Falcons head coach Mike Smith talked about the importance of time of possession and ball control during his Monday news conference with the Atlanta media
"I think one of the most important facets of preparing as a football team is being able to focus on the task at hand. Over the last five weeks we've really talked about focusing, especially since four of the five games were on the road. I think being able to do that has really served us very well thus far. It's really hard to win in this League; it's even harder to win on the road. I think we accomplished what we set out to do and that was to play as effectively as we could on the road knowing that we had to win on the road to really get where we want to be. I think the guys handled it very well. In regards to the game yesterday, we knew that special teams was going to be a big factor in the game. They have a very outstanding returner in RB Leon Washington. We knew that we had to try to eliminate his effect on the ballgame. I thought P Michael Koenen kicked the ball well. I also thought our coverage units did a very good job in covering down the field. I think that was a big part of the success that we had yesterday. On the defensive side of the ball I think we started slowly, the first drive was not the way we wanted it to go, but I thought after that we really stepped up. To have three turnovers and to score on defense and the three turnovers were consecutive turnovers in the second half were huge. They are going to make your day go fairly well when you score on defense. I thought offensively we had a fast start. We took a drive that went about seven and a half minutes, converted on two fourth downs and that set the tempo for us controlling the time of possession. We had our game against Baltimore on Thursday night and I talked about the fans trying to get there early. I think it is going to be imperative for us to get that dome rocking as we get ready for our biggest rival; the defending Super Bowl champs the New Orleans Saints coming in here on Monday night. I encourage everybody to come on down to the dome and get ready to roll."
On the schedule for this week:
"Today is what we're calling a recovery day. Since we have an extra day, the players are recovering from the trip. I don't know exactly how many of them have been in, I'll get that report later but I imagine we'll have a pretty good amount. I heard and saw a lot of guys in the training room and the weight room this morning. Tomorrow we will have a short practice, we'll review the game film from the game on Sunday, have a short practice, not start our game planning. It will just be Falcons working on Falcons just working on schemes and doing some of the little things that we feel we've got to improve on. We'll take Wednesday off and then we will start our regular week on Thursday. Our Thursday will be our Wednesday sequencing; our Friday will be our Thursday sequencing and just take it all the way up until Monday night."
On having the opportunity to clinch home field advantage with a victory on Monday:
"We are focused on this game because it's the next game. We try not to concern ourselves with what the outcome really means down the road. We know where we're at, we like where we're at and it's going to be a hard fought football game. They are playing as well as any team in the League right now. I think they're playing effectively so it should be a big challenge. We know what's at stake. The one thing I will say is there is a lot of football to be played in the next two weeks not only for the Atlanta Falcons but for everybody in the League."
On what it says about the team to finish up the road portion of the season at 6-2:
"I think that's something that shows the maturity of this team. I think when you become a team that's going to be relevant each and every year you're going to have to win games on the road. We've been able to do that. It's been a process and a maturation sequencing that we've had to go through. Our guys have done a very good job. The older players have done a very good job in mentoring our younger players, as I say all the time, about what it takes to win on the road. I can't say how impressed I was with the way that our guys approached the three consecutive road games. It was very businesslike in every manner."
On the possibility of home field advantage:
"That's exactly right. I think our guys are aware of the situation. We have said many times we like where we're at and we know where we're at and we know what we have to do. Again, I think just like we've tried to approach every game it's really not about our opponent it's about us and going out and playing as well as we possibly can play. If we do that we're going to like the outcome and we're going to look up and like where we're at."
On the importance of fumble recoveries:
"I think the ball bounces in funny ways and I think that what you'll see if you watch the trends of turnovers especially fumbles and then fumbles lost the teams that are winning and usually have a winning record are usually getting more of the recoveries than the other teams. I think that's a statistic that you look at and when you watch that you'll see the teams they may fumble the ball but get the ball back. If it's a fumble lost, you don't get the ball back you're usually not going to be the team that wins, it's the teams that are recovering the fumbles. If you can get over 50 percent of the balls that are on the ground I think you're going to be ahead of the curve."
On the defense in the third quarter:
"Defensively, I can't say enough about the way our guys played there in the third quarter. Again, we didn't start fast in the first quarter but I thought that after that first drive where they took the ball down the field and scored their opening touchdown I thought that we played very well. The three turnovers were big. I thought even a bigger series was the series right before the half when they had the ball on the plus side of the 50 basically in field goal range and we were able to hold them to a field goal attempt. Then our offense which I think is often over looked, I believe it was another 10 play drive in two minutes and some change in terms of driving the ball. That was huge. The sequencing of those three drives and scoring on defense was big. That was a big play by DE Jamaal Anderson and I was glad to see DT Jonathan Babineaux come up with the ball. Anytime a defensive tackle gets to score a touchdown it's a big day not only for the guy that gets it but for the whole group. They get excited about seeing their guy score."
On what it means to have clinched a playoff berth:
"I think it is very satisfying for the organization, I think it's very satisfying for our fans. We have goals that we set internally and I can assure you we haven't reached them yet. Again, we'll keep those goals internally. We like the way our team has played throughout the entire season. They've been very focused each and every week. I think when you do that and you've got the type of players that General Manager Thomas Dimitroff and his staff provide for us that we're going to have an opportunity to be successful each and every week."
On whether he sees the excitement around Atlanta:
"Driving from Suwanee to Flowery Branch at six in the morning and 10:30 p.m. or dark-thirty in the evening I don't get a whole lot of opportunities to really feel or see the buzz that's going on here in the city of Atlanta. I'm just glad that we've got the support that we do. I think you definitely see it every Sunday when we go to the dome when we come out as a football team you can hear the crowd and the passion that they have and the support that they give us."
On whether he thinks the buzz would be different in another city:
"As a coach during the season you come to work and you put your days in preparing your football team. I'm sure that there is a lot of buzz out there, but again the last thing on my mind right now is to worry about anything but getting our team prepared."
On QB Matt Ryan having 32 wins in his first three seasons (only former QB Dan Marino has more with 33):
"That's a great quarterback to be compared to in terms of being a winning quarterback. Matt has worked very hard and we've got a good group around him. Matt understands the framework of what we want to try to do as a football team. He is a team player. He is the leader of our football team. I can't say enough about how he's performed since he's been here. He's one of the toughest guys I've ever been around. I think it's often overlooked about his injury last year and he came back and only missed two football games and it was a very significant injury. He's a very tough guy. He's the kind of guy that you want to have on your team."
On the offensive line's play this season:
"I think they've played very effectively. I think it shows up in two areas. The first is of course running the football. We've been able to run the ball effectively with RB Michael Turner being our feature back but RB Jason Snelling has had a very productive year. The other area that it shows up is pass protection. I think our guys have a very good understanding. I think when you watch our guys you'll see there's very rarely free runners. We have a very good scheme that's in place and those guys know how to execute it. I think that's where it shows up the most in the ability to run the football and also the number of sacks that we've given up."
On how different he expects the Saints running game to be than it was when they played them earlier this season:**
"We prepared for Saints RB Pierre Thomas (last time we played them) and of course RB Reggie Bush was out so that brings another dynamic that wasn't in place in the first ballgame. Pierre was the running back and then he was injured in the game there in New Orleans. He's healthy now. He's a big, strong running back that we're going to have to put our pads on defensively. I think RB Chris Ivory has had a very good season. He's come out of nowhere and done a good job running the football for them. Then of course we're going to have to be able to defend Reggie Bush in the different areas that they will align him. Again, head coach Sean Payton is one of the most innovative offensive coaches in terms of how he packages his game plan together. He forces you to use a lot of brain power especially in the first 15 to 20 plays with the personnel groupings and it's very high tempo. It's going to be a big challenge for our team. Their running game is something that you can't overlook. Everybody talks about QB Drew Brees and his ability to throw the football and the weapons that they have at wide receiver and tight end but they can run the ball effectively."
On whether he sees this game as a role reversal to last year's Saints-Falcons game in Atlanta:
"No, I really don't. I see this as two teams that are playing very good football right now and there's a lot at stake in this ballgame. We are going to approach it like it's the most important game because it's the next game. I know that Sean will have the offense ready and defensive coordinator Gregg Williams will have their defense ready. I think it'll be a great atmosphere. I think it's one of the better rivalries in the League. The two teams came into the League around the same time if I'm not mistaken. The proximity, geographically it's so close. I'm sure that they'll be a contingency of Saints fans that come up just like when we go down to New Orleans there's a bunch of Atlanta fans that go to that city. I think it's going to be a great atmosphere for a really good hard fought football game. That's what happens when the NFC South gets together. I still believe that year in and year out it's the toughest division in the NFL."
On how difficult it is to try to make the New Orleans offense one dimensional:
"I think you have to be very selective in how you're going to attack these guys because they have so many weapons. If you do load the box then you're going to expose yourself to some one on one situations and they can create some matchup issues that are tough to defend. Especially the way they do things formationally. They do a great job and Drew is as good as any quarterback in the League in terms of pre snap reads to identify what you're trying to do. It's going to be important for us as a team to make sure that we can get some pre snap tips on what they're trying to do as well."
On whether a team gets recognized for their fundamentals:
"I think that they do get recognized. I don't know that it's as pretty as some of the other statistics. We feel and we believe at the core as a coaching staff that they are things that we have to preach. Winning time of possession, controlling the clock, not turning the ball over, not having penalties especially on third down and in the fourth quarter. I think that is our plan for success and it's something that we've emphasized from the very beginning and our guys have really bought into that mindset, knowing that if we accomplish those goals we're going to enhance our chances of winning."
On Matt taking five quarterback hits and one sack:
"I know that the NFL keeps those stats, that's probably accurate. We gave up the one sack and again you've got to give Seattle credit. They were a well prepared football team. I thought head coach Pete Carroll did a very good job in having those guys ready. It was a playoff game for them, just like it was a playoff game for us. People talked about it was basically a playoff game for them, and believe me, we were approaching it the same way. I think at this time in the season when you still have an opportunity to play beyond the 16 regular season games you're going to get everybody's best shot."