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Transcript: Mike Smith Monday news conference


Falcons head coach Mike Smith ranked Kroy Biermann's interception return for a touchdown among the top five plays he's seen as a coach

Opening Statement:

"We knew going into the game against the Browns that they were a much better team than their record both offensively and defensively. We knew we had to be patient. We wanted to do things the way we'd been doing things the previous games and we wanted to try to be balanced and control the football. Defensively, we wanted to try to stop, what we felt like over the previous two weeks was probably, one of the best rushing attacks in the league in terms of what they were able to do running the football. We were able to get that done. It was a hard fought game. The guys played very hard. It wasn't our best game that we've played, but we're now trying to make the corrections and move on to the Philadelphia Eagles."

On the four-game winning streak:

"It's hard to even look back past yesterday's game. When DE Kroy Biermann made that play on the interception to give us that 10-point lead. I know that we've had some really close ball games, we try to take them one game at a time. I think our guys understand that, in terms of their preparation. It's nice to string some wins together. Those four previous games are really going to have no bearing on the game this week. We've made it exciting for the fans, probably a little bit too exciting for a lot of folks. They've been very hard, physical football games I do know that."

On whether he sensed that things were different going into this season:

"I think our guys are very businesslike and they have been from the very beginning. What we try to do, is we try to lay out a plan of how we're going to attack things in a micro-setting and in a macro-setting. I think it's very important that they understand that. I think they understand how we do things and the way we approach not only one game at a time, but they know how we approach the offseason. As we look back, I think our guys are pretty confident that they know what our convictions are as a coaching staff and what our convictions are as a football team."

On any injury update on LB Sean Weatherspoon:

"If you want to talk about injuries, Sean injured his knee yesterday. We are going to see how this thing calms down today and tomorrow and we'll have an announcement on Wednesday. I do have some other information in terms of injury report. WR Michael Jenkins will play in the ballgame this weekend. He has been medically cleared. He had been cleared only to practice over the last three weeks. Michael Jenkins has gotten the final clearance from the medical staff and will be participating in the ballgame this weekend."

On how getting Jenkins back will help the passing game and the offense overall:

"I think when you get your No. 2 receiver back, we've been playing without him through the first five games, it's going to give him an opportunity to make plays in terms of his contribution catching the football. Michael is also a very good blocker. I think it is going to allow QB Matt (Ryan) and our offense to distribute the ball a little bit differently. I think now when they try to take certain segments of our offense away we're going to have more options. Michael has been chomping at the bit over the last three weeks. Anybody that's watched us practice knows he's been out there practicing, he just hadn't been cleared to play. We were making that evaluation almost on a daily basis. I know that when I saw him this morning after getting clearance, I hadn't seen him that excited in quite some time."

On whether having Jenkins back will be helpful in the redzone:

"I think so. It helps our offense in general, it helps our football team. Michael is a big receiver, has a little different skill set than a couple of the receivers who have been playing in terms of his size, in terms of what he's able to do. There are certain routes that Michael runs differently than the guys who have been playing through the first five games."

On DT Jonathan Babineaux being a vocal leader and teacher on the field before the snap:

"We've got a number of mentors on our team. That's the thing that we talk about all the time, about communication. People do not realize how much communication takes place pre snap, it doesn't really matter what position. A lot of people think the only communicating is done by the quarterback, that's far from it. Jonathan is becoming a very savvy football player. Not only at his position but at putting guys in certain situations, not only based on what the defense was called in the huddle but also pre-snap reads by formations, pre-snap reads by splits of the offensive line. Jonathan is growing as a football player. He's done some very good things. I thought he was very explosive in the ballgame yesterday."

On Biermann's interception for a touchdown and where it ranks in his coaching career:

"It's got to be in the top five there's no doubt about it. It's about as athletic as you can get on a football play. It's something that if anybody's been around and watched us on Fridays, we practice with a Nerf ball about batting the ball up in the air. I don't know if any of you have had an opportunity to see that drill. We batted the ball up in the air, and then to be able to catch that ball basically on the top of his feet, and then get his shoulders turned towards the endzone. It was an outstanding individual effort. One that I think has got to be top five for me. It was a big turning point in the ballgame, I think 4:56 left or thereabouts to go, and we've got a three-point lead and all the sudden now it's a 10-point lead. It was a big time play. I heard some of the guys talking, it was being shown all across TV and I am sure it will be not only this week but for weeks and years to come."

On the defensive line rotation:

"The theory behind rolling your defensive linemen is that you're going to have as many fresh guys as possible there in the fourth quarter. I think that's the effect that we're able to get done, especially in the game yesterday. I think we got stronger and stronger as the game wore on. We dressed eight defensive linemen yesterday in the ballgame and all eight of them participated and made contributions. I think it's very similar that you want to be able to run the ball on offense and if you stay to those convictions then in the fourth quarter you're going to start to wear down your opponent and control the line of scrimmage. It's the same thing on the defensive side of the ball. You want to have fresh bodies and I think that the pressure that we were able to put on the quarterback there in the fourth quarter was the difference in the ballgame."

On the evolution of DE Jamaal Anderson:

"It's been a process for Jamaal in terms of him making the change to play defensive tackle in our sub-package but I think that he's made that transition very well. He plays defensive end for us on run downs, but he slides in there and he's done a very good job. He committed to gaining weight this offseason. A lot of the things that are taking place right now, are not just taking place on Sunday, they are things that guys have committed to back in February, March, April, May, June and July. It takes that type of commitment to get the results that we want to get. Jamaal has done a very good job for us. It was good to see him get the sack, it was a heck of an effort in terms of rushing the passer."

On whether he sees a difference in DE John Abraham so far this season:

"I think that John has really improved this season with a very professional attitude. It's not unusual for me on a Wednesday night or a Thursday night, and there have been times both nights at 9:30 p.m. or 10 p.m. I've seen John here, in the building watching tape, studying his opponent or getting some extra time in the cold tub and the hot tub. John has taken a very active role with our young players this offseason and becoming a mentor to those guys. Really, the mentoring process for our team is very, very important. I think there's only so much that the coaches can convey to the players. I think it's very, very important that you have those messengers, so to speak, that are going to be basically giving the same information out to them just in a different voice and from a different angle."

On whether they envisioned Abraham playing as well as he did against Browns T Joe Thomas:

"We take a good, hard look when we look at our match-ups up front with regards to our pass rush and we felt that John would be a guy that could rush on both sides. John really was the guy that wanted to stay over there on the right side. Again, I think you've got to have that type of trust with your players and interaction with your players. We may have had somewhat of a different opinion in terms of where he wanted to rush, we wanted to change it up and move him around and John through his studies and our conversations throughout the week he let his opinion be known. I think that's part of coaching, you've got to take that into consideration when you're putting your gameplan together. I've said this before, when players have input they take ownership in what we're trying to get done and accomplished."

On Kroy Biermann in coverage on the Browns touchdown:

"We did have him coverage. We have certain schemes where we have different people besides linebackers and defensive backs in coverage. Sometimes you may not notice it, it was just one of those situations where that match-up occurred. It was a great throw and a great one handed catch by their running back."

On the defensive stop early in the second half to hold them to a field goal on the five yard line:

"We had the turnover that they took the ball over I believe inside the 30-yard line, I think it was the 24, first and 10 at the 24. They had a second down inside the five yard line and we were able to hold them on second down and on third down. Those are big plays because Cleveland had been very efficient in their red-zone offense, just like they've been efficient in their red-zone defense. When you've got a big burly back like Peyton Hillis that's coming down hill you're going to have to make sure that you knock the line of scrimmage back and that's what we did. I know that there were a couple of chances in that drive that we could have possibly not had points on the board. We had an opportunity to intercept the ball in the endzone and then it wasn't a clean exchange on the third down, actually the ball was out and we had an opportunity to get it but unfortunately we didn't and we ended up giving up three points in that situation."

On QB Matt Ryan's improvement in terms of not throwing many interceptions:

"I think it's very important. Ball security is paramount in our success because when you have ball security and you don't turn the ball over and you're able to create turnovers on the defensive side then you win the turnover margin. In terms of Matt, it's part of the growing and learning curve that a young quarterback goes through. Matt has made some very good decisions in terms of when to throw the ball away and not take chances with it. I think when you have good ball security you're going to definitely help the efficiency of your offense and your defense because there's nothing more discouraging for a defense to go out and defend a short field."

On the defensive turnovers so far this season:

"I think that often times it's an attitude that starts to permeate across your team in terms of 'Hey, we've done it before we know how to do it, let's keep attacking the football.' It's something that in the offseason started back in March, with our team, that we were going to be a team that wanted to create turnovers and ball disrupts, we call them BD's. Anybody that's been out here, when the ball is on the ground you'll hear them yelling 'BD, BD.' I think it becomes a positive attitude and a mindset that you have to have."

On performances by the cornerbacks against the run on Sunday:

"CB Dunta Robinson was very active. He had six tackles in the ballgame. I don't know what the official stats were but we had him for six unassisted tackles on the coaches tackle list. I thought CB Brent Grimes, when they bounced the ball outside he was there as well. They are integral in our run defense. So often people talk about corners and all they concern themselves with is their ability to cover in passing situations. They are an integral part of what we are trying to get done in terms of our run defense. One of the things that I think was very impressive is that we have now gone and had back-to-back games without giving up an explosive play. It's good for our guys on the defensive side of the ball to have that type of success because it was a sticking point for us last year. It was something that we have emphasized and we're seeing the results, the fruits of our labor."

On how CB Christopher Owens is adapting to the nickel position:

"I think it's a learning process for Christopher because he lined up as an outside corner last year. He has made the move inside and he made some big plays. He was right there around the ball trying to throw a block when Biermann was running into the endzone. He's been very active and he's also been a contributor on special teams. I believe he had two special teams tackles yesterday, which by the way I think was a huge part of our success. For the most part, we held WR (Joshua) Cribbs in check. He had one return that he ran out I think to the 44-yard line. They had four drive starts inside the 25-yard line in the ballgame. We know that he's a very dynamic returner and I thought that we executed the plan very well."

On whether he saw anything that could have been challenged in Biermann's touchdown:

"I've just seen it on the coaches' tape and I saw it live in person. The coaches' tape sure looked like it was all clean to me. I have not seen a TV copy. From standing there on the sideline and from what I've seen riding home on the plane last night and watching it a couple of times today, it sure looked like a great play to me."

On the possibility of facing Eagles QB Michael Vick on Sunday:

"Mike Vick is a very talented quarterback. If indeed he is going to be the quarterback then we have to make sure that we have a gameplan in place, especially in terms of our rush lanes because he is a guy similar to a couple of the quarterbacks that we've seen already this year that have the ability to run. I think that's the big thing that you have to do when you're facing a running quarterback."

On whether this is a revenge game because of the disappointing matchup last season against the Eagles:

"I have never been embarrassed after a football game in terms of the effort and the way that our guys have played. We didn't get the outcome that we wanted last year. They were the better team on that Sunday. There are so many dynamics that take place each and every week and we get an opportunity to go up there and play them and get our next chance. That's the only way I think you can look at it. You've got to look at these things one game at a time. I don't think you can get too emotional about any one game because you only get 16 opportunities."

On whether they anticipated getting more Wildcat formations from the Browns:

"We prepared for it. I think they probably had 20 yards of offense in the Wildcat. I don't know how many snaps they ran. I thought that our guys did a good job in the weekly preparation for it because it is a little bit different in terms of the wildcat that we've seen from Miami and some of the other teams just in terms of they didn't run any really unbalanced formations so it was a little bit different and we had to make some adjustments. I thought that our guys did a pretty good job. I think there was one play where we were misaligned and gave up about 7 or 8 yards."

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