Falcons head coach Mike Smith addressed the new overtime rules for the playoffs during his huddle with the Atlanta media Friday
On how he is going about the playoff opportunity differently than he did in the 2008 season:
"Not really doing a whole lot differently. Of course, we all learned from that experience, all the guys that were on the team and the coaching staff. The thing that we've had to deal with this season is the bye week. I think the guys have handled it very well. We did it just like a normal bye week that we would do during the season."
On what made him make that decision:
"I think that you've got to do what you've done all through the season. You don't really want to change what you do. That's the way we've really approached it. It's the most important game because it's the next game and that's how our guys are approaching this. They've been very businesslike. They're going to come into work on Monday and be ready to go."
On how the Falcons-on-Falcons practice went and whether the points of emphasis remained the same:
"Yes we did. I thought that the work was very good. We got some good snaps. There were some things schematically that we wanted to look at and we got that done today. I thought the attitude and the effort was outstanding. Now, the guys are going to take a long weekend and get some rest. We'll have some guys in here getting some treatment and we'll get focused on who we're going to play. We'll introduce them on Monday but we will not do our gameplanning until Tuesday. It will be just like a normal week."
On C Todd McClure:
"Todd and the older guys that we consider our over-30 club, they've done a great job. Todd definitely is the leader of the offensive line. They've played as well as any unit in the League in my opinion. They've done a very good job and Todd kind of sets the tone with the rest of the guys. We've got other guys in different meeting rooms that are doing the same thing for us. I think that's important."
On the defensive improvements on pass defense and third downs:
"Going into the season those were two areas that we identified that we had to get better at. We made some improvements in terms of those two areas, but I still think we've got things that we can do better. Third down efficiency, I thought there were some ebbs and flows through the season in terms of our productivity. We've done some things that have helped us improve and we continue to have to analyze how we're approaching it."
On the efficiency of the run defense:
"We were very good throughout the season. I want to preface this, whatever happened in the regular season will have no bearing on the playoffs, but overall in terms of our run defense we gave up too many explosive plays. We gave up an 80-yard run, we gave up a 50-yard run, and we gave up a 60-yard run. There's three and those are three large chunk runs that you can't give up. Usually those are because you usually miss a tackle, you misfit, or you take a poor angle. Those are things that as I said yesterday we were really working on as a defensive unit."
On how he thinks QB Matt Ryan is a different guy than he was in the 2008 playoff game:
"Matt has grown as a quarterback; he's grown as a football player. The thing that he has done well for us this season and it's shown his improvement is his accuracy and his decision making. That I think is what top quarterbacks in this League do. They make very good decisions and they are also very accurate with the ball. That doesn't always transfer to a big improvement in completion percentage because there's going to be times that an incompletion is a good play. You want to ditch the ball because you're going to have a worse outcome if you hold on to it. I think that's part of the decision making process. I think those are the areas that he's improved the most. I think he's gotten stronger. He's worked with our Athletic Performance Department. He's gotten a lot stronger from where he was two years ago."
On Matt being the leader:
"This is a quarterback driven league and you want your quarterback to ascend to that role. To help your chances to be successful you want a quarterback that's going to be seen as your team leader and the guy that's going to set the tone and set the pace. I think Matt has done that and he's earned it. It's not something that you're given, just like when we started here three years ago and he wasn't given the starting quarterback position he had to earn that. I think he's earned it and I think he's matured in that role as well. I think he understands that he has to be the guy that's the calming effect there on the sideline. He's very competitive but there just never seems to be a sense on the sideline that things are out of control when Matt is playing."
On how he will approach the new overtime rule:
"We spent about 45 minutes yesterday with our team in a team meeting talking about the overtime rule. Showing them some clips from the season of different situations and if they occurred in overtime how we would want to handle them. The biggest thing you have to concern yourself with is when you get down inside that field goal range, you get down close to scoring and it's the opening drive you have to make that decision, do you go for it or do you kick the field goal. Because if you go for it and score a touchdown then the game's over. I think that's really one of the big decisions that you're going to have to make. Then in terms of the turnovers, when the ball is turned over there are just some things that you want to make sure that your players understand the rules. Then in the kicking game, there are a number of nuances in the kicking game in terms of what is defined as an opportunity to possess the football. It's different on a kicking play than on a scrimmage play."
On whether you make that decision based on how the game has gone:
"Yes. There's no doubt that you have to evaluate how you're playing. I think that's no different. It's just going to be magnified. The decision that you're going to be making will be magnified because a touchdown on the opening drive ends the ballgame. If you kick a field goal the other team has an opportunity to have a possession."
On whether it would be a natural inclination to go for the touchdown:
"That's going to be something that you're going to have to determine on that day. You're going to have to see where it is. Put yourself in a hypothetical situation, the opening drive you drive all the way down to the one yard line and it's fourth and one. Do you go for it on the touchdown or do you kick the field goal? Those are the decisions that I think are going to be tough decisions for a coach to make in the playoffs if they're in an overtime situation."
On whether he likes the rule:
"I think it's a good rule. It's not something that you think about because you didn't have an opportunity to do it in the season. But now that the postseason is here you definitely have to make sure that you've dotted your I's and crossed your t's. I think all 12 teams have probably spent some significant time discussing it as a coaching staff."