FLOWERY BRANCH — Roddy White did everything right at San Francisco last week — except stick his landing.
On his way to his team-record 210 yards receiving, White celebrated a touchdown with a flip in the end zone, but he landed on his bottom instead of his feet.
Then came more insult. With White still sitting on his backside, he was hit with a 15-yard penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct. That’s almost enough to take all the fun out of a 90-yard touchdown catch.
White says he is through with flips as he prepares for Sunday night’s game against the Chicago Bears, but he’d be happy with a repeat of the rest of his career-best day.
The Falcons led the 49ers 14-10 when White turned a short pass from Matt Ryan into the 90-yard touchdown to spark a run of 31 unanswered points in Atlanta’s 45-10 win.
The end-zone flip earned White more than a yellow flag. He also received a gentle scolding from coach Mike Smith.
“It was a pretty bad landing,” White said on Wednesday. “I’ve got to get out there and no more flips. That’s what coach told me.”
It wasn’t White’s first end-zone flip. He had perfect execution on a back flip following a touchdown last season.
“So he’s a year older and his technique has gone down,” Smith joked on Wednesday before adding, “I think he’s through doing those.”
The back flip from a set position is easier, explained Falcons receiver Michael Jenkins.
“That’s kind of tough when you’re just running and do a front flip,” Jenkins said. “He knows the back flip last year was better. But it was a great play and a great day for Roddy. I was proud for him.”
Smith called the big game “a great game, a breakout game” for White, who had relatively modest totals of 15 catches for 119 yards and one touchdown in Atlanta’s first three games.
White had six catches for 185 yards and two touchdowns in just the first half against the 49ers. He finished with eight catches.
The big game put White back on pace for his third straight season with 1,000 yards receiving. He’s the first player in team history to post two straight seasons with at least 1,200 yards receiving. He set a team record with 1,382 yards last season to earn his first Pro Bowl selection.
White demanded he be paid like one of the NFL’s top receivers, and the Falcons came through.
After missing the first eight days of training camp in a contract dispute, White signed a six-year deal worth about $50 million, including $18.6 million in guaranteed money.
White’s big game caught the attention of Bears coach Lovie Smith.
“He’s a great player. He’s being paid that way for a reason,” Smith said in a telephone interview on Wednesday.
“He’s physical. He’ll block. He’ll fight you throughout, from the start to the finish of a play. ... Just his overall game, I’ve been a fan of his for a while. It’s a big challenge for our guys to play against a player like that.”
Terance Mathis had 198 yards receiving against New Orleans on Dec. 13, 1998, which stood as the Falcons’ record until last week.
White said it may be difficult to put up more big numbers against Chicago’s defense.
“They’re a pretty physical defense and they do a lot of things to disrupt timing,” White said. “I think we’ve got to come out and be able to run the ball so we can play-action pass and things like that.”
NOTES: Fullback Ovie Mughelli missed practice with a thigh injury. “We kept Ovie in the training room so he could get as much treatment as he possibly could,” said Smith. “Hopefully we can see some progress and get him back out here tomorrow.” ... Jason Snelling is Mughelli’s backup. Snelling (5-11, 223) is more of a combo back than a true fullback. Smith said “we feel very comfortable” if forced to start Snelling.