Head coach Mike Smith talked about what it means to him and the team to earn the NFC's No. 1 seed during his postgame news conference Sunday
"It was a fun day for the Falcons and the Atlanta Falcon fans. I want to say first and foremost that I am really excited for our football team, for Mr. Blank, for general manager Thomas Dimitroff, for president Rich McKay and for all the fans here in Atlanta. To go through the 17 weeks and be the Division champs here in the south and to have a home game in the playoffs is going to be very beneficial for us. I told the team two weeks ago that we recalibrated our goals. We set our goals early and there were a lot of things that we talked about and we recalibrated those goals two weeks ago once we got into the playoffs. The next goal was to make sure that we were going to be able to play home games here in the Georgia Dome during the playoffs and we got that accomplished today. I am excited about moving on, I know that our players are but we are going to be very businesslike in how we approach it. We're going to take a couple of days off, get some guys healed up, and move on and have to prepare for a number of different scenarios in terms of who we're going to be playing."
On the importance of starting fast:
"It was very important and I thought we did a good job with regards to our no-huddle. We wanted to get out there and jump up into it. I thought QB Matt Ryan operated extremely well. Again, we had some opportunities to maybe put some more points on the board and we let them off the hook so to speak. I really felt that it was good to see us start in our no-huddle offense. Then I thought the punt return by WR Eric Weems was a very big play in the ballgame. That was great running, great blocking for us. We kind of controlled it to an extent throughout the ballgame."
On the defensive play being a factor in going for the fourth downs:
"We felt very good about the way our defense was playing. We thought that if we didn't make it, that we were going to be able to keep them backed up and they weren't going to flip the field position on us. Again, all those decisions are really based on a number of things. Not only did we have a good play, we felt like we had a good play we just didn't execute it and get it done. We felt like the way we had been playing defensively that we were going to be able to keep the field position in our favor."
On being the No. 1 seed in the NFC:
"We're very relevant. We've worked very hard to attain this position, not only the players but the coaching staff and the support staff and the whole entire organization. It's just as I told the guys, we have started our fifth quarter this week. We want to make sure that we play very effective and efficient ball through the fifth quarter of the season and that's going to be the way that we'll approach this as we get back together here later on in the week and start preparing for the playoffs."
On some of the non-starters getting playing time in the fourth quarter:
"It was very helpful for us because there is still a lot of football to be played in this season. That's the way that we approach this and to get guys some game time snaps was very important. I thought that they handled it very well. It was nice to see some of the guys that have not had an opportunity to get out there and play get to participate in offensive and defensive snaps."
On K Josh Harris:
"Matt's had a great year. I don't know if there's a kicker that's had a better season than him in terms of making kicks when they counted, pressure kicks. In my mind, he's a Pro Bowl kicker there's no doubt about that. Again, that's just one man's opinion but Matt has been very consistent for us. He's been a great addition to our football team over the last two seasons."
On how quickly the team had the loss to New Orleans out of their minds:
"We've got a 24 hour rule and I know it's cliché but I can assure you within 24 hours it was out. We knew what we had to do. We got to flip the page. We learned from the game. We learn every time we go out and play. It wasn't a good experience for us, but we turned the page as quickly as possible. They moved right on. They knew what was on the line for this ball game."
On whether he would rather keep playing than have a bye week:
"We want that rest. Seventeen weeks for the guys in that room and what they have to do and prepare their bodies each and every week. Even though the injury report may not look very big there are a lot of guys that are playing with a lot of pain and injuries that may not keep them out of games or keep them out of practice, but they've got a lot of bumps and bruises. I can assure you it's going to help us as a football team. The other great thing about it is, when you have a bye week you know where you're playing in two weeks. It will be right here in the Georgia Dome and we are very excited about that."
On the challenge of preparing for a number of teams they could potentially play:
"We have already been breaking those teams down. We've got a pretty good idea of how things may go and how things could have gone this day. You've got to have contingency plans. Believe me, we have been working on that all through this week and we'll continue to work all through next week. As soon as we know who our next opponent is we will start to install our game plan. We will basically work on the Atlanta Falcons when we practice this week."
On whether it makes it easier that the potential opponent could be someone the Falcons have already played this season:
"Familiarity is always good in terms of that, they re going to know about us as well but there's a really good chance that we're going to play somebody that we've already played once before. It ought to be a fun next month. That's how we're looking at it as a coaching staff and as an organization."
On what he said to Panthers head coach John Fox after the game:
"John really spoke more to me than I spoke to him. I spoke to him before the game and again, it's tough. John's been a very successful coach in this league. He's won a lot of football games, unfortunately this year he did not win as many as they needed to. John to me is one of the top coaches in the NFL. To be in one place for nine years it speaks volumes of his whole entire body of work."
On what being the No. 1 seed means to the history of the Falcons:
"I can't really speak in terms of the history of it. I know it's big today, and I know it's going to big in two weeks and through the rest of the playoffs. Again, I can't say enough about the way that these men prepare each and every week and come out and play the game of football in my mind the way it's supposed to be played. I think that for the most part week in and week out they've played very effectively. Win, lose, there's always snaps you want back. There are always decisions you want back. But for 13 times this year, on Sunday, Thursday, we were the best team on that day. We're very proud of that as a football team and as an organization."
On the defense:
"They are playing very confidently right now, especially over the last couple of weeks. Sometimes statistics can be deceiving. The only statistic that we really concern ourselves with each and every week is that we've got at least one more point than our opponent. I think one of the things that our defense has done is they are maturing together as a unit. They have a very good understanding of what defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder and his staff and what we want to do philosophically on the defensive side of the ball."
On WR Julio Jones and his milestone game:
"I don't know if there's a receiver that's had a better year than Roddy White. We knew that he got the receptions record and then we were tracking whether he was going to make the yards. We wanted to make sure we were going to get him out as soon as possible. But we knew he was about eight yards short of getting the yardage and that's why we kept him in there. As soon as he got that final catch he was going to be standing over there on the sideline next to myself, wide receivers coach Terry Robiskie and the rest of the coaching staff."