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Asante Samuel: 'Don't give us respect' until we've won

It doesn't matter what the Atlanta Falcons have done up to now. What they accomplish on Sunday in the NFC Championship Game will dictate how this season is remembered.

The Falcons are unusual underdogs at home against a San Francisco 49ers team that manhandled the Green Bay Packers a week ago. Atlanta rolled through the regular season and owns the NFC's top seed, but the Falcons enter Sunday's conference title game as a squad largely overlooked.

"Keep questioning," cornerback Asante Samuel told the Detroit News. "We love to go out there and play with a chip on our shoulder. Don't give us the respect until it's all said and done and we've earned it. We got our hard hats on and that's what we plan on doing."

Said linebacker Sean Weatherspoon: "We love it. I'd rather be that way. I've been an underdog all my life. I'm looking forward to it. ... For me, it gives me motivation, fuel to the fire."

The Falcons have used this perceived lack of respect as fuel. Atlanta can silence its critics Sunday, but the Falcons must first overturn a versatile and physical foe in the 49ers. How the Falcons are ultimately viewed boils down to what they do on the field, and that's exactly how they like it.

Follow Marc Sessler on Twitter @MarcSesslerNFL.

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