Transcript: Mike Smith Monday News Conference

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**Opening Statement:

**"In terms of the way that we played, we did some good things yesterday. We've still got a lot of things that we can improve on but we're certainly glad that the outcome was a 'W' because, most importantly, that's what we play for."

**On putting together a penalty-free second half:

**"It was very important. In the first half of the ball game, we did not play penalty-free. In fact, we had some major penalties that we were able to overcome offensively. Defensively, we did not overcome the penalties there in the first half. It was a big part of it. In fact, that was one of the things that we talked about at halftime was that we had to make sure that we played smarter than we did there in the first half and it allowed us to finish strong. I think that the defense finished very strong in terms of the three-and-outs and the two turnovers. Of course, when you finish it offensively with a field goal and two touchdowns, that's the way you want to finish ball games."

**On the play of the offensive line and what the difference has been between the first three games and the last three:

**"I think the biggest thing that we had to evaluate, and I said it after the first couple of ball games, was first and foremost, we had to look at what we were doing schematically. It's easy to say let's change part A for part B and we are doing some things differently schematically in our protections and our guys are getting more comfortable with one another. We've had some parts change because of injury but in terms of the stability of the offensive line, for the most part, we've been able to play with the same guys. Really, I think our coaching staff took a good, hard look at what we were doing schematically and then the players, I think, have stepped up their play as well."

**On DE Ray Edwards:

**"I really think that Ray is becoming more comfortable in our scheme. His get-off the last couple of games has been very impressive. He's been able to win the snap. When I say win the snap, his first step has been very quick and he's been able to get on some edges and I really felt, especially there in the second half when we made some slight adjustments at halftime, that we did some very good things in terms of rushing the passer. It's nice to see Ray have the production. Again, sacks sometimes are overrated but we are seeing the type of pressure that we need to see from Ray. I like the way that he's playing."

**On the third-down inefficiencies on defense:

**"We're trying. We keep scratching where it's itching and believe me, right now, we've got hives all over in terms of our third-down defense. We have not been effective. We have not been efficient on third down for the entire season and where we are statistically is not where we want to be. You've got to put pressure on the quarterback on third down and there's been a number of different things. We threw a lot at the quarterback yesterday and he was able to make some plays. Again, on third and 10s, third and nines, third and 13s, which I believe they converted in those three situations yesterday, those are situations that, statistically, you should be able to win. At this point in time, we are not playing very good third-down defense. There's no ifs, ands or buts about it."

**On being close to sacking QB Cam Newton:

**"It's inches. A foot here, an inch there and that's what this game is all about. When you watch games, I don't know how many times you see it but you see a ball go right over somebodies hand. If it's another inch, the ball is going to be deflected and, right now, we're not playing very good and that is going to continue to be an emphasis point. We have got to affect the quarterback on third down. We're getting him into some favorable downs and distances, but we haven't been able to play very effectively. It's probably the Achilles' heel of our defense at this point in time."

**On the play of DB Kelvin Hayden:

**"I thought Kelvin made some plays. I was very impressed with Kelvin. In fact, Kelvin's special teams play was outstanding. He was named our special teams player of the week. For his extended play, he did some nice things. Again, he is still not up to speed in everything that we want to do. He doesn't have the comfort level that players who have been in our system for a year or two have. I like his energy and I like what he did stepping in for Chris Owens in the ball game yesterday."

**On S William Moore's tipped pass that led to DB Brent Grimes' interception:

**"That was one of the five or six plays that were the difference in the ball game. It was an all-out blitz situation so we were in zero coverage and William was able to tip the ball. This was going in right before halftime. I think it was probably a momentum changer, even though they came out and had the long drive in the second half, that was a big-time play by William to get the ball tipped up in the air and then Brent was able to run it out of the endzone."

**On whether there was an effort to get RB Devonta Freeman outside:

**"Again, when people try to defend us, they're going to basically tell us where we're going to be able to run the football and that's the premise of, again, I say it over and over, of our offense and we felt that we were going to be able to get him to the second level and get him to the second level there on the perimeter. Of course, when you've got Michael coming around the corner at 245 pounds, there's some guys that might not necessarily want to take a clean shot at him. We had some positive runs. I thought Mike ran extremely well in the ball game and I thought our wide receivers, when you're having success on the perimeter, your wide receivers are blocking well. I thought they did that yesterday in the ball game."

**On whether the team's philosophy on returning kicks has changed throughout the season:

**"I think that across the League, people have different philosophies. Our philosophy is we have a mark in the endzone that we don't want to come out unless it's a short hang time. We will take the ball on the 20 instead of trying to bring it out when the ball is deep. I think across the League, more people are bringing it out but I think as the season goes on, the teams that are able to kick the ball into the endzone, unless you have one of those elite returners, you're going to see more and more people not taking the ball out."

**On whether or not there was a mindset that this would be a game focused on RB Michael Turner:

**"Each week, we have 'musts' that we have presented to our players and one of the 'musts' this week was that we needed to establish the run. We felt like the way they were going to defend us was going to give us an opportunity. I don't know that we basically came out and said how many carries Michael was going to have but Michael got the ball rolling early and we kept feeding him because we felt that he was in a groove. I thought Jacquizz (Rodgers) came in and had a really good run on the third-down conversion, on the toss, and Jason Snelling gave us some significant snaps as well. We felt like, coming in, if they were going to defend us the way that we had seen it that we were going to be able to run the football and our guys did a really good job and they stepped up to the challenge."

**On whether the offensive plan for the Carolina game more resembled the team from the last three seasons:

**"It's the kind of game that you want to play in. When I say you want to play in, you want to have a game where you're in your four-minute offense there at the end. That was probably the best feeling. When you're running the ball more, you're probably liking where you're at. What happened in that ball game is there at the end when we went in to take the 14-point lead, we put our two tight end set with two running backs and an extra offensive lineman as a tight end and were able to run the football. I think that more than anything probably is where you got that feel from. Prior to that, I think it was very similar to the other games when the score was such that we were able to continue to run the football. Again, we are going to take what people give us and each and every week, it's going to be different. We're going to present different formations, we're going to present different personnel groups and that's the great thing about coaching is you've got to go out there and coach your game plan and go out and execute it. I thought it was a very good game plan. The players stepped up to the challenge and we had a challenge to both sides of the football in terms of how we wanted this game to go and I think they executed it very well."

**On opposing teams throwing away from Brent Grimes:

**"I don't think Brent has had, so far this season, I don't believe that he has as many targets. Brent last year had a very good year with five interceptions. He was tied for the lead on our team in terms of interceptions. I don't know the numbers though in terms of the number of targets at this point in time, comparing it to last year."

**On Sunday's victory being a 46-man win:

**"Through our first six games, I think you're 100 percent right. Together, we won that football game and everybody that was dressed for the game contributed yesterday except for our backup quarterback who didn't play. Everybody on the team made a contribution and it really was fulfilling to go into that locker room and see that guys know that we can put close to a complete game, I don't want to call that a complete game yesterday. I like the way we finished, I like some of the things we did at the start, but there's still a lot of things that we can improve on. This group of guys had to feel positive coming out of the game yesterday. It was hard-fought. That's a good football team. They've got a quarterback that can cause you some problems and defensively, they've got some guys that can rush the passer and I thought we did a good job in how we tried to present things to try to eliminate the pressure on the quarterback."

**On how difficult it is to turn off your competitive nature during a post-game handshake:

**"Not for me. When the game is over and it goes to zero-zero, you go over and you shake the hand, win or lose and you go to the locker room and move on to the next one."

**On Sean Payton's injury in the New Orleans-Tampa Bay game:

**"I haven't seen the actual play but I understand it was not a pretty sight that Coach Payton got rolled up on the sideline. I hope he's feeling better. I know he's probably not feeling good today and, really, I'm surprised that it doesn't happen more often in the game of football. There was nowhere to go, probably, and he got caught up in there. In terms of coordinating from the head coaching position, it's something that I feel very comfortable with the role that I have, in terms of being the head coach, and letting the three coordinators work theirs. I do not want to micro manage. I want to have more of a macro view of the team and our guys do a good job. I don't know what plan they had there in New Orleans and what kind of effect that had."

**On the injury report:

**"In terms of the game, we had a couple of guys that were banged up. You will see on Wednesday. Again, we're in week 7 now, you're going to see that we're going to get into a maintenance program with a number of guys on our team. We've got some guys that because of their age, we're going to start resting. But I don't believe that there's any major concerns as we speak right now. We've got to see how some guys come through the next couple of days but we're going to have some guys that will not practice on Wednesday and we will also have some guys that we won't practice on Thursday simply because we want to get them some rest. We're going to start, over the next seven to eight weeks of the season, going through that process. It's really going to be more management for a number of guys on our team. I don't have any specifics on anybody in terms of who's going to be back or this week. I will tell you that Chris Owens is in to phase two of his concussion protocol so hopefully we'll have him back when we go out on the field on Wednesday."

**On the availability of S James Sanders and WR Julio Jones:

**"James Sanders will practice on Wednesday. We've got to wait and see where Julio is. Again, at the end of the week, we was working with our athletic performance department and hopefully, we'll have a better idea on Wednesday. I know he had a rehab run this morning. I had an opportunity to watch it."

**On FB Ovie Mughelli's success last week and whether he will be petitioning for more touches:

**"He'll be petitioning for more throws and more runs. He had a run yesterday as well. It was a 46-man roster win and everybody was contributing. Michael Palmer had the catch on the bootleg that got the ball down inside the two-yard line and there were some guys in the rotation on the defensive side that got opportunities to contribute as well."

**On WR Julio Jones's personal foul penalties in back-to-back games:

**"I had a conversation. I just really wanted to know what happened in the game yesterday. It was a block behind the ball. The ball was already down the field. He was trying to get a block and it was behind the ball. We all understand that we've got to play smart and can't have those type of penalties but I've got no issues with Roddy in terms of his passion for the game and how hard he plays. It was an effort play there."

**On winning the fourth quarter:

**"We haven't finished the fourth quarter like we've wanted to. For the most part, we've had some opportunities to do it and we haven't. In the Philadelphia game, we had two scoring drives there in the fourth quarter and yesterday we scored 17 points. That's finishing strong and I think that what contributed to those 17 points was the two interceptions and the two three-and-outs. The last four drives of the ball game, I believe, were two three-and-outs and two interceptions. For us and for every team in this League, if you win the turnover battle, you greatly enhance your chances to succeed and we've been able to do that when we've won games. When we haven't won the turnover battle this year, we have not gotten the outcome that we wanted and that was the other 'must', that we needed to create ball disruptions and turnovers and in yesterday's ball game, we created three turnovers and eight ball disruptions where we took the ball off of a receiver in the passing game. Then, of course, we were able to win the turnover battle with the three turnovers and not turning the ball over on the offensive side and that's really a real good formula to having success in the National Football League, is not turning the ball over and getting the turnover battle in your favor."

**On Detroit head coach Jim Schwartz and Coach Smith's overlap with him in Baltimore:

**"Jim Schwartz was leaving when I came in but I've known Jim and coached against Jim Schwartz. Jim Schwartz is one of the most innovative coaches in terms of how he presents information. When he was at Tennessee as the defensive coordinator and I was there in Jacksonville, we competed against one another. His teams are always well prepared. Even though it doesn't look like they do a whole lot, they line up in a four down-line set and they have three linebackers and four DBs and maybe get into a nickel package occasionally. They do some very interesting things in their zones. There's a lot of nuances in terms of what they do. I'm not a bit surprised with the success that he's had there in Detroit. He's done a great job. He's really built that football team from the ground up. When he took it over, there was not a whole lot of success and he's really done a great job both offensively and defensively. To talk about their young quarterback, we're very familiar with him because he played college football here at the University of Georgia. He is an outstanding quarterback and he's just getting better and better every game. Of course, the wide receiver that we're going to have to defend played here at Georgia Tech and he is a local native in Calvin Johnson. Those two guys have something going in terms of when they have to make a play, they've made a play this season and I've been very impressed with their young front four in (Kyle) Vanden Bosch, who's the older guy and the leader but boy does he play with a motor. They're playing very good football. They're playing very confidently and I know we look forward to getting into our game planning and preparing for these guys because it ought to be a fun time. From what I understand, Detroit has become the Seattle of the Midwest in terms of creating offensive procedural penalties. I think, in the last two games, they've had 14 procedural penalties in the last two ball games. We're going to have to really work on our communication. We'll have the noise rolling all practice long this week."

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