Transcript: Smith Press Conference

Head coach Mike SmithOpening Statement:

"Good afternoon. I was remiss yesterday in congratulating Roddy White with his milestone that he reached with 10,000 yards receiving. I'm very happy for Roddy; he's been a guy that's done a lot of great things for this organization both on and off the field. The game yesterday was a hard fought game that went down to the last play. We were able to make enough plays and get the victory, and with that I'll open it up for questions."

Injury update:

"Guys, we had two guys that left the game with injuries yesterday. You mentioned Robert Alford, Robert does have a wrist injury, and will miss some time we don't think it's going to be long term. He's getting treatment as we speak. Hopefully he'll be back in a time frame of two to four weeks. Antone Smith, unfortunately, will be out for the season with a broken leg, and we will be putting him on injured reserve and making that transaction here at the appropriate time. Antone was injured covering a punt in the ball game yesterday."

On whether Antone's Smith absence is a big loss:

"Yeah, Antone has done some really good things for us, not only on special teams, which he's an ace on our special team unit, but he's also a guy, you guys know, when he touches the ball he's got the ability to take it the distance. He's created a lot of explosive plays for us, and he'll be someone that we'll miss, but it'll give touches and some other opportunities for other guys to touch the ball."

On Desmond Trufant playing with swagger:

"I think Desmond plays with a lot of confidence. Some people call it swagger; I like to say he's a very confident player. He's confident in his abilities. There's been times where we've asked him to shadow and mirror certain receivers throughout the season depending on what our game plan is, and he's up for that challenge. He's had a great play on the interception that gave us a drive start inside the 20-yard line. He's had some opportunities to make some big plays for us and he's done that. I like a guy that plays with a lot of confidence. Confidence is a big part of playing in the NFL."

On matching him with Kelvin Benjamin yesterday:

"Again, I'm not going to get into our thought process into how we decide whether we're going to match a player, sometimes it comes down to just that specific player. Other times it comes down to the other players that are playing that position. It can depend on what coverages we feel like will be giving us the best opportunity to stop them, not only that player, but the entire offense."

On whether anything is different now that they're on top of the NFC South:

"No, I think when you have the outcome that you want it's definitely a different feeling in the building. Our goal was to go to Carolina and get the win; we were able to get that accomplished. It was hard fought, there's a lot of football to be played, but we are aware of where we are. Our goal is to continue to improve. We've got some young guys that started getting significant playing time at different positions across the board. I think that they're improving. I think everybody's aware of what we need to do this week."

On having adversity to have 1-0 message become clearer:

"I think everybody has the same goal when they go to play. They want to win the next game, but I think when you have adversity and you don't have things going your way, and you start getting yourself painted in a certain situation it changes. I think there is a sense of urgency. As I said yesterday, we talked right after our getting back from London and we discussed what we needed to do as a coaching staff and as a team, and a commitment to one another to get accomplished what we believe we're capable of getting accomplished."

On whether success builds confidence:

"I think it's kind of the chicken or the egg, which one comes first. I think when you have wins you reinforce the process that you're going through. We have played better football, and have gotten the outcome that we wanted the last couple of weeks, but I don't know which one comes first. If you had to back me into a corner, I would say that success probably comes before confidence. You can have false confidence and not get the outcome that you want, but we're judged solely off one thing and that's getting wins on game day, but I think our guys played more consistent in the ball game yesterday and showed some resiliency."

On the wide receiver core's chemistry both on and off the field:

"Well, I think chemistry, we talk about confidence, we talk about chemistry, we talk about consistency, there are a lot of C-words, and they're words that we talk about all the time, but chemistry is very important. I've said it many times, I think you win in the locker room first; if you don't win there then you limit your chances when things go bad. These guys are a brotherhood; they like being around one another. I think they like being around the coaches, even though we haven't had the type of season we thought we were capable of having; they've still stood up for one another and done the things a good teammate does. I think chemistry is all about being a good teammate. We talk about being good leaders, but I think we often overlook how important it is to be a good teammate."

On Eric Weem's play in the game yesterday:

"Eric probably had his biggest play load on the offense yesterday, and he did some very good things. The thing that showed up probably more impressive was his plays on special teams. I think four years ago he was the Pro Bowl player for special teams, and he had six tackles on special teams yesterday. He was a one man tackling machine on the punt team yesterday, and on kickoff cover. He did a very good job; it's good that Eric got some plays at the wide receiver position as well because he is a very good wide receiver, and he has a skill set that we like in certain situations."  

On things he liked and disliked after film review:

"We weren't as efficient running the football yesterday. We had 26 attempts, which is probably where you want to be running the football, but we had too many two and three yard gains. So that was an area where we definitely have to get better. We didn't kick the ball on kickoffs as well as we needed to. We had the 40 yard return, and then we had that miss hit that gave them good field position there in the last couple minutes of the ball game. Those are the areas. We've got to be better on third down, offensively, and defensively the thing that really stood out was I thought that we did a good job against the run. The quarterback did have some yards, it was a little bit different from the week before, they weren't scrambles all the time. There were some designed runs, but we were outstanding three for 13 on third down in the ball game yesterday, and that helped us. We won some tough downs. We won some third and two's, some third and three's and some third and four's on the defensive side of the football."

On Matt Bryant:

"Can't tell you how much Matt's meant to our football team. I've got and the whole entire team has got all the confidence in the world. Based on where we're at on the field, based on what the wind's doing and all that. We have a line that we think Matt can kick the football, and he has never not done that. His game winners, I don't know how many game winners he's had, but he's never not done it. We expect him to go out and knock it between the pipes. I have to say we did a good job with our snaps, and the hold as well, but Matt's won a lot of games for us."

On Matt Bryant getting better as he gets older:

"Well, he works at it extremely hard, and he takes care of his body. He has a routine that he goes through each and every week. I think routine is important; he knows how many kicks he needs to get in a week, and he knows which days he needs to kick based on game day. I think there's a little bit of a trend; I think there's a couple of kickers that have a few years on them that are kicking the ball extremely well. I so happen to catch the end of the game last night, and they were talking about how long the kicker that was kicking last night in the game, 22 years. Matt's 15 I think, so I don't know if he's coming to the end of it or not."

On whether there were enough shots taken downfield to open up the run game:

"We did not run the ball as efficiently as we needed to. It was one of those things, just missing something here, not covering this guy up, and in the run game you have to be hitting on all cylinders. I thought they did a good job schematically; what they wanted to do was they wanted us to check the ball down. They were not going to let the ball get thrown over their heads, and try to make us drive the football down the field. We were not able to create the explosive plays. We had a couple of opportunities we felt like we did not hit on. We've got to create more explosive plays, whether they're in the run game or the pass game. Our goal is to get eight explosive plays per game. We were at five yesterday."

On how he feels about Robert McClain's development since joining the team:

"I think Robert's got some experience over the last couple years. Last year with us, he ended up playing our nickel; he's going to now have to step in, for a short period of time, and play the corner position. Robert's an experienced guy that studies the game extremely hard, and we anticipate that he'll go out there and get the job done."

On whether Ra'Shede Hageman's playing time will increase towards the end of the year:

"I think Ra'Shede had like 15 or 17 snaps in the ball game yesterday. Again, a lot of the play time can be predicated on what the offense is doing based on their personnel groupings. I think that he's continued to develop. He's' a guy that's in the rotation, and obviously I thought he made some plays in the ball game yesterday. I think he's earning more opportunities to play on defensive snaps. He had a big play there at the end, like he had done multiple times in college. That was a good job pushing the pocket of the field goal protection, and getting his hand on that ball."

On how important plays like Ra'Shede Hageman made are to young players:

"Anytime you get positive reinforcement as a player it's good. I think Ra'Shede continues to develop not only on game day, but on the practice field. I think that's really where a young player starts to get his confidence is out there on the practice field while he's training. When he's out there where he gets a comfort level, where it slows down for him, and if it slows down in practice for him then it's going to slow down in the game for him as well."

On whether the team will be ok with three running backs:

"Again, we'll be making some roster moves over the next couple of days, and you've got to look at all options. I don't think that there's any option that we're not going to take a look at based on who's available and what we need to do as a football team."

On whether anybody on the roster can help us out with the corner back depth:

"Well you know Javier Arenas is on our roster. Javier has not been active. He's been a healthy scratch, so Javier will get an opportunity in the interim when Robert will be down. Again, this isn't a long term injury. When you start talking about fractures and broken bones, you know that guys come back very quickly if it can be splinted and it can be protected, and there's no danger of further damage."

On what he's seen from the Browns this year:

"It's a team that's playing with a lot of confidence. Mike Pettine and his staff have done a very good job this season. They've got a quarterback that's playing with a lot of confidence in Hoyer. They've got three running backs that have over 300 yards. They bring it at you in waves, not necessarily in the same game, but they've got different philosophies about how they're going to attack. They've got a dynamic wide receiver in our estimation that's coming back that will be eligible to play this week in Josh Gordon. I worked with Mike in Baltimore. Mike worked with Rex (Ryan) in New York; they're going to be very multiple. They are taking the ball away on defense. Gibson leads the League in interceptions, so he's done a nice job. They've been ball hawking; they've been opportunistic, and they've got some guys that can put some pressure on you up front. They are what their record says. You get what you earned, and they've earned it. They're playing really good football. They didn't play their best football this past weekend, but their whole body of work has been very impressive."

On whether he believes Josh Gordon will be up to speed right away:

"Absolutely I do. They've stated that they want to get him out on the field as quickly as possible. He's a game changer; he's a guy that with ball in his hands he can make plays. So we're anticipating that we're going to get a full dose of him this week."

On whether it was a conscious decision to go up-tempo and no huddle this week:

"We went into the game, we always go into with the idea of how much we want to tempo the game. We felt that it would be to our advantage to tempo it. They were coming off a Monday night game; there are a lot of factors that go into deciding what you want to do, in terms of huddling and not huddling, but I thought that we did a very good job in pressing the tempo in the game for the most part. Even though there were times where we didn't huddle, I think you can see there were times where we used the entire clock. We just wanted to keep them in the defensive formation and have to be prepared and ready for a snap. I thought that Matt (Ryan) did a very good job with his checks at the line of scrimmage and got us into some good plays, especially when we were in our true hurry up. The catch and the throw to Harry was a big time play there in that hurry up."

On his thoughts on finally getting back to the Georgia Dome:

"I've got to make sure I know how to get there. My thoughts; it's been 42 days since we've played a game. I know the schedule is the schedule. If I had my druthers we definitely would not be 42 days away our home field, but we look forward to being in front of our home fans. We will feed off of their energy like we always do, and I think it'll be an exciting game. This is a team that's fighting for their lead in their division, and we're doing the same thing in our division."

On whether the scheduling is in their favor now:

"I think statistically in the NFL the home team wins more than the visiting team, but we still have to go out and play the type of football that we're capable of playing. We've got some very good teams coming in over the next couple of weeks that have had a lot of success this season, but our focus is on this week and getting prepared for Cleveland. That three running back attack that we're going to have to face, and a defense that is going to be very multiple and very aggressive, in terms of how they're going to try to attack us."

On Buster Skrine for the Browns:

"He plays their nickel corner. He played at UT Chattanooga, and I think he's like fourth in the League in interceptions, so he's made some plays when the ball's been thrown his way. He's not starting, when I say starting he's not listed as a starter, but their sub-package is their predominant package just like most teams in the NFL. He's done some really good things. He's attacked the ball and made some plays."

On whether teams are ready for the wide receiver screen now:

"We had some opportunities in the screen game yesterday. They made a couple of nice plays, we didn't execute, but I think it's part of the fabric of the NFL right now is getting the ball in your playmakers hands as quickly as possible. I think most teams, when you look at most teams they look at it as a run, getting on the perimeter."

On why he thinks the screens aren't working as effectively:

"Again, as I said, they made two good plays. There was one time, you could look at it and say, 'Man, I don't know how that guy got away with that and not a flag being thrown.' I want to be careful with how I worded that. Just like I want to be careful about saying anything about the one flag when there was an altercation involving about 40 people. We've got to be more efficient running those plays. I'm sorry I got sidetracked."

On why it hasn't been working as a whole:

"Well, I mean they clipped for us. We had an explosive play, the ball ended up when the play was over, on a quick screen, the ball was in the possession of the other team. The execution of the screen was outstanding for 17. The only problem was at the end of the play it wasn't in the possession of the Atlanta Falcons. We've kind of hindered ourselves in certain situations."

On the roughness penalties and whether those we're acceptable:

"We knew this was going to be a physical football game. We had an opportunity where our defensive lineman came clean, and he took a shot. Unfortunately, there was some contact above the shoulders. As we all know, it's a defenseless player when they quarterback has the ball in his hands, so we have to make sure we hit him lower. I'm not going to comment on whether that was a good or a bad one. I think that we set the tempo early on in the football game."

On Levin Toilolo developing into a red zone threat:

"That was a big catch for Levine down the right sideline, our sideline, in the game yesterday. I thought that he continues to develop as a catching tight end, and a blocking tight end. He's going to be a guy that's going to get more and more opportunities based on how people are trying to defend us in the red zone. If they're going to put resources in trying to stop other players, then he's going to get an opportunity; he's going to get some one-on-ones, or he's going to get some matchups that we really like."

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