It's been feast or famine for Falcons blitz packages

FLOWERY BRANCH -- The Falcons have been blitzing more frequently on defense this season with mixed results.

Over the past three games, the defense has given up touchdown passes of 58, 64 and 83 yards.

The 58-yarder against Tampa Bay and the 64-yarder against Cincinnati occurred when the blitz didn't reach the quarterback, with the defensive back taking a bad angle and slipping.

Against Tampa Bay, the Falcons got a sack from Mike Peterson and forced Tampa Bay quarterback Josh Freeman to throw an interception to defensive tackle Jonathan Babineaux while blitzing.

"It's a gamble that you take," Falcons middle linebacker Curtis Lofton said. "Sometimes you win. Sometimes you lose."

The blitzing, in part, explains why the Falcons have 13 interceptions by 10 players. They also have 16 sacks from nine players.

Despite giving up the occasional big play, the Falcons like their blitzing style of play.

"Sometimes if somebody is not on point, something will bust, a lane will open up," defensive end Kroy Biermann said. "A tight end might get open. We do a good job of focusing each week of getting better at those, learning shifts and motions and things like that. Overall, our blitzes are solid."

Ryan tough at home

The Falcons are 17-3 under head coach Mike Smith at the Georgia Dome.

"We've been very good at home the past couple of years," quarterback Matt Ryan said. "Smitty talks about how you have to play well at home. We've done that."

Ryan is 17-1 at home as a starter. He was out with a turf toe injury in losses to New Orleans and Philadelphia last season. His only loss was to Denver during his rookie season.

However, Ryan doesn't want to take sole credit for the sterling home record.

"I think it’s everybody’s record," Ryan said. "It speaks to what we’ve done the last three years. The defense has stepped up and made plays at home games. Special teams have stepped up. The offense has stepped up. It’s been a different unit each time that we’ve gotten one of those wins. It’s been a really good collective effort.”

Flacco aware of Grimes

Falcons cornerback Brent Grimes, who has two interceptions, has caught the attention of Baltimore quarterback Joe Flacco.

"You’ve got some athletic guys on the corner," Flacco said. "[Grimes] is pretty short, but he can play. He can run and he can leap. He can be a little aggravating out there."

Lewis a fan of Smith

Falcons coach Mike Smith was the position coach for Baltimore linebacker Ray Lewis during the 2002 season, and Lewis considered it a positive experience.

“Mike was just one of those true player coaches," Lewis said. "Every day he comes out to work, he’s always going to challenge you to be a better man. And that’s what I remember about Coach Smith. We just had a great, great time together every day, just coming out and learning something new.”

Nicholas joins coverage unit

Linebacker Stephen Nicholas, who's set to start at strongside linebacker, has also been enlisted to help improve the kickoff-coverage unit.

The Falcons are re-arranging the unit after giving up 209 yards to Tampa Bay's Michael Spurlock.

Nicholas, who led the team in special-teams tackles last season with 13, has been added to the unit along with Biermann.