quit, ever. I have too much pride for that. I'm not quitting, and I don't think anybody in this locker room has. If that's what it looks like, that's just because we're not playing very well. It has nothing to do with quitting on Coach Smith. That's not the case."
Gonzalez reiterated his stance from a few weeks ago, when critics were calling for Smith to be fired after a 34-10 loss to the Carolina Panthers. Both owner Arthur Blank and general manager Thomas Dimitroff gave Smith a vote of confidence.
"He's the same guy who went to the NFC Championship [Game] last season," Gonzalez said of Smith. "But like I said, that's how the NFL goes: What have you done for me lately? The talking heads are going to talk. But Coach Smith ... there are a lot of other reasons why we haven't been successful this season.
"Probably the most important thing is we haven't had our guys out there. We're not healthy like we were last year. We've been decimated. I mean, Julio Jones. Kroy Biermann. Our fullback [Bradie Ewing]. Sam Baker. It goes down the list. Guess what? When you don't have your starters and your players that you counted on to be there, big-money players, your team is not going to perform as well."
The Falcons have six more games to try and get back on track, starting with Thursday night's showdown with NFC South rival New Orleans (8-2).
"We still have to play the game and we have to play it to the best of our abilities," Gonzalez said. "And hopefully, that can start to translate to winning, because that's what we play this game for. And I expect to go out there tomorrow and play with a winning attitude. And everybody on this team is going to play with a winning attitude."