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Quotable: Head Coach Mike Smith


Opening Statement:
"I thought yesterday's game was an examination of our team's character, and I thought we passed with flying colors. This is a team that, all through the season, I've know one thing for sure; we're going to play for sixty minutes. That was evident yesterday. It took us almost fifty-eight minutes to get the lead in that ball game, and when we did we were able to make a play on defense to end the ballgame."

Q: Are you witnessing growth in the secondary with your young players?
A: "I thought that our secondary played well yesterday. All except for the one explosive pass that we gave up on the 68-yarder, but I thought as a whole they played well. They're coming along as the season has progressed, and they're maturing individually and collectively. It was nice to see Brent Grimes bounce back from his game from the week before. To have two interceptions and the one to close the game out was a real big interception. Thomas DeCoud continues to improve and Christopher Owens. Every snap that he gets is a learning experience for him as rookie."

Q: Are there any after effects from Matt Ryan playing on his turf toe?
A: "He's sore today, which we expected would take place. We're going to have to manage that situation through the next two weeks. Matt toughed it out, and came back a lot quicker and earlier than a lot of people anticipated he would. He did a great job in the training room and did everything in his power to get back out there. That was a big-time throw there at the end of the ballgame with six seconds to go on fourth and six."

Q: Can you give us some detail on how close to game time your decision was to play Matt Ryan?
A: "I really wanted to see him work in the pregame. I talked to both Matt and Chris (Redman) on Friday and said that the decision would be made right before kickoff. We did go out, and we worked Matt out. There were a number of factors. The factors were really about the weather and what the footing in the stadium was going to be. That was the biggest concern, besides whether he was going to be effective to throwing the football. When we went out there and worked him out, you could see that he had no issues in terms of planting on the surface out there, and that was really my biggest concern at that time on Sunday morning."

Q: Do you think the hit to Michael Turner's ankle was legitimate or ill-willed?
A: "No, there was no ill-will on that play, it was just part of the game. Unfortunately for Mike, and for us, it was on the first carry of the game and Mike had a very productive run. It was a 7-yard game and he was not able to continue. He tried to play one more play and it was a play in which he had to block and you could obviously see that he couldn't put any pressure on his ankle so we had to get him out. That's very unfortunate for Mike."

Q: You said he as back to square one in rehab. Have you thought about shutting him out for the season?
A: "No, our main goal and main focus for Mike is to get him healthy as quickly as possible. I know that's Mike's mindset as well. We've got a game this week. I don't know that Mike's going to be ready to go, but he is a fast healer. Things happen sometimes in weather conditions that may be different when you're inside. We're hoping that he'll respond and comeback. It's going to be a situation where he's started his rehabilitation again this morning. I saw him. Mike had a smile on his face and was very, very positive. We want to try to get him back as quickly as possible because there are still two more games to play."

Q: Any thoughts on missing the playoffs?
A: "We're disappointed in terms of not having an opportunity to play past the sixteen regular season games. We still have a lot of internal goals that can be reached. Those are things that we talk about as a team, we don't really talk about the publicly. Our main goal and focus right now is on Buffalo. They're a team that has some explosive players on the offensive side of the ball with Terrell Owns and Marshawn Lynch. They've got some real weapons on offense, so really that's our goal. We have not talked about the situation in depth about the playoffs. It is what it is. You get what you earn this League. We say that all the time and we didn't earn an opportunity to play on. The thing we are going to do is we're going to continue to do what we have been doing from the very beginning. We're going to stay consistent and true to ourselves and go out and play hard every week."

Q: It's good to say that you beat a team with a winning record.
A: "Any victory is a good victory. We have not played as well as we would have liked to on the road this year. That was just our second road win. We had a very big road win early in the season in San Francisco. We have struggled on the road and it was good to go up there. That's a very good football team. They were in playoff contention; they're still in playoff contention. I think they're one of the better teams in the AFC. They're one of the better teams that we've faced this season."

Q: Can you talk more about pushing a shut out on the road, against a team that really needed a shutout?
A: "I think it talks about the character of our team in all three phases. To see the defense hold the number one rushing offense to less than 100 yards, that's a tribute to those guys. We talked about it being an attitude game and a two chin strap game. It's going to be a physical football game, and I thought we brought our physicality like we do every week and played extremely well on the defensive side of the football. It was very impressive to see us get the field goal block when we had to with Chauncey Davis. That was a great individual effort on Chauncey's part to block that field goal. That was, I think, a game changing moment in the football game. Even though we struggled against their defense, the number one ranked defense in the NFL, for us to go on those two drives there on the end of the ballgame, we kept scratching and fighting and doing everything that we could to make a play and that's what we did. We went down and missed a field goal on our second to last drive, and the last play I believe was an eleven play drive that culminated with that winning touchdown on a fourth and six. All three phases I think played extremely well, and I was very, very pleased with the way our defense stood up and went toe-to-toe, swing-for-swing with a very good football team."

Q: Could you talk about Tony Gonzalez and what he's meant your unit this season?
A: "I think it's very evident with the number of catches Tony has had and the clutch catches that he's made throughout the season. He's been a big addition to our football team and I think he's opened up our offensive options. With the things that we've been through in terms of injuries this year, I think he's been a blessing to have on our football team. I think it's overlooked, and I say this all the time, Tony also helps us in the run game. He's an all-around tight end. He's not just a pass catching tight end."

Q: He said he would want to play three more years, but he wasn't sure yet. What do you see when he's out there?
A: "I see a guy that has the body of a 25-year-old. I think he could play seven or eight more years. I think he's got the genetic make-up to play for a long, long time. Tony is one of the hardest working guys. He takes care of his body, we all know that. I think Tony can play as long as he wants, it wouldn't surprise me one bit."

Q: Has he helped Matt Ryan's development in his second year?
A: "It definitely has been a new experience for our quarterback this year. We had 19 receptions from the tight end position in '08. We're on pace to be well above that, possibly in the 90 catches for that position. It has opened up more opportunities for our quarterback."

Q: Are you surprised how open he was?
A: "No, I'm not. Tony has a great feel for finding holes in the zone. We knew it was going to be a zone as soon as we motioned. It basically aloud us to identify what the coverage was going to be. No one ran with Roddy White coming across so we knew it was going to be a zone coverage. Just like they knew the ball was going to go to Tony Gonzalez, we knew that Tony was going to be able to find that hole zone, and he did. Matt threw the ball right on time on a perfect throw and catch."

Q: How did the time of affect Matt's performance?
A: "Anytime you're not having an opportunity to work your trade, and as a quarterback that's throwing the football and running the offense, I think it's going to effect you. I do believe Matt made some really good throws in the football game yesterday. Obviously, it's going to affect your efficiency. There's some throws that he'd like to have back, and there's some throws that we'd like to see him not throw, but I think that happens in every game. I was really pleased with the way that Matt played, especially in that fourth quarter. When it was time to go get the win, he was able to execute and get the ball down the field. I thought those two drives were very, very impressive in the fourth quarter."

Q: Can you talk about that Jason Snelling had in the final drive?
A: "I thought that Snelling ran very hard yesterday. It was very tough sledding. When I say though sledding I mean there in between the tackles. That was a play that we felt we had a possibility of popping. We got the look that we anticipated from the defensive front and it was blocked very well. Jason kept the shoulders going north and south. The thing that I was most impressed with in our offensive line was the ability to protect the quarterback. This is a team that prides itself on hitting the quarterback and putting pressure on the quarterback. We gave up most no sacks and we also only had two quarterback hits on our official tally. We kept our quarterback clean and that's a team that thrives on putting pressure on the quarterback. It's a pressure based defense that tries to run overloads. I thought that Todd McClure and our offensive line did a very good job in identifying and communicating the pressure package that they were trying to put on us."

Q: Do you have an update on Harvey Dahl?
A: "Harvey had an opportunity to work with the training staff today, along with some of the other guys that were held out that were not healthy scratches. Jamaal Anderson worked with the training staff, as well as Chris Houston. Those were three starters that did not participate and were not on the 45-man roster. We'll see where Harvey is. He's getting closer. He actually was able to participate in some team activities last week so we'll have to see where is on Wednesday. We will be making a roster move. We lost another player yesterday. We will be putting Antoine Harris, on of our top special teams players, on injured reserve. He injured his knee covering a punt yesterday and has a torn PCL. We will be making that roster move today. We will be adding a player to our roster very shortly. Whether it's this evening or tomorrow, we will be making that decision. It's tough to see another guy go down, but that's part of football."

Q: Yesterday you, the Panthers and the Bucs took care of some business. That show's that there is more balance in the division that the record indicates.
A: "I think that the NFC South is very competitive amongst each other. Look at all of the games that have been played this year. They've all been very highly competitive ballgames. I don't think there have been any blowouts in the NFC South, and that's usually the way it is. That's been my experience, and it was nice to see three teams in the NFC South go out and get wins."

Q: Can you talk about the run defense and the job they're doing here down the stretch?
A: "We have played the run much better. Since the New England game, we've played the run much better. We did not play the run very well in that ballgame. That was a game that basically set the tone that we had to get back to what we are all about at the core and that is stopping the run. Our guys have worked really hard at doing that. It starts with attitude. We knew going into the ball game that this was the number one rushing offense in the NFL, and that they were going to try to pound the ball at us. Our attitude all week during practice was that they were not going to do that and we needed to make sure we could fit the run, because they have a running attack that is based on motion and movement of tight ends to try to get you out of position. I thought that our guys put together a very good game plan as far as our coaching staff is concerned and we knocked the line of scrimmage back with our defensive line. I thought our linebackers were very good and consistent in their run fits. Two of our, what I call, gadget plays, they lined up in the wildcat and had an 8-yard run and then they also had a option play where they had number sixteen (Brad) Smith at the cornerback and they ran a speed option. Those were their two longest runs of the day. In terms of Curtis Lofton, Curtis is our mike'd linebacker and he's a guy that has to be very active in defending the run and I think Curtis continues to develop. He was a first and second down linebacker in '08 and, he's been a three down linebacker for us this year and he has done a nice job in the middle. He's one of the top tacklers in the NFL from NFL stats."

Q: Is he having a Pro Bowl kind of year?
A: "His numbers definitely put him in for consideration, and it's nice for a second year player to be considered in that light. Again, that's something that the fans, and the coaches, and the players will determine. The players will vote on it, the coaches will also have their vote, and a percentage of the vote is based on what the fans are. We certainly hope that the fans are out punching the ticket for our players."

Q: Was it nice to see John Abraham's performance yesterday considering how he's done this season?
A: "John's numbers have not been what he would like nor what we would like compared to last year. He had 16 and a half sacks last season. Sometimes sacks come in bunches. I say this all the time. It's really not all about the sacks. It's about the pressure that you put on the quarterback. John has been getting pressure on the quarterback all season long; he just hasn't been able to register the sack numbers that he did last year. It was nice to see him get back on the stat sheet with a sack. He continues to be the guy that puts the most pressure on the quarterback on our football team."

Q: When Rex Ryan sent the message down to you before the game, do you think it fired you guys up?
A.: "We know throughout the League who the physical teams are. When you watch the tape, there are certain teams that are known for their physicality, then there are other teams that are known as finesse teams and the style of offense that they run. It's real evident when you watch the team that we played this last week that they pride themselves on being a downhill running football team. They have a rookie quarterback that has started from the beginning of the season. They're going to pride themselves on running the football and playing good, solid defense. I don't really think it was bulletin board material. After you told me on Wednesday that he sent that message down, I said 'that sounds like Rex, and we're ready.' We brought two chin straps to the game yesterday, but I don't think we had to use both of them. I think we only had to use one."

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