"As special teams coordinator Keith Armstrong tells his guys all the time about, that one play is their series," Smith said this week. "It's not like you're going out there and having a 10-play drive on offense, or a three or four or five-play drive on defense. It's one play."
Cribbs ranks fifth on the NFL career list with 10 touchdown returns. Eight have come on kickoffs, including three last season.
Though Cribbs hasn't run back a touchdown this season, in a home victory over the Cincinnati Bengals last weekend, he had his 32nd game with at least 100 kickoff-return yards.
"It's a huge challenge," Falcons punter and kickoff specialist Michael Koenen said. "We've got a lot of things to get right before we face a guy like that."
With Mughelli's attention focused to his right side, Dominique Zeigler easily ran past long snapper Joe Zelenka, who was blocking the man in front of him, and had a clear path to block Koenen's end-zone punt for a touchdown.
"It's a mistake I made and a mistake that I will clean up," Mughelli said this week. "I've watched extra film so I can prepare because their idea is to try and come back with something like that again, but they'll be sorely disappointed because it won't happen again."
Considering how Armstrong's coverage units have played since he joined Smith's staff before the 2008 season, the Falcons could correct their problems quickly.
Atlanta ranked first in opponents' starting field position last year and second the previous season. In '08, the Falcons set an NFL record with 43 total net punt-return yards allowed.
"People have been getting on our special teams," Mughelli said. "It's not our coordinator (Keith Armstrong). It's not our scheme. It's just a few players, and last week I was that guy."
Other mistakes have been equally glaring.
"Everybody's got to do their job," Koenen said this week. "Obviously, if I'm making tackles, then they're getting past where we want them to do, but if I have to, I will."
"We have got to be more effective and efficient on special teams," Smith said. "It's really one-third of the game."
Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press