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Transcript: Mike Smith Monday News Conference

Opening statement:

"Going into the game yesterday we knew it was going to be a hard fought battle. Anytime you play an NFC South game it's going to be that way. We talked about starting fast and yesterday we really didn't do that. We had a three and out and gave up a scoring drive and ended up behind on the scoreboard seven-nothing right off the bat. After looking at the tape, there are a lot of things we can get better at. We have a bunch of areas that we can improve on. The guys are off today. They'll be back in here tomorrow. We'll start our preparation for Washington on Wednesday. We'll be playing our second consecutive conference game and they had a very good win last week on the road against Tampa."

On CB Asante Samuel and WR Steve Smith mixing it up on the field:

"Steve is very competitive guy and Asante is a very competitive guy. We were able to diffuse that and they did a very nice job of doing that. We did not want to get the thing to go in the wrong direction, so it was good that Abe came to Asante's side there."

On the team looking out for each other:

"I think it says a lot about our football team. We're a very close knit group, and when we get out there we're going to go out there and compete. It's a very competitive atmosphere, and we've got to make sure you take care of one another. I think that's what took place yesterday."

On QB Matt Ryan leading the offensive unit:

"Matt's done a very good job through the first four games. I think that the first three games he was very sharp, and I think he did a nice job there at the end. Like I mentioned, we didn't have a fast start, but we had a good finish. That's something that as a team we want to emphasize, not only starting fast but finishing. I mentioned before that finishing everything we do. That means finishing plays, finishing quarters, finishing series, finishing games, and I think we'll like where we're at if we continue to have good starts and good finishes."

On the offensive line having protection issues:

"When you talk about protection of the quarterback in the passing game, the first thing everyone wants to do is point the finger at the offensive line and that's not necessarily always the case. There are a lot of factors that go into protecting the quarterback. The backs, the tight ends, the receivers whether they run the right break off routes and the quarterback. We gave up way to many sacks in the game yesterday but they all weren't on the offensive line. I can assure you that. It was an effort everyone was a part of."

On WR Roddy White mentioning the receivers messing up:

"Roddy was probably alluding to the fact that there are times when they don't break the route off, and the quarterback is going to be left with nowhere to go with it (the ball) and have to eat it. That happened a couple of times in the game yesterday. We've got to shore up our pass protection. I thought we did a good job with our run blocking. We got Michael going north and south, and he did a great job in yards after contact."

On having a three game lead in the division only four games into the season:

"I'm aware of it, but I don't pay attention to it. This early in the season, you've got to concern yourself with your team. You don't even think about what's going on with the other teams until you're ready to play them, so I'm familiar with what Washington did yesterday. We've started out fast and it's just a start. The guys have worked hard. When we meet on Wednesday, the thing we'll be talking about will be the start of the second quarter of the season. The first quarter is behind us and we're moving on to the next mission."

On giving up a lot of big plays to Cam Newton and if he's worried about that with Robert Griffin coming up next:

"We gave up way too many explosive plays in the ball game yesterday. We only gave up 205 total yards passing, but there were three explosive passes and we had nine explosive runs in the ball game yesterday. Those are the plays we talk about of being 20 yards or more. We've got to try and limit those explosive plays. They're part of the toxic differential when you look at how you play with the offense and defense together. We've got to do a better job and can't give up those explosive plays. They did a nice job creating them. Some of them were short passes, the screen pass comes to mind. We didn't play that as well as we needed to. Then, the first touchdown pass in the redzone we didn't play it as well as we'd like to."

On RB Michael Turner adjusting to catch the ball more:

"I think he did a nice job. One of the drops was a legitimate drop if you watch it and replay it. The other one was probably not one you would give him a drop. Again, those are very subjective in how you look at them. It's kind of like as I've mentioned before, some guys like red cars, some guys like yellow cars. When you're grading drops it depends on who's watching it or the outcome of the game. Sometimes coupled with the win they're not drops."

On the team's mentality by breaking up the season:

"You've got to have to have focus on the task at hand, first and foremost, and that's the next game. I think it's also important for you to have some vision down the road, not too far down the road, but I think you can put an emphasis on it. For example, this first quarter that we finished, when we talked about it we knew that we would only play one division game and one conference game and we had three games outside the division. We're going to really get in the meat of our schedule in three and four. This quarter we're getting into now, we're going to play three NFC East teams and finish off the AFC West and then we're in the second half of the season. You kind of compartmentalize and present them to the start of the season where they have an idea of what's taking place in each quarter."

On learning this method:

"It's something I learned in my days at Baltimore with Brian Billick. That's something that he did. Guys are going to look ahead. It's human nature that you're going to look ahead, but you want to have it where they don't get too far ahead of themselves. Breaking it up by quarters it gives an emphasis point that I just mentioned."

On facing a similar offense this week:

"We got an idea of what worked and what didn't work (laughing). We're going to be facing a very similar offense. Robert Griffin III is not nearly as big. I think he's got more foot speed than the quarterback that we just played, so we're going to have some different issues. Again, we've already started evaluating what we're going to do against the Washington Redskins early this morning. Since the players were off we were able to get a jump on it."

On CB Robert McClain playing nickel:

"Robert McClain was the corner that we kept on our roster originally with the 53-man roster and then we made a roster move to bring back (CB) Dom Franks. Robert had not had a whole lot of snaps. Dom had more snaps. We have let those guys compete over the last couple of weeks, and we felt like Robert had a really good week of practice. We wanted to give him an opportunity to play the nickel, and I thought he handled it for the first time, fairly well. He did a nice job. Again, we're hoping to have our nickel that started the season back this week. There's your nugget (laughing). We're hoping to have him this week. He will be practicing, so we'll have some competition going on at the nickel back position as we prepare for the game this week."

On the confusion and emotion on that last play:

"I'll tell you, that when you're out there for the two hours and forty five to three hours and twenty five minutes, it's not a whole lot of fun. It's fun, but there is a lot of pressure out there, that's what we signed up for. I thought our guys handled it very well. We've got some things that we've got to do better. I've got some things that I've got to do better in terms of managing the end of the game. There are things that we have to do as players. It's something we're all going to learn from in terms of what we've got to improve on. Not just players making plays, but coaches have got to do what they're supposed to do. I've got to do what I've got to do, and we're all in this together."

On whether you had contact with an assistant coach:

"There was something that happened in the heat of the battle. I've had a conversation with Coach Hamilton. We were trying to get eleven players on the field, we only had ten guys on the field. One thing I'm not going do is to have our team at a disadvantage before the snap when we're trying to make sure we handle that situation. We were able to get eleven people out there on the field. I try to be 100 percent, and I wasn't 100 percent yesterday. I've got to do better."

On Ryan showing a lot of emotional after the game:

"Matt is a very emotional football player. We want to be very focused during the week in our preparation. It's important for us to be focused. Then when you kick that game off, it's all about emotion. The team has to have passion and emotion. Our leader on our football team is Matt Ryan, and he was very emotional because that was quite a finish. I don't know if it's happened in a long time in the National Football league to start the ball on the two yard line and have a winning drive. It doesn't happen very often."

On the use of C Joe Hawley and OG Mike Johnson:

"We were light at the fullback position so we had to create a role. Somebody had to line up at the fullback position and we put a little package together of sometimes with Joe and sometimes with Joe and Mike in there together. I thought it was a very nice package that the offensive staff put together. I thought strategically it was something that gave us an advantage in the ball game. Especially early on, because it was a different personnel grouping."

On pass protection where it wasn't the offensive lines fault:

"I don't want to get into all of the specifics, but there is more than just the five offensive linemen that are responsible for pass protection. When we don't protect the passer, the first group that gets scrutinized is the offensive line. The running backs, the tight ends, the wide receivers, and the quarterback are all part of the success that we have or the success that we don't have, in terms of protecting the quarterback. Every group was a part of us not having the protection that we needed."

On going over all scenarios throughout the game:

"We go over every conceivable scenario. You try whatever you can do at that point in time, yes. We were able to get an eleventh guy out there. The one thing that we did not want to do is you don't want to go out there at a disadvantage before the ball is snapped. We were able to get an eleventh guy out there."

On how the defensive ends played against the zone read:

"Our defensive ends did a nice job. I thought DE John Abraham had a good game. He put a lot of pressure on our quarterback. It was a big sack there at the end of the ball game. When you're playing a running quarterback you have to account for him, and there were often times the guy that's accountable for him is a defensive end."

On breaking the referees down:

"We do an evaluation of our officials. We evaluate our officials just like we evaluate our opponent. We've got six years of data on what officials call. When we get a crew, we'll know where they rank in terms of the penalties called per game. We know what officials call what calls. We do our due diligence, and I think it's important you have to do that so you try and uncover every bit of information that you can get about giving yourself an advantage to win."

On the regular officials this week:

"We don't concern ourselves with whether they're the replacements or the regular officials. We don't control that. I thought it was a well called game. We had three penalties, and two of them were accepted. I think we're the number one team in the NFL in terms of penalties called against us. That's something we pride ourselves on. We want to do a very good job of being the least penalized team in the NFL."

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