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Transcript: Mike Smith Interview

On the Falcons defense only allowing three points in the first quarter:

"I think we've started fast, that is something we always want to do.  We've got to be better in the second, third and fourth quarter obviously, but we've gotten off to fast starts on the defensive side of the ball for the most part."

On the Panthers not allowing anyone to score in the first quarter except for Tampa Bay:

"They are playing very good football on the defensive side right now.  Their front seven is outstanding.  It's important for us to win that battle; we've got to win the line of scrimmage.  They've got some guys that can rush.  They've got a true eight-man rotation up front with the defensive line.  I think two of their three linebackers are playing at a Pro Bowl level right now.  It will be a challenge for us.  I think we need to start fast.  We have not started fast offensively the last two ballgames; we've not gone out and sustained a drive on our first drive."

On liking to see a little bit more balance:

"Well, we've got to be able to run the football.  Unfortunately, we gave up 21 points in the second quarter of the ballgame and we got into a situation where we had to throw the football.  We want to be able to run the football, we haven't done it like we would like to over the last two weeks especially.  We have to get better at that. "

On Cam Newton:

"He is playing outstanding football, especially in these last three games, their three game winning streak their on, he has completed over 75% of his passes. He's done a very good job running the football, not only when the integrity of the play breaks down, but they do have in Coach Shula's offense, some design runs for him.  They don't have a whole lot of it, but you have to be prepared for it.  He is doing a very good job.  He is playing as good as any quarterback in the League right now, statistically, over the last three games."

On Matt having a tough game last week and having to throw 61 times:

"We don't want to throw the ball 61 times a game, I can assure you that.  That is not what we are built to do. We are built to be able to run the football, we have too.  I think every team in the NFL has that same mindset.  There comes a time when you have to run the football, and you're going to have to be able to do it.  We haven't been able to do it the last two weeks.  Some of it had to do with the score this past week, where we kind of had to get away from it, especially the second half of the ballgame."

On how you get the line blocking better or if you can add a padded practice:

"You can't add any padded practices. You can add one over an eleven week period.  We've always kept our padded practices around seven in the first 11 weeks, after that we may have one after the 11 weeks. In the last six weeks you have an opportunity to practice three times in pads.  You have to emphasize, just like you have to emphasize tackling, you don't get an opportunity to tackle in practice either.  You don't get an opportunity to finish blocks, you 've got to make sure that you are breaking it down in your drills.  The thing we have to be better at as a unit, when I say a unit it's tight ends, running backs, wide receivers and the offensive line, we've got to be better at the point of attack.  When we're good at the point of attack, we've got to be able to win on the backside.  There were a number of plays that didn't get started because we didn't win on the backside last week."

On spending time in the offseason trying to stop the read option:

"There are elements of the read option, and I think you can look at the stat and see how many times the quarterbacks carried the ball, but there is also times that he has scrambled with the ball that count as rushing attempts as well.  He does a very good job of extending plays.  It is an element of their offense; you have to prepare for it.  In preparation you've got to account for the quarterback as a runner in that scheme."

On Matt Ryan's overall play this year:

"I think Matt has played extremely well for the most part this season.  Statistically he's done an outstanding job.  We can't make excuses when we don't have our guys in there, but he has done a very good job distributing the ball to the guys that have been open.  We need for him to continue to play at a high level for us to get where we want to be in these last nine games."

On the Falcons and Panthers rivalry:

"It is a great rivalry.  Geographically, we are very close to one another, so our fans can travel when we go to Charlotte, and our fans can travel when they come here to Atlanta.  There have been some very tight games, very physical football games.  We anticipate that is what it is going to be again this week.  They have some guys on the defensive side that can wreck your game."

On getting Steven Jackson going against a defense so tough on the run:

"Well, they do a very good job.  Their front seven, as I mentioned, is outstanding.  It is going to be important we don't get into a situation where we have to be throwing the ball every snap.  We've got to try to work our run early in the ballgame so we can get it established."

On where Roddy White, Jason Snelling and Stephen Nicholas are on the injury report:

"They were the three guys that did not participate in practice. Everyone else that is on that injury report will be limited participants. There were a handful of guys that were held out. We anticipate tomorrow that we will get a handful, or half a handful, of those guys back as full participants tomorrow."

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