Transcript: Mike Smith Post-Practice Interview

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Falcons head coach Mike Smith talks about how the team handles outside perceptions during his huddle with the Atlanta media Wednesday

On the injury report:

“On the injury report we had a number of guys that were limited in their participation today. DE John Abraham who as we all know has been in this mode almost all season long, DT Jonathan Babineaux and LB Curtis Lofton. We also had limited participation by WR Roddy White, C Todd McClure and S Thomas DeCoud. We had one player who didn’t participate today and that was CB Brian Williams. We’ll know more about Brian; hopefully we can get him back out tomorrow or Friday. Those are the guys on the injury report right now.”

On the defensive keys to stopping the run:

“Of course we’re going to have to control the line of scrimmage on the defensive side of the ball. It’s going to be imperative that our defensive linemen win their one-on-one battles. I thought they did a great job in the game on Sunday running the football. They found a back that looks like he’s fresh in RB James Starks, the rookie. He had a very good game. It’s going to be important that we take good angles. He had a 27-yard run in the ballgame that he busted, so it’s going to be important that we take good angles and we tackle well.”

On the Packers inverted wishbone formation:

“It’s a balanced formation for the most part. They have run it with a tight end and one wide receiver in the game, but for the most part it’s two tight ends so it’s a balanced formation which forces you to balance up defensively. It’s almost like an offset-I, but it’s an offset-I both ways.”

On whether Starks reminds him of RB Jason Snelling:

“In terms of his body type he does as well, not just the number. He carries the ball similar to Snelling in terms of how he carries it high and tight. You can see that they had a lot of confidence there when they were in their four minute mode having him carry the ball there at the end of the ballgame.”

On the importance of special teams:

“It’s going to be very important. They have two very fast returners in CB Tramon Williams and CB Sam Shields. Shields is super-fast and Williams is very fast. One does a very good job on their punt returns and Shields does a great job on their kickoff return. It’s going to be very important. Starting field position has been a big advantage for us this year and we need to make sure that we continue to cover kicks the way that we’ve been covering them the last eight or nine weeks.”

On the team having another chance in the playoffs:

“I think everybody realizes that there’s only 12 teams in the League at the end of the season that get to play on past the regular season and they know that there’s no guarantee how often you’re going to get there. I think our guys understand the importance of being focused and being very businesslike. I think the older guys have done a good job with our younger players. I think the guys that were on our team, including our coaching staff, learned a lot from our playoff experience two years ago.”

On whether he had any advice for the rookies:

“Our advice really for our rookies and for all of our players has been that it’s going to be business as usual. We’ve tried to keep this week as consistent as any other week even though it’s been a short week in terms of playing on a Saturday. We don’t want to try to do it any different than our preparation has been all season long. I think our guys have understood the message and we don’t really have to change anything. It’s really going to be about us and how we prepare for the game.”

On Packers linebackers Clay Matthews and A.J. Hawk:

“Clay Matthews is not only a Pro Bowl player but he’s also a guy that I think has a chance to be the defensive player of the year. Everybody talks about his ability to rush the passer, but he is a very active player in the run game as well. A.J. Hawk has done a good job as one of their middle linebackers. It’s a multiple defense that gives you all kinds of looks. They will get some penetration. They’ll have some free runners. It’s going to be very important for us that we’ll be able to communicate and identify because Defensive Coordinator (Dom) Capers does a very good job in giving you different looks.”

On DE John Abraham and what he’s given the defense:

“I think John’s had a very good year. In year one, not to be revisiting that, but I thought he had an outstanding year for us. In year two, even though his production wasn’t the same as it was in year one, he really did some really good things. I think we as a coaching staff in the offseason also realized that we didn’t give him the best opportunity to rush the passer in year two. We’ve done some things differently this year in terms of what we’ve tried to do schematically. Of course John has taken advantage of some of the one-on-one opportunities that he has gotten because we’ve got some presence inside and we’ve got some presence in the opposite side in DE Kroy Biermann and DE Chauncey Davis.”

On whether he feels the team isn’t getting the national attention they deserve:

“You get what you earn in the regular season and we’re pleased with the way that we played the regular season. We really don’t concern ourselves with outside perceptions. We know what our plan of attack is and I think our guys have a very good understanding of it. It’s going to be two good football teams going out and playing on Saturday night. I think it’s going to come down to the team that makes the fewest mistakes is going to be the team that gets the victory.”

On the offensive line:

“That group when you look at them individually, there’s not the flash player but when you put them together they play as well as any offensive line in the League. We talk about synergy in terms of one plus one equals three and I think our offensive line is a prime example of that. When they go out and play, they play the way the game is supposed to be played. They set the tempo of what we try to do. Not only offensively, but on the defensive side and special teams.”

On how mindful the defense needs to be of QB Aaron Rodgers’ ability to get out of the pocket quickly:

“We’ve got to be very mindful. He was their leading rusher last time we played them five weeks ago. In terms of his pocket presence, if you’re not very disciplined in your rush lanes he has that innate ability to slide and get up and get some positive yards. It’s very important that we’re disciplined in our rush lanes. He has a very good understanding of reading defenses and getting the ball out of his hands when they are in their quick game mood. If they’re trying to take shots down the field, he’s one of the best in terms of escapability. He’s rushed for over 360 yards this year.”

On Rodgers’ passing against the blitz:

“They have hot reads of course in their system. When the hot read tells him to get the ball out of his hand he does a very good job of it. If he knows that he’s protected then he’s going to go through to his second and third progression and when he gets to that second and third progression if it’s not there, the thing that he does is he slides in the pocket and when he feels there’s a hole he takes it. Of course with the wide receivers that they have and in terms of the depth and the way that they can space the field it puts stress on your underneath coverage to rally to the ball when he’s scrambling.”

On the impact that CB Brian Williams missing the game would have:

“In terms of the explosive passes in the ballgame, we did give up some explosive plays. Really when you look at those explosive plays, a lot of them were not coverage issues. We didn’t tackle as well as we needed to in that ballgame. In the playoffs, tackling is at a premium. Missed tackles usually lead to explosive plays especially in the secondary. If Brian is not able to play and get back out there then it will be the next guy that will have an opportunity. It will be a guy that started for us at the beginning of the season at the nickel position in CB Christopher Owens.”

On being named Sporting News Coach of the Year and Offensive Coordinator Mike Mularkey being named Coordinator of the Year:

“For Mike I think it’s a well-deserved award. Mike and his staff have done a great job in terms of getting our offense prepared each and every week. Coaching is really about the players. The players are the ones that go out there and perform each and every week. It’s an honor for me, but I really believe that there were probably a dozen or more coaches that had great years with their team and a number of them are still playing right now.”

On how important C Todd McClure has been to Matt Ryan’s development:

“I think Todd, because of his ability to identify pressure looks and be able to redirect the pressures, it’s been a help to Matt. We put it on both of our guys to identify what the fronts are and they work hand-in-hand and basically redirect the protections to try to block up all the guys that are coming.”

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