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Transcript: Mike Smith news conference


Falcons head coach Mike Smith reflected on Sunday's overtime win over the Saints and looked ahead to the challenge presented by San Francisco in his Monday news conference

Opening statement:

"You know it's tough to win games on the road in the NFL. It takes a lot of hard work and a lot of perseverance and I thought yesterday our guys showed that. We got into a hole early on and I think we responded very well in terms of going three and out and having the punt returned and them jumping up on us seven to nothing. I thought that the offense came back and responded very well. We wanted to set the tempo. We really didn't do it the way we wanted but we eventually controlled the tempo of that football game and that's what we were trying to accomplish yesterday."

On what leading the League in time of possession says about the offense:

"Time of possession is a very important statistic. When you're scoring points, when you're possessing the football it even makes it a more impressive statistic. I think our guys on the offensive side, have executed the gameplan the last two weeks very well. It's something that we want to do because when you control the time of possession you can control the tempo of the game for the other two phases as well."

On what having 12 drives of nine plays or more says about the offense and whether it helps the defense:

"I think it definitely helps the defense in terms of limiting their exposures. The last two ballgames we've played over 80 snaps we had 82 in the game against Arizona and 89 in this overtime game as well. Long drives are tough on defenses when you can't get off the field and you're just out there and you're battling your tails off to try to get a stop and you're not able to get a stop. It takes the advantage to the offense. That's something that we've been very efficient at offensively. We've had some 16-play drives but the 19-play drive yesterday, that went upwards of 10 minutes and basically controlled the second quarter was really the tone setter for the rest of the game. It paid dividends there in the fourth quarter as well as there in the overtime when we were driving down to kick the winning field goal and we did that by running the football."

On the defense creating turnovers:

"We had very good ball security on offense. That was something that we had stressed all week. The one turnover that did happen happened on special teams. I thought that our defense did a very good job early on of getting the quarterback out of rhythm and we had the three turnovers, two with the interceptions and one with the fumble on the fourth down and one. I think that was a very big play in the game. We want to continue to create turnovers, that's something we've been working on along with our third down efficiency in the offseason. Through the first three games I thought we've done a very good job."

On how much carry-over a game like Sunday's brings to next week:

"I think you can learn from each game, you learn something about your team and you learn something about yourself as individuals. I think you can carry it with you in terms of moving forward but it's really not going to have any bearing on the next game. We've got to go out and compete against the next team up on the schedule. I think it will help us in terms of knowing that we've done it. We've experienced it and if that situation arises again, we know that we can handle those different situations."

On the tackle by LB Sean Weatherspoon at the end of the first half:

"I think that there's plays like that that happen in ballgames that are often overlooked. Those are plays that don't show up on the stat sheets. It keeps the clock running, the guy doesn't get out of bounds, the clocks going to run out, you're going to get one less snap or two less snaps. Basically, when you tackle someone in bounds it's about 16 to 18 seconds before the next snap can take place usually based on what my experience has been. Those are big plays. That's doing the little things right. That's making sure that you're taking the proper leverage. They're going to complete some throws and yesterday Drew was 30 out of 38 but I think there were only six or so balls that were thrown down the field and most of them were check downs. I thought that for the most part we did a good job rallying to those check down passes and the passes that were thrown underneath."

On QB Matt Ryan, TE Tony Gonzalez, RB Michael Turner, and WR Roddy White coming through big on Sunday:

"We're very pleased with the way the offense performed yesterday. Those are our playmakers, the core of our playmakers. I thought all four of those guys played very well yesterday. It might have been the best game that Tony Gonzalez has played since he's been with us. I thought Matt was very efficient especially on third down. That is a team that strives on creating turnovers, trying to give you different looks defensively and I thought we handled that very well yesterday. The offensive line not only held up in their run blocking for the most part against some very different looks, unscouted looks. They did a pretty good job of keeping our quarterback on his feet. I thought Matt, probably, had his best game running the football, I guess he had 27 or 28 yards rushing. When he wasn't dumping the ball down to Michael or one of the check downs he made some plays with his legs. Of course we want to see him making those plays with his legs but getting down and not exposing himself to hits."

On Matt's 13-yard scramble in overtime:

"That was maybe one of the bigger plays. We were able to overcome a penalty after that scramble. Matt saw the field very well, saw that they were in two-man coverage and when you take off in two man there's usually going to be some yards to be made because once you get past the rushers all the defenders have their eyes on their man except the two deep safeties. I thought that was a big play. Matt made some plays with his feet yesterday and often times you don't think about Matt Ryan making plays with his feet. There were a number of guys that contributed to the success that we had in doing different things in what their skill set may say that they can do."

On the punt that hit S Thomas DeCoud and was recovered by New Orleans:

"There were a couple of incidents, that play right there, and of course we've got a procedure in how we want to handle that and sometimes even though you're handling the procedure the right way, the ball is going to bounce. It's not a round ball, it's going to bounce funny. There's a lot of communicating going on when the ball's not going where everybody thinks it is. I will say this, one of the things that we've got to be able to handle, we've got to handle sudden-change situations with our defense and yesterday we had basically that long punt return we consider a sudden-change situation. When they run the ball on a punt return all the way to the seven yard line we've got to bow-up and at least force them to kick a field goal. We had them in a third down situation where they're going to throw the football and we weren't able to keep them out of the endzone. After that three and out and that unfortunate situation of sequencing of the way the ball bounced there on the sideline they went down and scored. Those are the situations that the elite teams handle and we've got to make sure that we can handle those situations in the future."

On what happened on the punt they recovered:

"The punt was short and it was on the sideline. We were communicating; we were going through the procedures that we teach our guys. The ball bounced and it grazed the guy (S Thomas DeCoud) and they made a great play. The guy knocked the ball back in before he went out of bounds and they gained possession of the football. It was a great play on their part."

On whether Sean Weatherspoon's production is at all surprising:

"As we were going through this Draft process, we knew that he had the skill set that we were looking for. I think that he's played like a rookie on some plays, but he's played like a veteran on more plays than he has like a rookie, and that's encouraging. Again, there's a learning curve for young players but he is a very active player. The thing that we like about him as a staff we like not only his strength, but his ability to play out in space and take ground. He's a very sudden player and when he tackles he's a knock-back tackler."

On whether dominating the running game late in the game is an opposing defenses nightmare:

"There's no doubt about that. That's at the core from the very beginning from what we've said we wanted to be as a football team. We want to be able to run the football and stop the run. I think yesterday was very evident of that. We ran the ball for over 200 yards, 203 yards and they only rushed for 43. When you've got that running game operating and going you get stronger and stronger as you get deeper and deeper into the game. It was evident there at the end of the ballgame on that final drive in overtime with the number of run plays that were able to call and execute."

On how they guard against not having any let down going into this week's game:

"As I said yesterday, one of the things that we talk to our guys about all the time and about how they deal with victory and defeat. We want guys on our football team, and I think we have guys on our team, that know how to appropriately deal with when things go well and when things go bad. I think that the thing that you have to have is you've got to make sure that you stay the course and work like we have been working since training camp started. We've preached from the very beginning that it's always about the little things and there's a bunch of little things that we can improve on from last week's ballgame as we move forward to this week. Last year's game in San Francisco will have no bearing on the outcome of the game this week. It will have no bearing whatsoever. They're a completely different football team. We're a completely different football team. You're never the same. We know that they're a very talented team and we've got to go out and prepare starting this afternoon once we finish our film study. We've got to start our preparation just like we do each and every week. We've got the leaders on the team that understand that and they will make sure that that information gets disseminated and we will start our preparation off in the right fashion."

On whether he is hopeful that WR Michael Jenkins and S Erik Coleman will be back Sunday:

"We are hopeful that we'll get those guys back. Again. Erik Coleman was a scratch from the game this past week as well as Michael Jenkins. I think it's going to really have a whole lot of bearing in terms of where they're going to be based on what they're able to do Wednesday and Thursday. I know they're anxious to get back. Again, the final say will be the people in our Athletic Performance and the doctors, in terms of these guys are ready to go. Again, it's a long season and we don't want to make decisions just based on one game. We want to make decisions based on what is best for our football team over the 16 games of the regular season."

On whether they will look back at the game from last year for film or mainly concentrate on this season's games:

"We will definitely look at the game from last year just to see how they tried to matchup with our personnel groupings. It's the same defensive coordinator. The same offense. So we will look at the film but our guys are not necessarily going to be looking at the personnel. It's going to be a different offensive line. They will have a running back that did not play in the game last year. RB Frank Gore will be in the game this season, we did not face him last year. It's a different quarterback. It is a different football team in terms of matchups. That's why I say last year's game has no bearing on this year's game. What they do schematically is very similar. All coaches are going to make adjustments, but we'll be facing a team that's got a lot of talented players on both sides of the ball. When you start talking about LB Patrick Willis, the middle linebacker in their defense, he's been to the Pro Bowl. He's a young player, ascending player. Very, very active player. WR Michael Crabtree, the wide receiver who we did not see last year either is an explosive player. Then of course RB Frank Gore. Their offensive line is loaded with first-round draft picks. I'm not talking about first-round draft picks that were picked at the end of the round, they were picked early and in the middle of the round. They've got a talented football team and anytime you go play a game records have no meaning. That's how we approach it. We don't concern ourselves with what our record is, nor what they're record is. We're going to go out and compete on that given day."

On the difference of racking up yards and scoring points:

"Ultimately, it's all about the points. I think as the weeks progress in the season and the trend stays like it usually does, offenses start moving. I think defenses have a little bit of an advantage in the first couple of weeks. I think offenses start to hit their stride in terms of productivity, it always happens that way. I think you'll see a trend for a couple weeks where it will come back but I'm very pleased with how balanced our offense was yesterday. It's two weeks in a row where we were very balanced. We had 203-yards rushing and 228-yards passing. Again, almost a 50-50 balance. I think when you do that you don't turn the ball over and create turnovers on defense it's a good formula for having the success that you want to have."

On whether the offensive coordinator change in San Francisco hurts them in trying to gameplan:

"Well again it will be an unknown, but I think at the core there's been a lot of time spent with that offensive staff putting together gameplans. It's just not the play caller that's involved in putting gameplans together. At this point in time, we've just got to go on the information we have based on what the San Francisco 49ers do, not necessarily who's going to be the play caller in the game.

On whether they may have some in-game changes based on what they see:

"Again, there might be some chalk flying on the sideline with Defensive Coordinator Brian VanGorder and the defensive staff if there's something that we're not prepared for, but that happens every week even when you are facing a coordinator. That's the beauty of coaching and that's one of the things I thought that our guys did a very good job on yesterday. I thought that we were very calm on balance and patient there in making our adjustments on the sideline. I think that's a sign of maturity of these young guys, because we still have a bunch of young guys that are just experiencing things for the first time especially on the defensive side of the football."

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