Head coach Mike Smith talks about penalties, Jason Snelling, Jerious Norwood's injury and much more during his weekly Monday news conference from the Falcons training facility in Flowery Branch, Ga.
"As I said yesterday in the postgame news conference, I thought that our guys played very intensely. I was really pleased with our fast start. I thought in all three phases we were able to control the tempo of the ballgame. We scored those 24 points there in the first half and I think that really set the tone for us to play with intensity the entire game. It was a good way to bounce back from week one. It's a long season and it's good to see our guys play as well as they did. With that being said, as we watch the tape there's still a lot of things that we can get better at in all three phases of the game."
On the defensive front and their pressure on Cardinals QB Derek Anderson:**
"I thought that our defensive ends played well in terms of hitting the quarterback. I thought that both DE Kroy Biermann and DE Vic Beasley Jr. on the stat sheet showed up in terms of quarterback pressures. I thought that the defensive tackles got some push and I thought the gameplan was executed well. Even though we only had two sacks, I thought that we ended up hitting the quarterback numerous times and that is the idea behind our pressure package, it is to make him uncomfortable and try to put him in a situation where he's not feeling good about it. I thought they did a good job yesterday."
On the injury update to RB Jerious Norwood and a report that he tore his ACL:**
"We'll really give the full injury report on Wednesday. I know everybody's concerned about Jerious. Jerious has had some evaluation this morning and we're going to continue to evaluate it. Hopefully we'll have a lot more information on Wednesday. I don't where that report is coming from. Again, we've had testing done and evaluation done this morning and we're going to continue to evaluate it. If it indeed is the case, then we would of course announce that. Again, that will probably come on Wednesday when we give our injury report."
On whether he has given any thought to bringing in a veteran running back pending the severity of the injuries to RB's Jerious Norwood and Devonta Freeman: **
"Of course, each and every week the dynamics of your roster changes. You've got to try to put the strongest roster together and if we feel like because of the health of our running back situation that we need to add a player, we definitely would consider that. Again, I think yesterday we were in a situation where RB Jason Snelling had to step up and he did some really good things. We also have a contingency plan that we can work FB Ovie Mughelli in the running back position and he did that as well yesterday. I thought we got to our contingency plan and we executed it very well."
On when and if he would consider releasing Jerious Norwood due to his history of injuries:
"Unfortunately, Jerious has had some bumps and bruises and some missed time since we've been here, but he is a very talented football player and he's been a guy that's contributed to the success that we've had. You like the speed of him as a running back and as a specialist and he's been able to contribute for us the past two years, but there's always a sense of frustration anytime you don't have your best players out there on the field, not necessarily directed towards Jerious or anyone else, but anytime you don't have your best players out there that you feel like give you the best chance to win it is frustrating."
On CB Chris Owen's development and growth:**
"Chris Owens, I think is evolving into a very good defensive back. The number of snaps that he's had to have four interceptions talks about the talent that Chris has. He's learning and maturing as a football player. I think he will continue to do that. I think he's manning the nickel spot very, very well for us. I think he'll continue to progress, I think it's just the maturation process that he's going to go through. I think we definitely have increased our speed at the nickel spot this season and I think it's shown up in the way that we've been able to play some of the pass defense that we've played in the first two games."
On the importance of eliminating the big plays from the Saints offense going into this week's game:
"They're a very big play team. They thrive on big plays and they're very talented on the offensive side of the ball. Explosive plays have been a very big emphasis on our defense and trying to eliminate the explosive plays. Really our achilles heel in the first two ballgames have been the explosive runs. We've given up a 50-yard run in game one and an 80-yard run in game two. That has been an emphasis point all offseason, just like third down has been. I think we're making progress on the third down efficiency. We still have, obviously, quite a bit of work to do on containing the explosive plays."
On what kind of challenge Saints QB Drew Brees presents:**
"Well he's the quarterback that led his team to the Super Bowl last year, he's a Pro Bowl quarterback. He is definitely going to be the best quarterback that we've faced this season. He may very well be the best quarterback we face all season two times. He understands their offense. They're very prolific in terms of the yards that they can produce and the points. We have some familiarity with them because they're in our division and it will be a big challenge. I think the biggest challenge is the surrounding cast that is around Drew Brees. They're very, very talented at the wide receiver position. They're very talented at the running back position and they're very talented at the tight end position. It creates matchup issues, not only for our team but for any team that the New Orleans Saints play. There's going to be matchup issues and that's going to be the biggest challenge for our defense this week."
On S William Moore's interception:
"I think it was a very big play. It was a big play by CB Dunta Robinson to create the ball up in the air in the coverage and then William was hustling and had great effort attacking the ball and we ran the ball down to, I believe, the 14-yard line. There was some sequencing there right before halftime where we stopped them then we were going to try to go and score with 38 seconds, we gave the ball back to them, they had an opportunity for two plays there at the end of the half. I think that was a big turning point in the ballgame, to give our offense that type of field position and then to go ahead and put it in. Then, I believe their next drive, even though they didn't score a touchdown I believe it was 16 plays and it ended in a field goal. I really think that that pretty much sealed the game at that point."
On whether LB Stephen Nicholas' stop on the Cardinals first third down attempt set the tone:
"Yeah, in fact we were eight for eight in terms of getting them off the field on third down. I think for the two ballgames we're four of 22, 18 percent. Again, that's been a big emphasis point. It's going to be crucial in every ballgame because third down is the down that you have to win on both sides of the ball. If you win on defense, you're limiting your exposures. You're not playing any more snaps. On the offensive side, I think we were 65 percent efficient in the ballgame, you're going to get extra snaps. Again, I think that was a big factor in the reason that we controlled the ball for 39 minutes in that ballgame. It was basically a two to one advantage for our team. I think third down efficiency had something to do with it, as well as the three turnovers that the defense were able to create."
On how he can get the team to 'play on the edge' without getting penalties:
"It's a very fine line and we talk about it all the time. We had three personal foul penalties yesterday. We always want to be on the edge. That's the way that we've played since we've gotten here. I think it's very important that the physicality of the game, the way that we're going to play it is right there on the edge. You have to coach the guys up. We've already addressed it with a couple of the situations that occurred yesterday on those three unnecessary roughness fouls. I think we can continue to play on the edge and play physical but we've just got to make sure that we don't get those flags because those penalties can hurt you, they're 15-yard penalties."
On RB Michael Turner's condition:
"Again, Michael was cleared to go back into the ballgame yesterday with his groin. He was cleared to go back in in the second half. After the turnover and we scored, we made a decision as a staff to not put him back in the game, that we were going to keep him out for the rest of the ballgame. It is a long season guys and we've got to make sure that we're looking down the road as well as the game we're playing. We felt it was best for us as a team to not expose him to anymore snaps in that ballgame. We are anticipating he will be ready to go in practice. We're excited that it was not a significant injury."
On how he would describe RB Jason Snelling:
"He's tough. He's deceiving in terms of his ability to read defenses in terms of blocking schemes. I think he's very deceptive in his speed and I think he has very good hands. He's a darn good football player, I said it yesterday, that's probably the best way to describe him. Jason Snelling is a darn good football player and we're sure glad that we have him. He had 186 total yards yesterday, scored three touchdowns. Obviously if we were naming the MVP of the game yesterday and we had to do it as a coaching staff Jason Snelling would be our MVP. I also want to give props to our offensive line. I thought that they did a very good job of sustaining blocks. I think anybody that saw the replay of the very first snap of the game, if they showed it on TV, you saw some wide receivers blocking the way you're supposed to block. I think when you're doing that at all three levels, with your backs, your offensive linemen, and your wide receivers, you're going to run the ball effectively. We were able to do that. The thing that impressed me most about our offense yesterday is 444 yards of total offense, we had basically I believe 223 passing the football and 221 running the football. That is a balanced performance by our offense and that is an issue that defensive teams are going to have to prepare for."
On the confidence he has in S William Moore going into New Orleans if S Erik Coleman cannot play:**
"I think you can sleep better as a coach when you know you've got guys that can step up and play. William did a nice job yesterday in terms of stepping in for Erik. He had the interception. I thought that for his first action he was very, very solid. I think the thing that stands out, that shows about our football team and about our defense, if you look, I believe four interceptions by four different players, we've got five different guys who have gotten sacks. It is a unit that is playing well and there are a number of guys that are contributing through these first two games. I think that is a good trend to start your season off with. We've got a lot of things on the defensive side of the ball that we have to correct. These guys, I think, you can see the urgency and they're a fun group to coach. I know that the defensive staff has done a great job starting back in March working with them. They're a fun group to coach and they enjoy playing the game of football. I know they're going to be up for a big, big challenge this week, but I think they will get out on Wednesday's practice and prepare like they have the last two weeks and get as prepared as we can be to go play the defending Super Bowl champions."
On whether OT Sam Baker is getting a reputation for holding:**
"We've had four holding calls at that position. I think a lot of it is we have to block better, but I also think that the positioning of the umpire can be a factor in how they are covering the offensive line. Not to make excuses, but that is something that we're going to watching and monitoring very, very closely in terms of how many offensive holdings are called and who's calling them. We have to do our due diligence as a coaching staff not only to coach our players better, but we've also got to make sure that we understand how the game is going to be officiated as well."
On what the issue with the holding penalty calling is:**
"I don't think that there's any issue. I just think that he's definitely in a different position and we've got to block better and we cannot have offensive holding penalties."
On where the umpire lines up this year and where he lines up with QB Matt Ryan:
"He's going to always be away from the quarterbacks hand. So, if he's a right-handed quarterback he's on the left side, if it's a left-handed quarterback he's on the right side. He has to be deeper than the deepest back before the ball is snapped, but his normal positioning is 12 yards. The referee is 14 yards deep to the quarterback's hand. That's how the new setup in terms of placement of the officials are. That is during the game except with two minutes to go in the first half, and then he goes back to his traditional position, which is on the defensive side of the ball and five minutes to go in the game. Then when the ball is inside the 5-yard line and on punt plays. (With Matt being right handed) The umpire is on the left side, and the referee is on the right side to the hand of the quarterback. Again, this is something new for the League, I don't think there's a whole lot of issues with it in terms of how you're playing the game. It's just new in terms of how the game is being officiated and the view that they have of the ballgame."
On what having a player like CB Dunta Robinson adds to the team playing against the Saints:
"Dunta, I think is going to be an integral part of our defense this year. I think that the improvement that he had from week one to week two was outstanding. I think he had three pass breakups yesterday in the ballgame. We know that that is one of his strong points, his ability to play tight coverage, man coverage or matchup coverage. I thought his improvement was very easy to see, that he improved from week one to week two. I've said from the very beginning you hope as a coach and you hope as a team that you see the most improvement between week one and week two, not only for the individuals, but as a team. Obviously, I think that we showed marked improvement across the board. I talked about technique and effort and I thought our technique as a football team was better and I think that our effort was better. I think when you're able to control your technique, control your effort, and control your attitude, those are really the three things that you have control over as a football player. There are a lot of things in the game that you don't have control over, but those three things, effort, attitude and technique you have control over. That's kind of been our mantra all through this offseason."
On what concerns him about the ongoing development of the defense:**
"I think that just total understanding. We've got some young players. We're starting a rookie linebacker in Sean Weatherspoon. The maturation process for him is not going to be complete after two football games. Christopher Owens is playing a new position. He has gotten two games as a nickel back. That's the only time he's played that position. Last year, he played in the corner position, where he lined up outside, now he's lining up inside. We've got some young guys. William Moore, again he had his first start in the game on Sunday. We've got some young guys out there that are playing. DT Corey Peters had about 25 or 28 snaps in the ballgame, he is a rookie as well. Those are some young guys that I think are going to be very good football players, but they are going to have to learn the game and learn the scheme. Just having two games underneath their belts there's still a lot more out there for them to learn."