Head coach Mike Smith Injury Report:
"Two guys that were limited participants and that was Harry Douglas and Jon Asamoah. The following guys didn't practice: Matt Bryant had an illness, so he was out. Julio Jones did not practice, nor did Roddy White, nor did Steven Jackson or Josh Wilson. We had five guys that were DNP's today."
On the running back situation:
"We brought Jerome (Smith) up. Jerome's been doing a very nice job for us on the practice squad, understands our verbiage and our system. He'll be an active player this week, in terms of running backs. You got to have three of them, so he'll be up. We've got confidence that if he has to go in the game, he not only understands the running game, but he understands pass protections."
On keeping the flow of practice going while players are sitting out:
"We've had some experience doing this, in terms of guys on Wednesday missing time. Harry's basically since he's been back hasn't done a whole lot on Wednesday. Julio has not practiced a whole lot, and of course we've had Roddy out on Wednesdays and trying to get some limited work on Thursdays. It's something that we're accustomed to doing, and I think that the coaches do a very good job getting them prepared. They get to go through walk-thrus. We have walk through periods and walk through practice in the morning, so it's not the ideal situation, but you have to work through it."
On losing William Moore and what he expects from Kemal Ishmael:
"Well, we're going to miss William. William's been a very good player for us, but this season in 2014, Ishmael's played more snaps than William. So he's got a lot of experience playing in 2014, and I think that he's really grown as a player. He's getting much better in some of the techniques that we're asking him to master. I think he's really matured from earlier in the season, and like I've said he's played more snaps than William has this year. We're very confident that he'll be able to do what we need to get done."
On Devin Hester and Julio Jones making the Pro Bowl:
"Again, any time guys get chosen to play in the Pro Bowl it's an honor. I think both of those guys are very deserving. Julio's had an outstanding season in regards to his abilities to make plays. Devin Hester I think speaks volumes to what people think he is as a punt and kickoff returner. He's also been a big part of our offense as well. I'm very happy for those guys. We've got some other guys that were probably deserving. Again, it's a tough thing, in terms of how it's set up. Coaches voting, players voting and the fans voting."
On the players increased energy and comradery and where that's coming from:
"I think when we went into the break in the bye week we talked about having a recommitment to one another and to all of us knowing that we haven't played as consistent as we needed to, and* *I think we've done that in the second half of the season. We've really played more consistent football, and I think when you play consistent and you have success it helps in your confidence level. We know where we're at. You fight all season in the NFL to be a relevant team in December, and that's what we are. We're a very relevant team. We've got a big game against a really good football team that's got a lot at stake."
On whether this will be his favorite Christmas gift if they win this Sunday:
"We need to win this Sunday. There's no doubt about that. That's what our focus is, and that's what our preparation is. We talk about being 1-0 and it's very important for us to be 1-0 this week."
On being emotionally stable and keeping emotions in check:
"I think this week is really no different from last week. We had the same situation going into last week as we did going into this week. I thought that the guys handled it extremely well. I think it's very important that we go through our preparation like we always do. The way that we've been doing it for many years here in Atlanta. We go through that process then we have to prepare to be at our best on Sunday. We don't want to be our best on Friday. We don't want to be our best on Saturday. We've got all the way till Sunday to get ourselves in the right position."
On the teams playing scrappy and what he's expecting on Sunday:
"I'm expecting a very competitive football game. Both teams are very familiar with one another. That's the thing about playing your division opponent. We talk about it all the time, the quickest way to the playoffs is to take care of your division, and when you take care of your division you put yourself in the mix and that's what we've been able to do. I think it'll be a very competitive, hard fought football game. Coach Rivera, I have a lot of respect for he and his staff, and he'll have those guys ready to play."
Quarterback Matt Ryan
On whether or not he likes being in the situation of having a play-in game at the Georgia Dome:
"This is what you worked so hard during the offseason and during training camp is to have opportunities like this late in the year, where everything is on the line. That's fun. I think guys are going to enjoy the moment. We're going to prepare as best as we can all week. Then, go cut it loose and play the way that we're capable of on Sunday."
On whether he'll have to calm his self down or does he get up for big games:
"I think that's the case for everybody when you have these kind of games late in the year. It's easy to get up and to be excited. From the quarterback position though, you really have to settle yourself down, and just go out there and execute and play the way that you're capable of. I've got a lot of experience doing that. I trust in my routine, and I think that's one of things that in these type of situations that you got to believe in."
On overcoming injuries:
"That's the nature of this League this time of the year. There's going to be guys that are nicked up, and you're not going to be able to practice as much as you'd like. But we'll see how it shakes out at the end of the week. Hopefully, we'll have those guys ready to go, but if not we have to have other guys step up, and that's kind of the way it's been for us all season. When different guys have gone down we've had younger guys, different guys fill in and play really well. If that's the case, that's what we need this week."
On Devonta Freeman stepping up:
"Devonta's done a great job for us the entire year. I think last week he showed kind of two explosive plays of what he's capable of with the long pass. It showed his versatility there being able to catch a ball out of the backfield. Then, also the type of runner that he is. He's powerful, but also has that great acceleration and he's going to do a great job for us."
On whether this will be the game that everybody will remember the most:
"That's just kind of the nature of this game. Where we're at; where they're at and what's on the line. I'm sure that's what people will remember. They remember what happens late in the year, so hopefully it's other games after this though for us that are the ones that are memorable."
On how impressed he's been with his offensive line the last two games:
"I think our offensive line has done a great job. We've had, even last week, we had Gabe Carimi come in and step up with Jon Asamoah out. He did a really nice job for us. I give credit to those guys for battling all year long, and continuing to get better as the year progressed. I think it's a credit to Mike Tice and Wade Harman, too. I think those guys have done a great job of coaching our guys up."
On how tough it is to play one emotional game then have another emotional game coming up:
"Part of being a professional is being able to move beyond losses and wins. You have to enjoy it at the time because those kind of wins are hard to come by, but at the same time you've got to store it in the back of your head and move forward. I think Coach Smith and the guys in our locker room have done a great job of that. We got to work Monday, watched the film, learned from it. We still have a bunch of corrections that we can make from last week, and today we will be able to get onto the practice field here in a little bit and keep that process moving forward."
On whether they've brought out new plays these past couple of weeks:
"Well, sometimes definitely when you're going against division opponents the second time you'll have adjustments from what you did the first time against them. We had a few things that were adjustments last week, but there's also a bunch of staples. There's a bunch of plays that we hang our hat on every week, and we're going to try to put our playmakers in the right spots. So I think the key this week is a good balance of both."
On how different Carolina's defense is compared to the last time they played them:
"There's obviously two changes in the secondary. In terms of personnel there'll be a few extra guys that are in the defensive front seven that we didn't see the first time. That's the case always the second time you're going to play somebody. There's going to be different players on the field because of the nature of this sport. That's the same for us. We got a few guys that might be a little bit different from the first time that we played. I don't think it makes that much of a difference. They're scheme has remained pretty consistent. It's just the personnel that's a little bit different."
On how important it is to get off to a fast start and make the most of your opportunities:
"Well, I think that's huge. I think our defense has done a great job. They really have. They've played really well the last few weeks, and that's been huge for us. Offensively, we love the fact that they're playing with a ton of confidence and we need to pull our weight. We need to go out there and make the plays when they present themselves and try and put up as many points as we can."
On Devin Hester and Julio Jones making the Pro Bowl:
"Well, I think both of those guys are extremely deserving. Julio has had an unbelievable year. The production that he's put on the field that he's shown has been impressive. Even for a teammate to kind of step back and look at it he's been incredibly impressive. This being my first year with Devin, I couldn't be happier for him. He's a great teammate. He works incredibly hard. He's incredibly humble and he's had an awesome year as well. He's provided us at a number of different times this year with huge spark at special teams and he's made a ton of plays for us at wide receiver. So I couldn't be more proud of those two guys and we couldn't have had two more deserving guys."
On his Christmas wishes:
"Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to everybody. My Christmas wish is that everybody's there on Sunday loud when the defense and really quiet when the offense is on the field. Happy Christmas and Happy Holidays to everyone in Atlanta."
On having a losing record and being one game out of the playoffs:
"It doesn't matter. At this point I think it's one of those things where regardless of what the record is when you have a game like this you don't worry about it. We don't worry about what's happened the last 16 weeks, or 15 games whatever. All that matters is going forward, and I think guys have had that mindset and bought into that mindset."
On whether there's anything different in the locker room:
"Sometimes. I think every week's different. Sometimes there's a few things that didn't click in practice that maybe you need to work on after practice, or a few things in the meeting room that you need to clean up. We'll see how this week shakes out, but I think everybody knows what's on the line. Everybody's focus is where it needs to be."
On Julio Jones playing hurt last week:
"I guess everybody in this locker room knows how important this is to him, and how competitive of a guy he is, and how tough of a player he is. I think guys really respect him for that."
On whether he thinks it's a good sign that they were so successful offensively last week:
"That's one of the things you'd love to have every week go that way. Where you make the right plays at the right time. Hopefully, we can continue that momentum this week."
On the screen game and why they struggled against the Panthers last game:
"They played the screens very well. We have to give them credit. We still feel like we can execute a little bit better, but you have to give them credit they played them very well."
On Charles Johnson:
"He's an excellent player, extremely physical, extremely fast, great pass rusher, very versatile. He's really good against the run, as well. Always had good games against us. He plays well; he plays hard. I think everybody in our locker room has a tremendous amount of respect for him."
On whether Luke Kuechly and Thomas Davis are the heart and soul of the defense:
"I think the front seven as a whole is kind of the heart and soul. They play physical; they pressure well. They're very good against the run, very good at pass rush, but those two guys that you mentioned are one of the best tandems of linebackers in the NFL."
On how important would a win be this Sunday: "It'll be very important. Obviously, with what's on the line and where we're at to have an opportunity to continue to play into the playoffs that's the reason I think guys play this game. You work hard during the offseason; you work hard during training camp and all throughout the year to hopefully have an opportunity to keep playing in January."