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Transcripts: Tuesday Interviews

Head coach Mike SmithOn whether the team was as physical as they needed to be last time against New Orleans:

"We didn't play the run very well. We gave up the explosive touchdown run and the yards per carry was much more than we would like to have. To stop the run you have to fit your gaps and at the same time you have to win the line of scrimmage. That's something we did this past week, and I think it showed in the stats."

On potential advantages of having three running backs getting touches as opposed to just one guy:

"We've got a lot of guys that we feel can touch the football on the offensive side, not just in the running back position but in the wide receiver position as well. Thought it was a nice mix and liked the way we started the game as far as our rushing last week."

On RB Michael Turner still being effective even though he's not getting as many carries:

"I certainly do. Again, we've stated from the very beginning that you weren't going to look up at the end of the season and see that one back had 300 carries. That's not the way this offense is built now. It was different three or four years ago, but now it's much different."

On how the transition to a different style of offense has gone:

"I think it's been very good. I think he's been very productive. I think if the red zone numbers were a little higher, I think you'd really like what we've done."

On the success in the red zone being more important against the Saints:

"It's a point of emphasis every week, but it is crucial that we score touchdowns and try and finish our drives with extra points, not field goals when you're down there in the red zone. They're one of the best in the League in terms of red zone scoring. When you're down there you have to make sure that you put it in the end zone."

On getting Robinson to tackle differently:

"No. We're always preaching to our guys the proper tackling techniques and Dunta is a very physical player. We do stress that the target is lowered. We're trying to always be somewhere in what we call the strike zone that we talk about in baseball, basically, from the shoulders down to the knees."

Quarterback Matt RyanOn playing a divisional opponent in these quick turnaround games:

"I think it does. Playing them a couple weeks ago and that plan that we had before and what they did against us is still somewhat fresh. One of the things that also helps is we have a veteran team and guys that have been around here for a long time and understand our offensive system really well. I think that helps when you have a short week."

On having an incredible record at home:

"Anytime you play at home it certainly helps. Our fans have given unbelievable support and that's been awesome. It's a place where we feel comfortable and have played well. I think that helps us."

On doing anything different against the Saints this time around:

"The last time we played them we fell short a little bit in the red zone. For us, playing against New Orleans it's imperative when you have your opportunities in that part of the field you have to take advantage of that and score touchdowns. That's something I can do better and we can do better as a team."

On having the opportunity to clinch the division this week:

"It's not something I think about or worry about. We're at a point in the season, we have five games left. We just need to focus on taking care of business week-to-week. We'll look up at the end of the year and hopefully we'll like where we're at."

On having more energy when it's Saints week:

"It's any time you're in the division. They always have just a little bit different feel to them. This has been an organization, the Saints, that have been at a high level since I've been in the NFL. We need to play our best and that's what we need to focus on. I think everybody's energy will be where it needs to be."

On the reason the Saints have had good success over the Falcons in recent years:

"I think multiple reasons. Specifically, this year I think offensively we need to do a better job when we get in the red zone. We know they're a very good offense that's opportunistic. I think they're at the top of the League in red zone touchdown percentage and we need to do a better job of that."

On what they're doing differently on defense to have more success:

"They've done a great job in their pressure package. Steve Spagnuolo does a good job in creating good matchups for them. They've created turnovers. Turnovers are huge and they've been opportunistic when they've had chances. That's why they're playing well."

On the positives of playing them in a short week:

"Not on the front end (laughing). On the back end there are some positives too where you get some time off. It's just one of those things. We've done it before. We understand what it takes to get yourself prepared on a short week. Your mental focus has to be better than it is during a regular week because you're not going to be able to have some of the same amount of reps physically that you usually get. I think everybody's focus has been really good this week and it needs to stay that way."

On what QB Drew Brees does better than him:

"Hopefully not much this Thursday. He's one of the great players in the League. That's for sure. He does a lot of things well. He's a great player."

On the main reason for having a great season:

"There's a lot of reasons we are where we are right now. The chemistry in the locker room is really good. All three phases of our team stepping up at different times throughout the season has helped. It's been week-to-week. Our defense has won some games for us. Our special teams has been pretty consistent and done a great job for us all year. Offensively, we've had some games where we've scored points where we needed too and I think the good teams do that."

On getting refocused after losing to them the first time:

"That's one of those things Coach Smith has done a great job after losses of stopping that streak at one and following that up with a win. I think that's important. In a way, I think our guys focus was a little bit better after that loss."

On giving the team more incentive that a win could put a dagger in them:

"Not really. I don't think you can worry about what other people have going on. We have enough issues ourselves and we have enough going on our own. Our focus needs to be on that."

Tight end Tony GonzalezOn bodies not having enough time to recover playing on Thursday nights:

"It's extremely hard. It's not healthy. I'm not a big advocate for it. I understand why they do it. It's for the money. It's not the best thing for football players. There's a reason they do them a week apart. That's why they've been doing it that way for a long time, so guys can recover. That's the way it goes. We're not the only team doing it. They're doing it. Teams do it across the League every week so we've got to be ready for it and we'll be ready. We'll get our minds and body's right, and we'll go out there and play well."

On playing a game on this short of notice with all the stress about concussions:

"If you look at the statistics, recovery and time, there is a lot of science out there supporting that your body needs a lot more rest as an NFL football player, than going and playing on Thursday if you played a Sunday game. I'm not going to get caught up in it. It's common sense. They know. Everybody knows. They can say whatever they want and they can say well, you're going to get the rest after the game. You're going to get that four days off, whatever. We can complain about it all we want, but we still have to go out there and play and kickoff at 8:20 or whatever time it is. We've got to be ready to go and we will. We'll be ready."

On changing your approach against these guys the second time around:

"You always try and change a little bit. Keep them on their toes. Defensively, they're going to give us some looks that we haven't seen, so we're going to go out there and try and get better. That's what this game is all about. You have to improve week in and week out. Otherwise, you're going backwards. We certainly have goals in mind to have one of the best offenses in the League, and if we do what we did last time except this time convert on a couple of those third and shorts and convert in the red zone with touchdowns then we'll be happy at the end of the game."

On retiring at the end of the year despite playing so well:

"I'm still at 95 percent that I'm going to retire at the end of the season. I'm having a great time. I'll tell you that.This is one of the most fun seasons I've ever had in my life and, obviously, being 10-1 will help with that. It's just a great group of guys. I love playing in this offense, playing for Dirk (Koetter), playing with a guy like Matt, Julio, and Roddy. You're right, there are a lot of reasons for me to stick around. Maybe I'm just stupid, I don't know (laughing). I'm going to sit down and it's not going to be like anything last year where I'll make that decision before the end of the season. I'm going to go ahead and think long and hard about this. Like I said, I've already thought long and hard about it, so I'm pretty sure what I'm going to do. I'm going to enjoy the moment, and I'm not even worried about that. We have the Saints to play this week and the season to finish out, hopefully get to the playoffs, the Super Bowl. All that good stuff."

On the importance of having balance to win or ok with just winning:

"I don't care. Last week, if it's one or 20, 30 I don't care. You just have to win the game. At the end of the season, it doesn't matter. They don't look at you when your 10-1 and say you only won three of those games by two points. It doesn't matter. It's about getting that W and that's what we have to continue to concentrate on. No matter what happens. I've heard we're playing to the level of our competitors. I don't care. It doesn't matter, as long we go out and get that victory. Now, we'd like to get better. Don't get me wrong. We're going to look for ways to improve, but once those zeros are on the clock, hopefully it's a victory."

On the balance of run vs. pass not making a difference:

"You would love to have more balance, but if you're good at something, and you can exploit a defense, and it works, then why not. Let's go out there and move the ball down the field. It doesn't matter. The object of the game is to move the chains and to get into the endzone or kick for three points, whatever it is. We're good at that so far, and we're going to keep trying to get better and keep tweaking it. Maybe we will go out and get a little more balanced. You never want a defense to know what you're going to do and sometimes they know what you're going to do. It's a passing situation but you still convert. It's just how it goes, but defenses are the same way. We're going to line you up on defense. We're not going to blitz you that much. There are certain defenses out there that are going to do that, and you've got to go beat them. They're saying 'come beat us. You know what we're going to be, so come do it.' That's the mentality that you have to have. Like I said, Dirk's putting us in good position and hopefully we do start to run the ball a little bit better."

On DT Jonathan Babineaux trying to dunk the ball a couple weeks ago:

"Everybody wants to dunk the ball nowadays. You got to go with the finger roll. If you don't have the confidence enough to get up there you've got to do something else, a jump hook, a free throw. Do something else."

On the contributing factor to this season being great:

"It's never one thing. It's a group of guys coming together, working hard, a great coaching staff, great fans, great front office with Thomas Dimitroff getting good players. This team has actually been together for a while, the core unit of this team. QB Matt Ryan hitting his fifth year, that's when quarterbacks have to come into their own as players, and he's playing outstanding football. WR Julio Jones in his second year now is no longer a rookie. He knows exactly where to be and how to get there. Then guys like myself, the old dogs, like me and Roddy. I hope I can call Roddy an old dog at this point. We know what it takes to win games and the o-line has been together consistently. We're very lucky to have them stay healthy throughout the season, besides Garrett Reynolds. OG Peter Konz has stepped in and done a great job for us, so it's a lot of things coming together. Whatever it is though, we just have to keep improving because we have something special here. We just have to keep grinding and keep getting better."

On being glad the Saints game is home this week:

"Absolutely. They have one of the loudest stadiums that you could play in out there in New Orleans. It affects you sometimes. You can't help to have communication breakdowns. I'm glad to be back home. To be back with the Atlanta Falcon fans and I hope they're out there ready to go because we're going to need them this week. We need them to get loud and crazy and that's going to give us an absolute advantage."

On losing to this team before refocusing this team and using it to your advantage:

"You can use it to your advantage. Don't get me wrong. I would've preferred to have won the game. When you lose to a team it seems like you always come back ready to give it something a little bit extra even though I hate saying that. You never want to leave anything out there on the field. That's just the way I've been taught, but we'll have something special. You know they're going to have something special. They're going to be ready to go. This is the ultimate rivalry because we're both really good teams. They're playing for their lives as far as playoffs go. I don't think they can lose anymore and think they can get in. Maybe they can, I don't know. They're going to come in here ready to go. We got to be ready for them. Last time, we let it slip away at the end. We've got to give them credit though, but we had it. First and goal from the two yard line we're supposed to convert that and we couldn't. They stopped us. Give them credit. Definitely going to go out there this time and that's going to be in our minds and make it happen this time."

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