Each Monday, AtlantaFalcons.com managing editor Jay Adams will sit down with head coach Mike Smith for five answers to questions you won't find anywhere else.
Jay Adams: Congratulations on Sunday's win, first of all. When you win big like we did Sunday against Arizona, what does it do mentally for a team heading into a week of preparation?
Mike Smith: Well, I think any time that you play efficiently on the offensive side, score points, it definitely helps your confidence. When you play efficiently on defense and you keep the opponents, for the most part, out of the end zone, it increases your confidence level. You don't want to become overconfident and think just because something happened on Sunday, it's going to happen the next Sunday. We've got to go out and prepare each and every day, and we want to make sure that our team is not too high with the highs and not too low with the lows. I think we've got to be able to handle those situations to be successful.
JA: We had two big performances out of Sean Weatherspoon and William Moore, both of whom played at Missouri. Is there anything you know about Missouri's program that helps prepare defensive players for the NFL, or is it more of an individual thing?
MS: Well, I think it was maybe more of a random situation that occurred. We happened to be, in 2009, in the market for adding a safety and William was available. The Big 12 is a very competitive conference; one of the top conferences in the NCAA. I think the thing that stood out in terms of us and our evaluation was the type of offenses that they see. They saw spread offenses, which basically means they spread the field and we feel like that's a trend in the NFL. You get an opportunity to see how those guys handle playing in space. Both of those guys, I think, were very good space players.
JA: Going back to the size of Sunday's win, when you're able to get up that quickly on a team and you're up by multiple scores going into the fourth quarter, does it make it easier to decide what to do from there on out?
MS: I don't think you're ever comfortable as a head coach, regardless of what the score is. But I think it gives you a little bit of leeway in terms of decision-making, in terms of how many snaps you want to expose certain players to, and I thought we did a very good job as a coaching staff of making sure that we didn't over-expose our players in a situations where we already had the game in hand.
JA: You've been to the Superdome a couple of times. What's it like playing and coaching there?
MS: Actually, it's really not any different than playing in the Georgia Dome. I think they're very similar in terms of the decibels of noise in the building. The difference is, now our offense is going to have to deal with the noise where our defense last week had to deal with the noise. People don't realize that there's a lot of communication that goes on the defensive side of the ball, as well, in terms of making checks based on formations. So when we are at home, we've got to be on top of our game communication-wise defensively and have a system in place where you're not always going to do it verbally. When you're on the road, now it's the offense that has the onus. Conversely, people don't realize how hard it is for an offensive team to make adjustments at home when the defense is out on the field because the fans are riled up and making a lot of noise, and when you're coaching there on the sidelines, sometimes the noise is so deafening that you have a hard time communicating with the players on the sideline. So whether you're at home or away, you're going to have issues that you're going to deal with.
JA: You mentioned not letting the players get too high or too low, but with the amount of importance that's on this game — being the first division game of the year and against the defending Super Bowl champions — how do you make sure that the team doesn't get overwhelmed with the importance of the game?
MS: I think our guys know that we're going to approach every game in the same manner, whether it's a division game, whether it's a conference game or a non-conference game. That's been our approach from the very beginning. As I tell our guys, by Friday, the game that we're getting ready to play is the most important game of the season — not only for the players, but for the fans, for everybody in the organization. The next game is the most important game, and I think we also have to be a group of men that don't get too high when things are going well and not get too low when things don't go our way. We have to make sure that we handle both the highs and the lows, and we have to try and stay right down the middle of the road in terms of the way that we prepare. I don't think that you should ever change your preparation based on the outcome of the previous game.