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Transcript: Mike Smith Friday News Conference

Opening statement:

"I want to start by talking about the fans last night. They were unbelievable. Delay of game penalty, two procedural penalties. It was an electric atmosphere. I still believe we have the best fans in all of football. It was a really hard fought game. I really thought our defense played well, the five turnovers were probably the difference in the ballgame. We were able to run the ball early on and then we got into a little of a doldrums there offensively through five series through the second and third quarter. We got a lot of things we can get better at."

On FB Mike Cox appearing to play very well from the press box:

"Very good observation. Mike Cox probably played his best game since he's been here, including the games that he played last year and then he's been back for four or five weeks. We got some movement at the line of scrimmage. We got our backs to the second level, and when you get backs to the second level you're going to get a chance to get some explosive runs. We had five runs over 12 yards in the ballgame yesterday."

On CB Asante Samuel's injury:

"Asante knocked his shoulder again on the deep ball there. Unfortunately for us, he only got three snaps in the ballgame. It was the first third down of the ballgame. On the flip side of it, it was very good to see CB Christopher Owens to come in and man that corner position. I thought he did a nice job. He had a pass break up on a deep ball there in the second quarter and did some good things. He lined up at the corner position and we kept CB Robert McClain in his normal position at the nickel back."

On normally moving the corners around differently when an injury occurs:

"Yes, we had. We did a little bit differently. We did a couple things different in terms of our matchups yesterday. We felt like we wanted to do it differently than game one against them, and we felt like it would give us an advantage. I thought it did."

On how well S Thomas DeCoud and S William Moore are playing and how far they've come in a couple years:

"They have this season, especially the plays on the ball while the ball is in the air. The two interceptions that William had were big time plays. The last one showed his range to get to the sideline and able to get his feet down in. Then you see Thomas coming down the middle on the first drive where they had been moving the football and he intercepted in the end zone. Both of those guys, fourth and fifth year guys, are really starting to get an understanding of what it takes to be a top flight defensive back. I think they're both playing at a very high level right now."

On treating this like a Mini-Bye week:

"That's what we're calling it. During our Bye week we took the whole week off. We're going to take four days here. The players are off today, they'll be off Saturday, Sunday, and Monday. They'll report back to work Tuesday morning. We will not start our game planning for the Carolina Panthers until Wednesday. We'll have a Falcons-on-Falcons day to get us back in the routine. Rest a couple of our guys that need to be rested. It comes at an ideal time. We're starting the fourth quarter of the season. Gives us an opportunity to get some guys healthy."

On being 11-1 and reflecting on hiring the assistant coaches:

"It makes me realize that we have a very good football team and we have had a good football team since we've gotten here. It's a maturation process that you go through as you put a team together and you build. We've got some really good leaders. You reflect back on the 12 games that we've played and one of the things you realize is that we're a resilient team. We don't blink. We focus on the next play. When you do that, you're going to have a chance to be successful."

On third downs yesterday:

"We were off on third down yesterday. We were one for 11. Our goal is to be 45 percent or more. If you're between 40 and 50 percent on third down you're going to be in the top 25 percent of the League. We had a number of things happen. It wasn't just one thing that you could put your finger on. There were two of them that we ended up being a yard or a half yard short. We had opportunities to make plays and we didn't make them. Again, you can't sit here and talk about if we did this or if we did that. We didn't do it. We were one for 11 on third downs yesterday. That's an area that we definitely will be addressing as a coaching staff over this break."

On DT Travian Robertson improving:

"Travian is taking advantage of the opportunity to go out there and play. Travian is a big strong guy. Good anchor point and he had his most significant play time. DE Cliff Matthews I think was in for 13 snaps, if I'm not mistaken. Both of those young guy's role increased. It was nice to see DE Jonathan Massaquoi doing a nice job covering kicks. He didn't get any defensive snaps, but he did have an assist on kickoff coverage. It's nice to see those young guys get an opportunity to play. We're going to need them in this fourth quarter."

On WR Roddy White being taken out of the game yesterday:

"That was our least productive passing game we've had this season yardage-wise and efficiency-wise. They did a nice job. Coach Spagnuolo and his staff I thought put together a very good plan. They changed up from what they did the first time we played them. We had opportunities to make plays and we didn't make them. You have to give them credit. They did a nice job."

On having a lot of passes defended:

"I can't recall us having that many passes defensed and that many interceptions against a Pro Bowler or a Hall of Fame quarterback. We were very fortunate to make those plays. We had tight coverage. We had a pretty good understanding. I thought our guys having played them three weeks apart, we had a pretty good idea. The recall was very good on the short week in terms of how they were trying to attack us. I thought we changed some things up. The staff did a great job in terms of what we wanted to do schematically and the guys went out and executed it. I thought our secondary, if you had to say which group had the best game, would've been our secondary group. Our defensive line put a lot of pressure on him even though we only had one sack. You've heard me say many times sacks are overrated. I think this is a prime example of sack numbers being overrated. It's about making the quarterback uncomfortable. Three of those interceptions were directly from the pressure we had up front."

On how QB Matt Ryan played last night:

"I thought Matt did a nice job. Again, we weren't in sync as an offensive unit last night. It wasn't our best effort. I think we'll all learn from it. It's good to learn from a win and a lot easier to take it from a winning situation than the other."

On keeping tabs on the Tampa Bay game:

"I will not be watching that game. I'm going to spend some time with the family and get focused on Carolina. It'll be what it'll be guys. There are a lot of games to be played. We're just starting the fourth quarter of the season and there is going to be a lot of things happening over these last four weeks. It'll be fun for the teams involved. It ought to be fun for the fans and it's going to be fun for the coaches. Football in December, it can't get any better."

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