Head coach Mike Smith
"As I said yesterday, we had a lot of opportunities to win the football game. In every quarter there were a number of plays that could've been the difference. Unfortunately, we didn't make those plays when we had the opportunity. Before I open it up for questions, I want to get you guys some information about a roster move that we will be making. Robert Alford had a follow up exam, and it was determined that he needs to have surgery. He'll be having surgery on his wrist today, and he will be going on reserved-injured. I wanted you guys to have that for you to disseminate it, so I'll give you that information, and with that I'll open it up for questions."
On who will replace Robert Alford:
"We have not determined how we will make the roster move at this point in time. We have a number of options this late in the season. It doesn't necessarily have to be at a certain position. We will make that determination within the next couple of days."
On whether the surgery was an option earlier, or was it something doctors thought could heal:
"Again, he had a follow up which we anticipated after a couple weeks to see how it was healing, and they determined now it needs to have surgery. They went ahead and did the surgery, or they're doing the surgery today."
Update on Julio Jones:
"Julio is about where he was yesterday. Our anticipation is we'll have him ready to go this week. It's going to be important for him to continue to improve. He improved from last week to this week, and we need to get him back out there. I know it'll be every day, what's going on with Julio. I think what we need to do, is we need to realize it's something that's going to be later on during the week, so maybe we can look at other things and talk about other before we talk about number 11."
On whether he'll coach any differently knowing the importance of this game:
"No, I don't think we'll coach any differently. We know that it's a must-win game because it's the next game. It's very important. I think everybody's aware of the ramifications. I think it will have an atmosphere of a playoff game. Anytime we go to New Orleans it does. When we've gone down there the games have been very competitive. I anticipate that it will be competitive as well. We all understand where we're at. We all know that we control our own destiny. Doesn't matter what anyone else does, and the first thing that we have to do is we have to play very well and win the ball game in New Orleans."
On whether he sees any trends from the last couple of games:
"We have not started out very consistently on offense the last two weeks. As you guys know we're one of the fastest starting teams in the past seven years, in terms of scoring on the first drive. The last two weeks we've been very inconsistent. We've moved the ball running it in that first drive, then we had two incomplete passes that stalled the drive just outside of field goal range. So we weren't able to score points. We had to punt the football. It's been inconsistency, and when you're not consistent, guys, you don't point to one person. We're all in this together. We know that we have to be better. We've got to be better on the offensive side, on the defensive side and on special teams."
On whether they need to start fast against New Orleans:
"Absolutely, it's going to be very important for us. I hope that we'll have a lot of fans there in New Orleans. I know because of the proximity we usually have a good contingent going down. It'll be nice to see them down in the Dome, but it's going to be imperative that we start fast. But we also need to finish and play consistently. We've put together spurts of good football this season, and we haven't been able to do it like we need to for 60 minutes. It's going to be very important that we're consistent."
On how he's handling the close losses personally:
"We're judged strictly by wins and losses. That's what coaches are judged by. Really that's what players are judged by as well. We only get 16 opportunities. Every time we go out there we know what we're up against, and how we're going to be evaluated. It hurts, but you've got to take each game as a learning experience. We've learned from those losses and we've got to continue to learn from what happened yesterday. There were a number of opportunities for us to play, but you don't dwell on them too long because if you do it's going to become your main focus point, and you can't have that. You've got to move on to the next one and figure out how we're going to play better, coach better and get the outcome that we want next week."
On whether this year is weighing more on him than last year:
"When you don't win, it's not fun. It's not fun for the players; it's not fun for the coaches, and it's not fun for our fans. It's something that we don't like to do. We don't like to lose, and our guys understand the importance of it. Ultimately, there's one guy that's held responsible for it, and that's the head coach. The head coach's record, he's the only one that really has the record, the team and the head coach. These guys have worked extremely hard, and they're still playing hard. I think you saw that in the game yesterday. There's no quit in this group. We may have some bad plays; we may have some bad moments as a team and as a coaching staff, but we don't quit."
On whether the defense played well enough to win yesterday:
"Against the run, they obviously did. To hold that team to 2.0 yards per carry, 35 yards, and one of the runs was a 13-yard touchdown run that we just mis-leveraged. They did a very good job on the run. We didn't do a good enough job in the passing game. You got to be better in the passing game. (Ben Roethlisberger) was very efficient in throwing the football. He threw for 358 yards, throwing the football. We've got to improve there. Again, that's not just the secondary, that's the linebackers; that's the defensive line. We all contribute to it."
On whether Mondays have been increasingly difficult after losses:
"Well, they're not fun on Mondays. When you say difficult, that's part of coaching. There's 16 guys that were smart on the weekend, and 16 guys that weren't. That's how you look at it. That's how I approach it. When you don't get the outcome that you want, you've got to make adjustments, and try to work through it. I think we've done it, we just haven't been as consistent as we need to be."
On his thoughts on the red zone performance:
"We're fifth in the League over the 14 games that we've played. We did not play well in the red zone yesterday. We had an opportunity where we had a minus yardage run play, and that was a tough one because those yards are hard to get when you get inside the five yard line. Then of course, we had the penalty on a play that if we would've converted it would've wiped a score off the board. We weren't as consistent as we needed to be. You've got to score touchdowns when you're in the red zone, and we didn't do that."
On the receiving corp's job yesterday without Julio Jones:
"I thought we threw the ball fairly well yesterday. I thought Harry (Douglas) had a very good game. He had 130 yards in receptions. Roddy (White) was on target, made a couple of big catches during the game. That was a heck of a touchdown catch that he had in the back of the end zone. He had a conversion on an in-route, so he did a very good job. Of course, we're a very good football team when we have all of our parts. Julio Jones is a big part to our football team. We again, we're confident that he's going to be ready to go this week."
On whether not having Julio Jones affects them in the red zone:
"Oh, he's a big effect. You've got to put resources on number 11 when he's out there, and when that happens then someone else is going to get open. A situation that's advantageous to the Atlanta Falcons. Get some one-on-ones and things like that. We got to have all of our parts out there to be as efficient as we possibly can be."
On whether this game against the Saints is the type of situation he wants to be in as a coach:
"As you look at where we're at right now, and put the 14 weeks behind you. How can you have it any better? You have complete control of your destiny by going out and taking care of business. One thing I will say, if you look at their starting defense it's pretty darn close to the defense we played in week one. I think Jairus Byrd, the safety is out, he was the starter when we played him in week one. I believe the rest of them are the same crew, at least when I had my debriefing with our personnel staff. That was the information that I got."
On whether he thought the season would go this way after the week one game with the Saints:
"I knew it was going to be a competitive division race. It always is in the NFC South. Every year that we've been here nobody's really run away with it. That's the case again this year. Is it a unique year? Yes. Has it happened before? Absolutely. In 2010 the Seattle Seahawks won the division and were 7-9. The New Orleans Saints had to go out there as a wild card team with an 11-5 record, and the Seattle Seahawks beat them. It's not like this is the first time it's happened in 25 years. It does happen. We've been in situations we're we've had to go play as a wild card team, a team that won their division that had a worse record than we did. We had to do it in 2008 when we went out to Arizona. We were 11-5. They were 9-7. They ended up, a 9-7 team that went and played in the Super Bowl against the Pittsburg Steelers. In 2011, we were a 10-6 football team. We had to go to New York. We had to go to the New York Giants. We were the wild card team. We had to go to play the New York Giants who were 9-7 and happened to win the Super Bowl that year. So it's not a unique thing. You've got to get into the second season. That's what everybody's goal is. When it's all said and done, you're not going to remember what your seed was, what your record was, it's that you're in the second season. That's our goal every single year, and the easiest way, and the clearest path to the second season is to win your division. That's the way the NFL has it set up. Lots of people may not agree with it, but that's the way it is."
On whether he thinks that should change:
"Objectively, I've never really thought about it. I don't think outside the box too often, in terms of what the League has. These are the rules, and this is what they have in place. Are they fair? Depends on what side of the coin you're on."
What if you're on the Philadelphia side of the coin?
"I would say that's the way that the rules are. We've been on that side. We've been there. Till they change it, that's the rules. It's just like, illegal contact is illegal contact. Right? We've got to adjust. This is how it's going to be played. To me there's no reason to have that conversation until the League and the competition committee say, 'alright this is what's going to happen. We're going to change the rules, and the seeding order is going to change based on win/loss records.' Right now, we have four divisions in the AFC and the NFC, and the division winners have an automatic invitation to play in the playoffs."
On Matt Ryan and the big hit he took and throwing the touchdown to Devin Hester:
"Matt's a tough guy. To stand in there and take the hit that he took, and to be able to gather himself and come back and a couple of plays later be able to throw the touchdown pass, it shows his toughness and his resiliency. Matt has always been a guy that can stand in the pocket. We did a fairly good job yesterday, in terms of keeping him on his feet for the most part. We did not give up a sack. It was the first time this season. Again, I think we continue to improve as an offensive line. On that specific play they just had us outnumbered. That's one where the quarterback shows his toughness to sit in there and hold the ball."
Update on William Moore and Jon Asamoah:
"Jon Asamoah left the game yesterday with back tightness, and he's going to be day-to-day. Right now, when we go out there on Wednesday, I don't anticipate him being a full participant in practice. William Moore, I think will continue to be a guy has to get treatment over the next couple of days, and we'll see where he's at. Again, I think both of those guys were very close. I think somebody asked me after the game about, 'was this a decision based on what happens in the next two weeks,' as to why the guys didn't play. No, that wasn't the decision, but we were darn close to having both of those guys play yesterday."
On how important it is for the defense to come away with turnovers:
"The last two weeks we've not been able to turn the ball over on defense, and that's critical. You've got to get turnovers. We had done a very good job. We were in the top five two weeks ago, in terms of creating turnovers. In the last two weeks we haven't been able to do that, and it's going to be critical this week against a very good offense that we have, that we call our go to sheet that talks about the different things that our opponent does very well, and offensively they do a number of things well. In terms of scoring points, yards, passing yards, first down efficiency, third down efficiency, and creating explosive plays. It's going to be important for us to win the turnover battle. The games usually come down, whether it's played in Atlanta, or whether it's played in New Orleans, historically, I don't think there's been but one game down in New Orleans that it's been more than a one score game since we've been here. I think it's the same thing when they come to Atlanta. It's going to be a competitive football game. Sean (Payton) is going to have his team ready to go. They're going to be coming off the game tonight, and we're going to be watching that game there as a coaching staff. We'll catch the fourth quarter, maybe the ending part of the third quarter. Get a chance to watch it on TV, and get prepared. It's going to be a fun time."
On whether he'll take more risks this week:
"Again, it's going to be based on whether you have the look to do that. I think if you've noticed, I don't think there's been very many fake field goals this season in the NFL because of the rule change. The rule change of not being able to have an overload basically takes away the opportunity to fake field goals because you've got a balanced look. You're not outmanning them. In years past you've watched team that've faked field goals, if you put seven on one side and have four on the other side. Again, you've got to have the look, or you've got to have something that tells you that you're going to be able to run a fake field goal. We're going to do whatever we have to do to have one more point than our opponent. That's the goal, and that's our goal every time we go out and play."
On whether he's pleased with the rookie class and Tyler's Starr's progression:
"Tyler's not been able to be up and active on our 46-man roster, but Ra'Shede Hageman has made some plays for us. He had a big play in the game yesterday. A (tackle for loss), he's blocked two field goals. He has done a very good job. Devonta Freeman has created some explosive plays for us as well. You've got to say that Jake Matthews has played at a very high level, especially over the last six weeks. I thought Jake was very good in his pass protection yesterday. He's going to be everything that the Atlanta Falcons expected. He's going to man that left tackle position for a very long time. Prince Shembo is splitting time about 50 percent, maybe 40 percent of the snaps on defense with Joplo Bartu, so when we have a two linebacker scheme. So he's doing some nice things, and they've all contributed on special teams. Dezmen Southward is playing in some of our packages on defense. You see his ability to run. You see his ability on special teams. The one thing about young guys, young guys are going to make young mistakes. They're going to do things that veteran players don't do. It's a learning experience for these guys it's all new for them. Did I leave anybody out?
On Marquis Spruill and Ricardo Allen:
"Spruill's injured and Ricardo's on our practice squad. Ricardo's been working extremely hard. I will say this about Spruill, he's looked like he's put on about 20 pounds in the weight room. He is looking really good. He's been working hard just like, I think, the other nine guys we have on reserved injured. We forget about those guys, but they're still here working hard, working on their rehab. Some of them are at different spots, and working with guys in the weight room now. They've graduated from the training room and moved into the weight room."
On Joe Hawley being on the sideline encouraging his teammates:
"It was great to have Joe back. We get Joe back because he's able to defend himself on the sideline now. He's far enough along in his rehab that they feel like he's going to be able to move around. Joe's a great teammate, and all of those guys. It's funny, the offensive lineman that we have on reserved injured, they go in there and they come in and show up together. Offensive linemen do everything together. They're in there for treatment together, and they're working extremely hard."
On why Jonathan Massaquoi didn't play yesterday:
"That is a coaching decision."