Transcript: Smith Press Conference

Head coach Mike Smith
Opening Statement:

"We played like two different teams in the ball game yesterday. We were a completely different team in the first half than we were in the second half. I thought in the first half on both sides of the ball it was a winning performance, in the second half not nearly good enough. With that I'll open it up for questions.

On anything he'd like to take back from the game yesterday:

"Anytime, whether you win or lose there's things you'd like to do differently. Of course, we didn't execute coming down the stretch, and when you don't execute coming down stretch, we had the clock stopped two times at the end of the ball game, on a penalty that stopped the clock, and we also had an incompletion that stopped the clock. Those two things were things that were critical at the end of the game, but there were a number of plays throughout the game. As I told the guys yesterday, five or six plays and we can all think of one that we could've made, or that I could've made that could've changed the outcome in that game."

On whether he should've ran the ball more in the final plays of the game:

"Well we had the ball in there in the second half with a 1:55 to go, second and nine, we had run at the two minute warning a play that had gained one (yard). It was second and nine and we had a holding penalty on the play which stopped the clock. So that basically took 40 seconds off, and then we felt like we wanted to get the ball in our best player's hands to give us opportunity to if not get the first down, to get in field goal range. We had run the exact same play before the two minute warning and gained 22 yards. We anticipated seeing the same type of defense, and that was the decision making on that. I'm sure there's other points in the game people have their opinions on what should've been done. You can't stop the clock in a four minute situation."

On calling the timeout during Detroit's final possession:

"Well, that was a no brainer. I don't know how people would think that was not the right play. They had the ball first and 10, with 34 seconds. They spiked it on first and 10 to stop the clock. They ran a play from the 31 yard line, gained one yard. We had a timeout; we needed to stop the clock. If not, they're going to run the ball down, spike it, have four seconds on the clock and we would not have an opportunity. We felt like we were forcing them into two things. They could either attempt the field goal on third down, or they could run the football and have to run a hurry up field goal, and that was the thinking behind that. Unfortunately, what happened is we had a defensive holding penalty. That stopped the clock and it moved it in. That played right into our hands; they didn't kick the field goal on third and nine, they did run the football. It's what we call a Toro situation – they had to run out on the field, quickly kick the field goal to try to win the football game. So that was the decision behind that. If they went for and kicked it on third down, we would've gotten an opportunity to get the ball back with some time for our offense. I don't know if anybody thought about that, but that was the thinking behind it."

On his confidence level right now:

"I think we're moving well. This team has stuck together. We haven't won the games that we need to win. This is a no excuse business. This is about productivity, and over the games that you mentioned we have not had the productivity that we need to have, but our confidence doesn't wane at all. You've got to have confidence every time you go out on the field, that you're going to win the football game. I think the men in our locker room have that. The coaches have that confidence. We just got to go out and make the plays when they're presented to us, and we haven't done that nearly as much as we needed to."

On whether this loss will stick with him, or this just another loss:

"They all stick with you. When you don't get the outcome that you want they stick with you, but they can only stick with you for just a little bit simply because you've got another game the following week and you've got to go out and play and prepare. This one, because it's happening at a bye week, probably will last a little bit longer, but we've got to move on as quickly as we can as a coaching staff and do the things that we do during the bye week. Then we have to turn our attention to two road games within in the division between Tampa Bay and the Carolina Panthers."

On whether he thinks the team has the right mentality to finish games:

"Absolutely, we have the right aggressiveness. Sometimes people might say you're too aggressive. I think there will be some people that will be questioning the calls yesterday that might be too aggressive. This is a group of guys we work our tails off. We haven't gotten the wins that we anticipated we would get, but we are working our tails off and we are very accountable. We're very accountable to one another. I think when you have that you've got a good group of guys. We will feel so much better when we turn this thing around."

On Mr. Blank saying the team should never lose a game when leading 21-0 at halftime:

"I talk with Mr. Blank after every game, and I think that those conversations do stay private. I agree with him. When you're up 21-0 at halftime you should not lose that football game."

On whether he's concerned about losing his job:

"No. None, whatsoever. We're going to do what we've done for the last six plus years and prepare each and every week like we know how to do it, and I'm going to continue to do that until Mr. Blank tells me otherwise."

On what point is he burdened by what he has to coach on the field:

"Guys, this is an organization that has had a lot of success since we've been here. Unfortunately, we've not had the success over the last year and a half. I've said it before there's no excuses in this business. We've got coach better, and we've got to play better, and when plays are presented we've got to make them, and when decisions need to be made we need to make them and we need to be strong with them, and not look back. Unfortunately, we have not had the success that we need to have in this League over the last 18 games."

On whether we should expect any personnel changes over the bye week:

"We will always evaluate our players. I think we've made some moves, in terms of amount of play time with certain guys. We had a different starting right tackle in the game this week. We potentially could have some moves at some other positions as well. I would never talk specifically about player moves. I think you don't want to give strategic information to your opponent. When you come to the game in Tampa, you'll see if there were any moves that we needed to make."

On whether Matt Ryan is telling players in the huddle that we can't have penalties within the two minute warning:

"Believe me, we talk about penalties. This is a football team in the first five years that was the least penalized team in the history of the NFL. We spend an enormous amount of time talking about the penalties and how the game should be played. We know that in a four minute situation we can't stop the clock, and we know that if a penalty will be called in that situation it will stop the clock. We've got to have a better understanding of it. We scout our officials; we know what they call. What they have called the majority of the time. We also know how they call them by quarters, and by-the-way this crew was a team that was very active in the fourth quarter, and our players knew that."

On whether he will change the roll he has with play calling on the defensive or offensive side of the ball:

"It definitely, the buck stops with me. As a head football coach you're responsible for everything that happens out there on that field. I have all the confidence in the way that we do things. We've done it this way for seven years, and I will continue to do it that way. I am involved in offense, defense and special teams. I think so many times people want to look at where you're background is and say you're this type of coach, you're that type of coach. When you're the head coach you're a football coach and you're responsible for all three phases."

On whether this is a good time to have the bye week:

"It's a very good time, in terms of it's right in the middle of the season. If somebody said to you, 'Where would you want your bye week to be?' I would always say right in the middle of the season. For us coming off of a very demanding trip for the last week, we were on the road the last eight, nine days, it comes at the right time. It comes at a good time for us to get some players healthy. We've got a lot of guys that are nicked up and banged up that may not necessarily be on the injury report, but they are nicked and banged up."

On whether there are certain things he can point to which has led to the team being at this point:

"I haven't done a good enough job. Plain and simple because ultimately it's my responsibility. I haven't done the job I need to do. I let down the players, the coaches, and the fans thus far, but I'll tell you what we plan on doing: we plan on getting hot and making a really good second half of this season."

On giving up explosive plays:

"It's a big concern. We talk about the different plays that affect the football game, and probably the one that affects it the most is turnovers. The second thing is explosive plays. There is an emphasis on creating explosive plays on the offensive side, and eliminating them on the defensive side. We have found many different ways over the last two seasons to give up explosive plays. Everybody always wants to put it all in one area, but we've found some very different ways, and we've got to do a better job – me, as the head coach making sure that our players understand the situation. Yesterday, when you've got third and forever that can't happen, alright.  And we've had that happen numerous times. Usually those plays are going to be scoring plays like it was yesterday, or it will end up leading to a score because if you gain 20 yards or more in a drive, it changes the field position, and there's an opportunity for a field goal attempt."

On not trying to score at the end of the first half:

"Again, and I try to be as transparent as I can, guys and ladies.  I always have, and I will continue to be that way. That was a decision that I made after the first down. We went in and said we were going to throw the ball on the first down, if we had an efficient play and got the ball down the field we were going to get into our attack mode. We didn't. Our quarterback felt pressure, he had to run; he had to scramble. When we were in our attack mode at the end of the game the previous week, we did not handle the pass rush. This was a very good pass rushing team. We were doing things schematically. When we were calling plays in the huddle that were different than what you would do in a two minute situation. I think you guys saw that we ran very few plays in our hurry mode, we did a couple down on the goal line when we had them in a personnel group that was advantageous to us and we handed the ball off. That was the thought behind it. If we would've had an efficient and successful play and gotten the ball down the field and we were in a more advantageous field position we were going to jump into our attack mode. When we didn't, I made the decision that we were going to go ahead and take it into the locker room."

On what the players can do to improve over the bye week:

"Well, I think it's very important that they disconnect for a little bit. You guys cover this season, and it's tough on you guys. Just imagine how tough it is on a player, and a coach. My advice to them tonight, after we have gone through the game is that they need to disconnect for a couple of days. We always talk about being a good teammate and doing the things you need to do to be a good teammate. The one thing I say, we're a 2-6 football team, but that's not a 2-6 locker room. That is a quality group of men in that locker room, and I can assure you this, there's no quit in them. Have we fallen short? Yes, but there's no quit in any of those guys."

On not being able to rush the quarterback and how that affects you in the fourth quarter:

"We've got to get more pressure on the quarterback. We can't let him sit there and be comfortable. When he has that comfort, a good quarterback is going to distribute the ball. Stafford is a good quarterback in this League. To me there's about 15 of them in this League that you know if you don't affect them he's going to make his plays, and he's going to make his throws. It's something that has been an area that we have not have been nearly as efficient and as nearly as good as we need to be and that's putting pressure on the quarterback. It could be a contributing factor as well. Again, there's so many things that are involved in a coordinated play on offense and defense. The guys have to work in coordination, and we're not doing that. It's disappointing because the guys have worked hard on the practice field; they've trained hard, and when it doesn't carry over to the field as a coach it hurts because you know those guys are working their [buts] off."

On whether it's the talent level on the team:

"There's no excuse for injuries. Every team has injuries. Unfortunately, we've had our share over the last two seasons, and it's a next man up mentality. It's got to be that way. Hey, the team that you're playing against every week they've got injuries they're dealing with just like you are. We as coaches, and we as players we've got to understand that, and we can't let that be a hindrance to us being successful on the field and on game day."

On thoughts on still having a shot to win the NFC South, or are they just trying to break a five game losing streak:

"We're just trying to get a streak and get one. That's the number one thing. I think we all are aware of what's going on in our division. We know that it's a race that's not been taken over by any one team. We still have an opportunity, but we can't worry about that race. We have to worry about getting a win. It's something that hasn't happen in quite some time for the people in this building and for our fans, and that's something that we've got to change."

On Julio Jones' dropping that pass at the end of the game:

"I think you know me well enough. I don't know if it was a great play call. That's up for debate. Different people have different opinions, but my opinion what we were trying to get done and what we were trying to accomplish, but it's all about having the opportunity to be in the game to make the plays. Those plays are presented we certainly hope we're all going to make them. Guys are going to make physical mistakes. Sometimes you can live with physical mistakes. The thing that's most concerning as a coach are the mental mistakes. To me there's no reason why you should have a mental mistake in the game of football."

On any changes in how they evaluate things during the bye week:

"Guys we have subtly, two weeks ago we subtly changed our practice plan. Some of the players talked about it, I didn't think it was that big of a change, but yes, we are always trying to take input from the players in terms of what we're trying to get accomplished in practice. The big thing is right now it's not carrying over from the practice field to the game field."

On whether it matters who is committing penalties:

"No it doesn't. We all understand what our job is. Some guys have more experiences at it than others, but when you're out there and you're one of the offensive or defensive players that are playing for us, or special teams player, everybody's counting on you. I've said it many times, the backup role in the NFL is probably the toughest job that there is. Everybody says, 'Aww you're a backup. You don't have to practice that much.' Ok, listen, when the guy in front of you goes down everybody, everyone on the team, in the stands, in the community are expecting you to play at the same level as the guy that you're replacing. So it's a tough job. There's going to be a learning curve for those young players."

On the schedule for this week:

"Our players will meet tonight, and then they'll be off. The schedule that we have in place was something that was given to them back in April when we first met. They'll have an opportunity to be off. We'll reconvene on Monday. We'll a Falcons-on-Falcons practice on Monday. Tuesday we'll be off. Then we'll get right back into our game plan week against Tampa Bay."

On his plans during the bye week:

"We will be spending quite a bit of time evaluating, self-scouting offense, defense and special teams. We'll try at the end of the week to disconnect and unplug as well."

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