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Transcript: Mike Smith Monday News Conference

Opening statement:

First thing I want to do is I want to start by commending the fans last night. It was an electric atmosphere at the Dome and I thought it was a big help for us. It was a fun night to stand on the sidelines. I'm sure it was a fun night to be in the stands. They are a contributing factor to the success that we've had. I was really pleased with the way we fought last night. I thought the guys showed some resolve. We didn't start the way we wanted in terms of offense, defense, and special teams. Much different than the week before where we started fast in all three phases. We gave up a big punt, three and out, big punt return and they had starting position on the 31 yard line and we gave up the field goal. That's not the way you want to do it, but I thought our defense did a solid job in terms of giving up points. Gave up six points in the first quarter and then didn't give up another point until the last five minutes in the fourth quarter. They did a nice job. We need to get rested and prepared for our second division game against the New Orleans Saints."

On playing good defense on third down passes:

"We've done a nice job really since the first ballgame this year. We got behind the eight ball and weren't very good in the first game. We gave up way too many third downs, and when you're only talking about between 12 and 15 snaps a game it takes a while to get your percentages where you would like them. I thought we did a nice job mixing up our coverages. We were disruptive to the quarterback for the most part. We did not do a good job containing him and in that drive where they scored their only touchdown of the game, we weren't as good as we needed to be. I think it's all three areas: the defensive line, the linebackers, and the DB's working together. As you guys know, I've stated many times, Coach Nolan thrives on getting you in third down. Especially, when you get them in third and four or more you have the advantage on the defensive side."

On the defense gelling with the system:

"I think it's very important and run fits have to be very precise. It's not just a, b, c. It's a lot more complicated than that, in terms of how you're going to take your gap and how you're going to fill the gap to the unblocked player. That's the thing that we've done a much better job the last two weeks. It's been an emphasis point. We didn't start the season out the way we wanted stopping the run, but we've done a better job these last two weeks. We've worked on it extensively in practice and have spent more emphasis over it the last three weeks actually."

On the Cowboys having success in the hurry up offense towards the end of the game:

"We didn't execute as well as we would've liked to. They had gotten into a rhythm, and it's tough sometimes once they get in a rhythm to try and change it up, especially in the no huddle. You're limited a little bit, in terms of what you can do in terms of calling defenses when there is no stoppage of the clock. The clock was running the entire time in that drive. You can't really substitute, so there were a number of factors that led to it. We've got to play better. I thought we tackled better on that drive. We just didn't do a very good job covering or putting pressure on the quarterback."

On DT Corey Peters being ready for a full return:

"I just talked to Corey five minutes ago walking down in here and I said 'I think you still have some rust on you and he said yeah, I know.' Again, it's his second game, and actually, he said 'you don't need to tell me that. I said, oh yes I do' (laughing) like he knew it himself. Corey got more snaps than we actually wanted him to play yesterday, simply because of the injury to DT Peria Jerry. I think in another week or two he'll be ready to get back to his normal snap count that he was at last year when we were using him as a starter."

On comparing LB Akeem Dent's game last night to the Oakland game:

"I think Akeem Dent played his best game of the season by far. The thing I'm most proud of is the way he handled the huddle. He was a signal caller on our base defense and our sub defense, and I thought he did a very nice job. He was very active. I think he was credited from the stats in the press box with seven tackles if I'm not mistaken. He did a very nice job. That's not easy to really play your first full game at the Mike linebacker position on a Sunday Night Football game. Pleased with the way that he played. I think he's really progressed in his understanding of the fronts and his run fits."

On Dent showing leadership:

"He did a very nice job. We put a lot on the Mike linebacker, the signal caller in terms of there's a number of potential audibles based on formations and I thought he handled it very well. I think there was one time where we didn't get into the defense that we wanted to be in. Our mental errors were down. We didn't tackle well in the first half. I thought we tackled much better in the second half. We were a lot crisper in our tackling in the second half of the ballgame."

On Jerry's knee:

"Peria's knee, he had a study done on it today. We're anticipating that he should be out with us by the end of the week. It's not anything like his knee injury of two years ago. We're hoping that we give him a few days rest and let him get a lot of treatment and he'll be back out there with us."

On it being on the same knee that he hurt before:

"It's not the same type of injury. It's more of a swelling situation and that's what we have to do is get the swelling down. There's no ligament or cartilage issues."

On LB Sean Weatherspoon:

"Sean, of course you saw was on the sideline.  I saw him moving up and down the sideline helping us and assisting us making sure everybody knew what the calls were. He was doing a very nice job last night. He will be a guy that we hope will get out here at the end of the week. He's basically been in treatment now, this is his eighth day of intensive treatment. We're hoping we're going to be able to get him out. He progressed well through the first week and we're just going to have to see. I think like last week we'll know where he's at Wednesday or Thursday in terms of if he's made enough progress where we think he'll play this week."

On CB Asante Samuel injuring his neck:

"Not at all. I think Asante missed three snaps in the ballgame last night, so he was able to come back. It was not a head injury. It was a neck issue, but he missed three snaps and was back in."

On starting the third quarter of the season:

"Not any different than what we've done so far. We'll rehash this second quarter on Wednesday and then we'll take a quick peak ahead talking about this next quarter. This basically was the NFC East. We're now going to turn our attention to some division games. As you know, we put a lot more weight on the division games. You've got to take care of your division if you want to be where you want to be at the end of the season."

On playing on a Sunday night and extra attention help with handling pressure come playoff time:

"I think you learn regardless of what the situation is. I think it's a whole lot of fun to be playing on Sunday Night Football. Coaching and fans having an opportunity to watch. In regards to the second season, that's way down the road. We're just now starting to get into the third quarter and the division games are up. It starts this week with New Orleans, and as you know New Orleans and the Atlanta Falcons are one of the best rivalries in the NFL."

On knowing by Thursday whether Weatherspoon will play this weekend:

"I think we'll know by the end of the week. It may go into if he's closer, it could potentially go into a game time decision, but I think we'll have a pretty good idea of where Sean is on Wednesday or Thursday."

On making a change at the punt returner position and RB Jacquizz Rodgers being a candidate:

"Jacquizz has done a very nice job returning kicks. Jacquizz has never returned punts, so we're somewhat limited in the number of players that have. We've got some guys that have done it, but we feel like it's in our best interest to not have them out there. Harry Douglas has returned punts, Asante Samuel has returned punts. We've got the guy that's very sure handed back there, and the big thing is when there's a change of possession you want to make sure at the end of that down that we have the football. Last night, the opportunity to really return it was not there. Their punter did a nice job with the hang time, and we definitely did not want to try and do something that put us in danger of losing the football. We want to have possession when that play is over."

On feeling different being the winningest coach in Falcons history:

"No, it doesn't. Again, it's not about one person. It's about the whole team and the whole organization. We've been fortunate to win a lot of football games since we've been here, and a lot of people have contributed, not only on the field but off the field. Everybody in the building should be proud of what we accomplished thus far this season and since Thomas and I came here four years ago."

On the injury to DT Jay Ratliff affecting their defense in the second half:

"Jay Ratliff is a heck of a football player. We identify who we feel like are game wreckers. Jay was one of them. He's coming off injuries early in the season, and I think he's really coming into his own. I know that he left right before halftime. I thought that he wasn't nearly as effective as a game wrecker that he'd shown in other game. I thought our offensive line did a nice job. The hits on our quarterback were not really the fault of the offensive line. We had some communication issues on two of the three sacks, so I thought they did a very nice job. They've got five guys up front and really with the rotation had about eight guys that really come after you."

On checking out what people are saying about the team nationally:

"I don't read them, but I have two guys that are over here on the right side of the room that if there is information that they feel like I need to be aware of they'll pass it on to me, and we've got a pretty good system in place through five years, through trial and error. When we first started doing this it was coach you need this, and no I don't need to know anything like that. I think they know now the type of information that I need. I try to focus on the next game. We live in five, six, seven day cycles as coaches and players. The next mission is the New Orleans Saints, and that's where our focus is going to be starting this evening. We've got a couple of debrief meetings to finish up as an organization, but as soon as their done we'll move on to the New Orleans Saints."

On being halfway through the season and how the new coordinators have done up until now:

"I think they've done an outstanding job to this point. As I've said many times, Dirk and Mike are outstanding football coaches that have a very good understanding of the game, but more importantly they are great people. I'd worked with them previously and the relationship has grown since I worked with them in previous years. They've done a great job of not only calling the game, but preparing our football team and going through the process of putting the game plan together with the rest of our coaching staff. Through the first half of the season we've done a nice job, but we still have a long second half to go."

On WR Julio Jones being in the backfield and having a special name:

"No, but it does have a formation name to get him aligned there. It's something that we've shown in previous games. I think it's just another way to create some confusion on who's going to line up where. We don't want to line up guys always in the same spot. That's part of the offensive game plan."

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