FLOWERY BRANCH – Falcons coach Mike Smith met with the media on Sunday to discuss the playoff loss to the Packers.
He said, “The sky was not fallen” and thinks the Falcons will rebound from the worst lost in playoff history.
“We coached a very poor football game,” Smith said.
Here’s what Smith had to say:
OPENING STATEMENT: “After watching the tape I felt like we did some very uncharacteristic things in terms of doing the things you’ve got to do to win a football game. I really felt like there was a big momentum swing after we ran the kickoff back for a touchdown. On that next drive, there were three penalties that continued the drive. We had illegal contact on a sack in the endzone that gave them a first down and then of course we had a penalty that put the ball down on the two-yard line. The perception in this League is you’re only as good as your last game. It’s really not reality but that is the perception in this League and we know it as a football team. I want to say we won 13 games this year. Our team, through the season, did some very good things. We did not play good football last night. It was not the way that this team normally does business.”
ON EXIT INTERVIEWS: “We’ve done exit interviews. In fact we’re in the process of doing them right now. We’ve been here since early this morning. Players have been coming in shifts based on their seniority. We’ve had our final team meeting. They have exit interviews with not only their position coaches and coordinators, but they had their exit physical as well. There are a lot of guys that are disappointed in that room and they should be because you don’t get the opportunities very often to be where we were at in terms of this season. If you’re asking specifically about guys, I’m not going to comment specifically about any one guy. We’re disappointed, but we’ve got to put it behind us and make sure that we do everything in our power to get better as a team.”
ON THE OFFSEASON SCHEDULE: “We have a plan in place in terms of the offseason. Of course, that’s all predicated on what happens between now and March third or fourth. Our plans as a coaching staff, not to get into too much detail, is next week we have a commitment that we have to go and coach the Pro Bowl. That’s going to take time away from our offseason analysis but we will start that as soon as we get back. The week of the Super Bowl we’ll do system analysis in terms of evaluating everything that we do from top to bottom. We’re going to do everything in our power, myself, general manager Thomas Dimitroff, the entire staff and the entire organization to make our team better for next year. That is the goal each and every year.”
ON POSSIBLE CHANGES TO THE COACHING STAFF: “No, in fact we hope we can have continuity on our coaching staff. I think our coaching staff is one of the best or not the best in the NFL. I think that you want to have continuity with your players; you want to have continuity with your staff. I think our staff has done a great job this year preparing our team each and every week, even though there were a couple of games that we didn’t play our best. I want to say this, the Green Bay Packers were the better team last night. That’s how you’ve got to approach it each and every week because the dynamics change in this League from week to week.”
ON PACKERS QB AARON RODGERS CUTTING UP HIS SECONDARY: “Aaron had a great game. I think I was involved in one other game, I’ve seen Tom Brady have a game like that where you used to quote the talking heads ‘he’s on fire’, well he was on fire. But, there were a number of opportunities especially on third down yesterday where we had opportunities to make plays and we didn’t get them done. We had four opportunities to get the quarterback on the ground, the penalty on the third down on a sack changed the whole complexion of the football game in terms of a field goal attempt to a touchdown. Aaron had a good game. Packers Head Coach Mike McCarthy had a good game plan. Their receivers caught the ball and we didn’t play up to our level and up to the capabilities that we have as a team. It’s something that you run into.”
ON HOW HE HANDLED THE DEFEAT: “I Didn’t get much sleep last night. I think there’s not only myself, but there’s 20 coaches, there’s staff members of the organization, probably fans that didn’t sleep well because we did not perform up to our abilities last night. As the head coach, you search for answers and that’s something that we’re going to make sure that we address. We have to look from the top down starting with me in terms of preparation for that ballgame and how we prepared.”
ON THE BYE WEEK: “I don’t think it hurt us. We had a very good week of practice. Someone asked last night did I think that the weather was an excuse, we’re not going to make excuses in terms of our preparation. I thought our guys were very prepared. They were focused. I thought up through the first quarter that it was a very competitive game. As I mentioned earlier, the momentum changed and we could not turn it back in that second quarter. There were a number of plays even though the score was such a one sided score, I still believe it came down to five or six crucial plays in the ballgame that really made a difference. We can say that each and every week. Sometimes we’re saying it on a positive note, sometimes we’re saying it on a negative note. Unfortunately, we’re talking about the negative today.”
ON THE SEASON: “The sky is not falling I can assure you that. We played a very poor football game last night in terms of the performance. We coached a very poor football game. Everybody in that room has ownership of that and it starts with me. I don’t think you want to over react. You’ve got to take time. You sit back and you analyze and you go through that analysis and you make decisions in the calm after you’ve been able to take the emotion out of it. If you go on emotion right now, you’re probably not going to like what you’re thinking.”
ON ANY POSITIVES HE CAN TAKE FROM THE SEASON: “The first one is that we won 13 football games and ultimately that’s how you’re judged. I think that our scoring offense and scoring defense, which is the second most important thing, we were fifth in the League on offense and fifth in the League on defense. We wanted to control the clock in our time of possession, we were third in the League in time of possession. We wanted to be the least penalized team in the League, during the regular season we were the least penalized team in the League. We wanted to win the turnover margin and have it significantly in our favor, and we were third or fourth in the League. Now, those are the things that we did during the regular season that you can take as a positive. We need to now take that into the second season. Again, our expectations as a football team have grown since we got here three years ago in terms of where we think we can be and where we want to be. We’ll keep those internally, but we’ve got to make sure that now going forward that we take the things that give us the plan for success during the regular season into the second season. Ultimately when your expectations are raised you’re not necessarily talking about just the regular season, you start talking about the second season and that’s something that we’ve earned as a football team and as an organization and we’re going to have to be able to deal with it because we plan on being in this situation again very shortly.”
–D. Orlando Ledbetter