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Transcript: Mike Smith Monday News Conference

Posted Sep 24, 2012

Falcons head coach Mike Smith recapped Sunday's 27-3 win over the Chargers during his news conference with the Atlanta media Monday

Opening statement:

“We always talk about starting fast, and we’ve been able to do that through the first three games. I thought yesterday we did it very well. We went down and scored a touchdown on the first drive. We weren’t able to kick the PAT, that’s something we’re going to have to work on. Then on defense, we went three and out. To me, that’s a fast start. Our defense did a great job creating turnovers again. We were plus three on the turnover ratio. When you create four turnovers, you’re going to enhance your chances of winning. They really capitalized. The turning point in the ball game yesterday was the 17 play drive for 96 yards after the turnover down in the red zone. It was a well-executed drive. It started out as a huddle drive, and then we switched gears when we got rolling and went into our no huddle. I really think that was a turning point in the ball game. The guys have today off, they’ll have tomorrow off, and we’ll turn our focus as a coaching staff today to the Carolina Panthers.”

On the new offense making QB Matt Ryan more accurate:

“I think Matt has matured in year five. He has a very good comfort level with what we’re trying to get done. It’s not just his arm strength, not just his decision making, I think it’s his pocket awareness. He’s done a very good job, not necessarily taking off and running, but sliding in the pocket. We’ve had good protection through the first three games. I think it’s a number of factors. It’s another year with (TE) Tony (Gonzalez),(WR) Roddy (White), (WR) Julio (Jones), and (WR) Harry (Douglas) having a great understanding of how defenses are trying to defend us, what coverages they’re running, and being able to adjust our routes.”

On the improvement of the defense:

“They’ve done a nice job through these first three games. They’re playing with a lot of confidence. We’ve got a lot of guys that have experience, like DE John Abraham, CB Asante Samuel, CB Dunta Robinson, DT Jonathan Babineaux. We also have a core group of guys that are starting to come in their own. That’s guys like S William Moore, S Thomas DeCoud, LB Sean Weatherspoon, LB Stephen Nicholas, and DT Peria Jerry. They’re playing with a lot of confidence. They’re having fun when they’re out there on the field, and they’re creating turnovers. They’re creating situations that are beneficial to our football team.”

On how the secondary has confused the opposing offense:

“It’s a group effort. We’ve started to put pressure on the quarterback even though we only had one sack yesterday. We had three or four times where we had free runners. The quarterback was able to get out, he was under duress and he threw the ball away. It’s a combination of what happens up front and in the secondary. They’re playing with a lot of confidence. The two corners CB Dunta Robinson and CB Asante Samuel are playing with a lot of confidence. Sometimes, they’re playing out there on an island, and when they do that it gives us a lot of options with what we can do with the guys inside. Our safety play has been much improved, and it’s contributed a lot to these guys being a year older. They have a really good feel of what we’re asking them to do through these first three games.”

On WR Julio Jones’ hand:

“We were able to get Julio checked out in the locker room. He has a laceration on his hand. That’s what he’ll be dealing with. That’s it. He was able to get back out there and made a great catch in the quarter of the endzone on our sideline right before the half.”

On TE Michael Palmer’s shoulder:

“Michael Palmer has a shoulder injury. He will definitely be out for the game this week. That will be the one nugget you guys get for the report.”

On yesterday’s game being as complete as it looked:

“On the negative side, you’ve got to learn from your experiences. We didn’t convert on an extra point. We need to make sure we do that. We gave up the 52 yard run in the fourth quarter, a misfit. Then we didn’t cap it off there in the secondary. It was a well-planned game by the coaching staff, and it was well executed by the players out there on the field. They handled the heat and the humidity. It was 90 plus degrees out there. They did a nice job. Our preparation through the week was very good. This is a very mature team, although sometimes, when you see them out there having fun you might question how mature they are. This is a very mature team. They know how to have fun, and they know how to play hard.”

On the bad snap being a bigger problem as the season goes on:

“It was not very good execution on that specific play. I’m very proud of our LS Josh Harris to put that one behind him, and he was dead on the rest of the day.”

On standing up for your guys to the refs after the memo from the NFL:

“It’s not any different than when you had the full time officials, not the replacement officials. It’s a fine line. They have a job to do and we have a job to do as well. I think for the most part, our coaching staff does a very good job of letting the officials do the officiating and we do the coaching. Maybe there have been a couple of times over the last four years that I’ve done some things that my mother is not real happy to see on the sideline (smiling). You have to let those guys do their job. They have a job to do, just like we have a job to do. They’re going to make mistakes, and we’re going to make mistakes. I made a bunch of mistakes yesterday, just like some of our players out there on the field.”

On the screens being part of the run game:

“I think you can look at screens as part of the run game. It’s a very similar play in some ways. Whether we’re going to be a team that this week is going to run for 30 times or throw for 50 times, it really doesn’t matter. Our offense has one goal and that’s to go out and score it every time. Are you a running team? Are you a passing team? That just depends on what we feel like gives us the best opportunity to win. As an offensive staff, they go out and they’re designing every play and every game plan to score every time they get their hands on the football. That’s something our guys have a good understanding of. We’ve got multiple ways to move the football, and it’s going to be based on what we perceive are our strengths vs. their weaknesses and how people are defending us in terms of what we present formationally and personnel wise.”

On whether the quarterback having a lot of confidence permeates through the locker room:

“It’s a quarterback driven league. The most scrutinized guy, probably besides the head coach, is the quarterback. When he’s playing with confidence it permeates around the locker room. We’ve got a lot of guys that are playing with confidence right now. We’re creating a lot of first downs on first and second down and that’s a good thing. When you talk about third down efficiency, I think Matt has a lot of confidence that if we do get in a third down we’re going to be able to convert on those third downs. We’re trying to get first downs on first downs or first downs on second downs so we don’t have to get to third downs. On one of our drives I don’t think we had a third down conversion. On our first drive, we went down I don’t think we had to have a third down conversion.”

On turnover ratio:

“We talk about the turnover ratio, and we talk about the toxic differential. Basically, it’s interactive between the offense and the defense. On the turnover ratio, we know that if we win the turnover battle it increases our chance of winning the ball game. We’ve done a very good job of attacking the ball. You guys that have watched us practice, you know that it’s an emphasis point and has been since day one. Ball security is emphasized on the offensive side of the ball. Defenses are trying to take the ball away and offenses are trying to possess the ball. I had an old coach tell me a long time ago, possession of the football is 90% of the game. That’s what you want to do. You want to possess the football. Then, we also look at the toxic differential. We add explosive plays given up and explosive plays made. We take those two differentials, and if you look at it year in and year out, teams that are in the top 75 percent at the end of the season will be the teams that are in the playoffs.”

On turnovers being a team stat:

“It’s interactive. It’s not just the offense, just the defense, or special teams. You get a turnover on special teams, you have stolen a possession when you get a special teams turnover. It’s the entire team. It does change the momentum of the football game.”

On the difference in the running game:

“We blocked better. He ran harder. We got some looks and I’ll say this, our guys went out there and I thought they handled the heat very well. We are a well-conditioned football team, and I think it showed the way that we played in the third and fourth quarter of the ball game yesterday.”

On the physicality of the defense and doing it within the rules:

“We talk about wanting to be right on the line. We don’t want to go over the line, we don’t want to be below the line, we want to be right on the line. It’s something that our coaches have done a very good job, in terms of player safety that you have to lower your target. You’ve got to make sure that you’re trying to tackle in the strike zone. There are so many definitions of a defenseless player that our guys have to be aware of. It doesn’t mean it’s not going to happen, but I think our guys have done a very good job. Player safety is paramount in terms of what’s coming out of the League office and the Commissioner Goodell has talked about.”

On keeping the team sharp after playing so well:

“When we watch the tape on every play we can probably point out something we can do better. We left some plays out there on both sides of the football. You’re never going to play a perfect football game, but you strive for perfection. That’s what we strive to do. Our guys have a good understanding that we have got to get better each and every week. We want to continue to build on what we’ve done the previous week. I think we have a good foundation in place the first three weeks, but that’s just the first three weeks. We’ve got to be ready to handle adversity when adversity comes. We’ve got to be resilient, and I think we’ve shown that in the past three ball games.”

On having a two-game lead in the division:

This early in the season we don’t even look at the standings. This week we are starting our division play, and that is very important because the first thing you want to do is take care of your division. This has been the most competitive division in all of football over the last four years. This is a really good football team we’re getting ready to play this week. I don’t even look at what your record is. Who’s doing what this early in the season. We want to finish the first quarter off strong and we have a big challenge this week. A completely different challenge of what they’re going to try and do offensively. It’s a completely different challenge, but I believe, if I’m not mistaken, this will be the third or fourth time we’ve played a quarterback that’s been to the Pro Bowl. I believe Matt Cassel has been to the Pro Bowl as well. Four straight weeks, four guys have been to the Pro Bowl.”

On the schedule alternating home and away games every week:

“This is the first time that I’ve ever been home away home away home away. Coaches like routines so I kind of like it when it starts out. We do have to deal with some Monday games, Sunday games, Thursday games, and such, but the home away home away, personally I like it. It’s something I can really get my hands and wrap around it when the schedule comes out.”

On the Carolina Panthers being desperate for a win:

“Every week both teams are desperate for wins. That’s why we go out and we’ve got to have that mentality and that mindset. It’s a different dynamic simply because you have a quarterback that can not only throw the ball extremely well, but he can run the ball. Now, you have to account for the quarterback in all of your run fits and all of your defenses. Most times, in traditional offenses that we’ve played in the last three weeks, you don’t account for the quarterback so you have an extra defender. You have to account for the quarterback when they’re running an option offense if they truly run some option plays you have to account for the quarterback keeping the ball. Normally, you don’t do that. He’s the guy that distributes it and hands it off to the running back or throws it to the receiver. It creates some different challenges, but I know our players by the end of the week will have a good idea of how they’re going to attack us and we’ll have a good plan to defend them.”


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