Falcons head coach Mike Smith talked about how Carolina successfully ran the ball against the Atlanta defense during the second half of Sunday's game during his Monday news conference
"After watching the tape, yesterday I really like the way our football team started. They started really fast in all three phases. To get that fumble on the first play to set up a short field was big for us. I like the way that the offense started their drives as well. I think the special teams kicked it into gear with the nice tackle inside the 20 on the second kickoff. That was a very positive way to start the game. We didn't finish it the way we would have liked to in terms of consistency. I think that's something that showed throughout the ball game, there were some ebbs and flows that occur in every football game and we weathered a storm here and there, but we were able to ultimately make some plays and get the win. I was proud of the way that the football team and our guys handled another road game because that's three out of four of our games have been on the road and we're getting ready to switch gears here to look at Seattle. It will be our fourth out of five."
On how they arrived at the plan for having three straight road games: **
"Not to get into too much depth, we started when the schedule came out and we saw that we were going to have four out of five road games here in the latter part of the season we started to make contingency plans first with the way we were going to practice. We've cut down the number of snaps that we do and we do it gradually. We started the week of the St. Louis game; we started taking snaps which in turn takes out time from your practice on the field. We've also reduced our time in meetings. I think that those two things give the guys some rest, but also when you don't have as many snaps and as much time here you've got to have a little bit more focus in terms of what we're trying to get accomplished. We've continued that progression of taking snaps out of our practices and meeting time out. As you get further along in the season, I think it's imperative that your guys get as much rest and we want our guys to be as fresh as possible for the final quarter of the season. In terms of our travel plans we're going to travel on Friday to Seattle. We'll leave out of here. We'll have a normal Friday sequencing in the morning and instead of the guys going home, we'll get on the bus and ride down to the airport, catch a flight out of here about five o'clock and we'll land in Seattle around 10:30 p.m. eastern standard time. Let the guys get something to eat, get in an opportunity to get in bed and then we'll wake up the next morning and have our walk-through there in Seattle. It's worked for us. We've done it when we've gone to Oakland and San Francisco in the past. It's not anything new. It's something that we've done since we've been here."
On whether getting to Seattle a day early will allow the guys to adjust to the time difference:
"Yeah. I think it's a lot easier to adjust. We'll get an opportunity to get in there, get a good night's rest and then adjust to the time out there and really basically the sequencing will be like a four o'clock game. Even though it's kicked off at one o'clock on our body clock it's going to be a four o'clock game for us."
On whether the cut back schedule could work with a less experienced team:
"Actually we've reduced our snaps as we've gone along through the season. It's something that I've taken from the coaches that I've worked with before. As we get further into the season in terms of when we're practicing we changed that. In the first two years that we were here we used to practice in the late afternoon on Wednesday's and Thursday's and then we would switch about the first of November and start practicing in the mornings on Thursdays. The reason that we did that was to try to get as much of our physical work done further away from the game on Sunday. I think the maturity level of this football team, their able to handle it and they have a very good understanding that it is imperative that we increase our focus. When we reduce our workload, we have to make sure that we mentally prepare ourselves and we have to be more focused when we're out there on the field."
On the run defense in the second half:
"They ran the ball much more efficiently in the second half. It really was not about them, it was about us. I'll give them their credit, they have been running the ball more effectively but we did not play the run nearly as well in the second half as we did in the first half. RB Jonathan Stewart is a very good running back and we've got to make sure that we correct the mistakes that we made. I can assure you this, it just wasn't players, it was coaches it was all of us. We're all in this together and we didn't perform through the entire ballgame like we needed to."
On whether there was a mental or physical factor that led to the defense not playing as well in the second half:
"No I don't think it was solely mental. I don't think it was solely physical. We just didn't play as effectively in the second half as we did in the first half. In the first half of the ballgame, I thought we might have played our best half of football defensively. In the second half we were just not able to sustain it and play with consistency. There were some bright spots there in the second half in terms of creating some turnovers, putting pressure on the quarterback. That fourth down sack was basically a turnover; it gave the offense the ball on the plus 49 I believe, right at the 50-yard line. The consistency is the thing that we have talked about in terms that we've got to improve. We've got to play more consistently, play to play, series to series, quarter to quarter, half to half."
On whether having an extra day due to the Monday night game will help with getting in so late after the game in Seattle:
"It's going to help us in terms of getting re-acclimated here in Atlanta. With the Monday night game we're going to have eight days between games and of course what we're going to have to do is we'll have to adjust our schedule. Just like we adjusted going out, we're going to have to adjust coming back in. We have a plan in place that we have talked to many coaches that have had this situation and we tried to get some ideas. We're going to be getting in very early on Monday morning. We're going to make our Monday a recovery day in terms of what we'll do we'll have the facility open for our guys to come get some treatment and work in. We'll basically take Tuesday as an extra day, take Wednesday as our day off which is our normal Tuesday and then get on to our normal schedule. We also will be dealing with Christmas day of course during that week as well."
On whether RB Michael Turner needed stiches after his eye was cut during Sunday's game:
"No he did not require any stiches. He got hit and scraped in the eye. He did not have any vision issues. Michael shook that off and was able to run the ball. That happened early in the ballgame, there at the end of the first quarter. I think Mike had 12 carries in the first quarter. We wanted to go out and establish the run and I thought we did a good job doing that early on. I thought Mike had a very good game yesterday."
On whether he expects to get LB Coy Wire and RB Jason Snelling back this week:
"Coy will be practicing on Wednesday. He is through a couple steps of the concussion protocol. He will be out on Wednesday in the dress that everybody else will be in. We are anticipating that we will get Jason Snelling back for practice on Wednesday."
On the importance of winning on the road:
"I think to have success in this League you've got to be over .500 on the road. I've said this many times, you've got to win at home and then you've got to be over .500 on the road. If you're fortunate enough to go 8-0 at home you can probably be .500 on the road and have a good record. But, say you go 6-2 and go 4-4 you're 10-6 there's a good chance you're in the playoffs. If you go 5-3 on the road, you're looking at 11 wins and most times 11 wins will get you in. We talk to our players all the time about playing for success and it does involve making sure that you win games on the road. You've got to make sure that you do that to have the opportunity to play on."
On other teams and their losses having playoff implications for the Falcons:
"We can't concern ourselves with what other teams are doing. In fact a couple of weeks ago somebody said something to me about an outcome of a game and they said 'Man, so and so is trying to help you'. I don't even remember what game it was; I said 'nobody is trying to help the Atlanta Falcons in this League, except the Atlanta Falcons'. That's just the way it is. I can't even recall who said it to me. You can't concern yourself about what's going on. This is a week-to-week League and that's what you've got to do. You've got to make sure that you take care of what you can control. Right now for us it's going to Seattle which is a very difficult place to play. It's very loud; their fans are as good as any in the League. They know how to cheer. Noise is always an issue in Seattle. It's going to be a challenge for us. I know it's coach speak, I know that everybody thinks that's what we're saying, but really it's the truth of how we try to approach it as a football team. That's the way we've done it from the very beginning and we're not going to change."
On whether they will be watching the scoreboard for certain games next week:**
"No we don't watch the scoreboard either. There are plenty of people that are doing that for us. I know our players are not going to be doing that, they're going to be focused on the game. I know our coaching staff will try not to make it a subject of our conversation. We know what we have to do and we like where we're at, I've said that many times here in the last couple of weeks. We like where we're at, we know what we have to do, and the first thing is that we've got to make sure that we play as well as we can, make the improvements from the game yesterday and get ready for Seattle."
On whether he likes that the team is 'flying under the radar':
"I know that's a term, flying under the radar, we really don't concern ourselves of where we are and what the perception is. Just like we don't concern ourselves with what the expectations are outside of our locker room and outside of our building. We like to keep them internal, we always have and I think that's the way that you have to progress through this. I know that there's a lot of people that are going to talk and that's what this NFL season is all about until you get to the final two. There's going to be speculation on who's a better team, why they're the better team and I think that's what makes this game so popular. It's the ability for everybody to take an interest in it and through the 17 weeks of the regular season there's all kinds of conversations. Once we get past the regular season there's probably going to be even more scrutiny in terms of who are the teams playing."
On whether he will watch the Monday night game tonight:**
"I'll catch the end of the ballgame. We'll finish up our work here and I usually catch the last eight minutes of the game or so, eight to 10 minutes. If I stay on the schedule I'm normally on I will catch the end of it. It doesn't really matter that it has any bearing, it's just the Monday night game you just go home you unwind and you watch the ballgame."