FLOWERY BRANCH – Falcons coach Mike Smith chatted with the local media on Monday.
He also noted on his radio show today on NFL Sirius radio that Matt Ryan had an MRI on Monday and everything – his ankle and knee – checked out fine.
Here are some excerpts from the press conference:
OPENING STATEMENT: Sunday, I thought was a good day for our football team. We needed to start a streak. We’ve kind of been on a yo-yo in terms of wins and losses. We wanted to start a streak and we were able to get that accomplished by getting a victory on the road. There were a couple of other things that we needed to try to improve on. One was our third down efficiency and I thought that our guys
responded very well to the challenge that we put before them this week as a staff and especially the defensive staff. It was a hard-fought, physical football game. We knew it was going to be that way. Detroit is a really good football team. They’re well-coached and we were very fortunate to go up there and get the win.
ON THE DEFENSE’S PROGRESSION THIS SEASON: It’s week-to-week in this league, but I really like the way that our guys have played defensively and I think that it’s been a steady climb for the most part. The arrow’s going up, although sometimes it statistically doesn’t necessarily look like that. But I really like the pressure that we put on the quarterback in the game yesterday. One of the things that we talked about was that we wanted to make it hectic and chaotic. We weren’t talking about sacks. We were talking about making it hectic and chaotic around the throwing spot and the launch point and I thought that our guys did a really good job yesterday in doing that, especially early on. We were able to record those two sacks after the turnover that they started with the ball in our red zone. They have progressed well. We gave up some explosive plays. They were really probably because of missed tackles and missed leverage, but for the most part, the arrow I think is going up with our defense. I think this is going to be a big week for us, in terms of getting some guys healthier. We’ve got some guys that have missed time, especially on our defensive line, that should get healthier. We feel that our guys have a much better understanding from day one to where we are right now
in terms of what we’re trying to do schematically and I think that had a lot to do with the success that we had on third down in the ball game yesterday.
ON THE DEFENSIVE LINE: We really believe that you have to control the line of scrimmage on both sides of the football and when you talk about the passing game, it starts with your pass rush and not necessarily the number of sacks that you can record. It’s the pressure that you can get on the quarterback and they have done a nice job. We had a string there where we might not have necessarily gotten the sack production, but I still think that we put pressure on the quarterback. We have faced some quarterbacks through these first seven games that have very good mobility in Josh Freeman, Cam Newton and Aaron Rodgers. . . But it all starts up front and our philosophy from the very beginning when we got here is that we wanted to control the line of scrimmage on both sides of the football.
ON CREATING TURNOVERS IN 26 STRAIGHT GAMES: I think it’s something that we stress. Special teams lent a hand yesterday for us on the kickoff to keep that streak alive. We had two opportunities that we felt were missed opportunities that were fairly simple catches that we weren’t able to complete. But I really think that it has a lot to do with the mindset of how we coach our guys to attack the football. We know that if we attack the football and we try to get as many people and as many pads as we can on a ball carrier that there’s an opportunity that the ball’s going to come out. It’s something that, philosophically, our defensive staff from the very beginning states, ‘This is how we’re going to do things,’ and the guys really buy into it.
ON CORNERBACK BRENT GRIMES: Brent, I thought, had a very good game. I thought our secondary, especially our corners with the challenges that they had yesterday with regards to Calvin Johnson. Brent Grimes had a very big play on a deep ball on a double cut. Again, you know going into those games that you’re going to have to try to slow those guys down; you’re not always going to stop them and I think we’ve been able to do that over the last two weeks. Brent, again, just like he played last year, he’s playing very, very good football for us at the corner position.
ON THE INJURIES SUFFERED AGAINST DETROIT: This week, we are going radio silence for the bye week. You guys won’t see me very long this week. We’re going to give the guys some time off and we’re going to give some coaches time off as well. We’re going to kind of let it lay low and we’ll report to you guys next week. I will give it to you guys before it comes out on the wire.
ON GIVING THE PLAYERS THE WEEK OFF: We have been working extremely hard. This has been a tough stretch, in terms of our opponents. Again, we got together July 28th or 29th and we knew we were actually going to start on July 25th, so it has been a hectic 10 weeks to this point and we feel that the rest is very important, not only for the players, but for the coaches as well. Players will have a lot
more time off than the coaches, but we’re going to get some down time as we get towards the weekend. I think it’s very important. We’ll have guys that are injured in here getting treatment and I’ve got a hunch that we’ll see a lot of guys even though they’re ‘off’ that are going to be in the building this week. I just have that feeling.
ON WHAT WENT INTO THE DECISION: It was a decision that I made last week, and when I say last week I’m talking about Thursday and Friday of last week. I had made the decision in my mind based on the outcome of the game on how we were going to proceed through the bye week. It’s something that the guys will tell you I’m very anal about calendars and making sure everybody knows when and where we’re going to do things. It was not something that was a whim there just in the locker room. It was something that was well thought out on Thursday and Friday, looking at the different possibilities of how we could do things based on the outcome of the game.
ON USING TIME OFF AS A MOTIVATION TOOL: It was, but I did not dangle that. That’s not something that I believe in doing. I know different people have different styles and ways of trying to motivate guys. In terms of the way we try to do it, we try to go out and be as even-keeled as we possibly can, prepare like we always do and go out and try to accomplish the goals and we were able to do that. That was a
good football team that we played yesterday there in Detroit.
ON THE REPORT OF THE LIONS TAUNTING MATT RYAN: There’s a lot of things said between the sidelines and I know this: that was a physical, tough football game against two, I think, very aggressive teams. [It was] probably the most physical game that we’ve played to this point.
ON WHAT HE WAS THINKING WHEN RYAN WAS ON THE GROUND: It looked a lot worse than it actually turned out to be, I can assure you that. The first thing that goes through my mind is, ‘okay, what plays did Chris Redman practice during the week so what’s our inventory’ and trying to go through the mindset of how do we continue to play with our backup quarterback knowing that he didn’t have the snaps that your starter has. When I walked out on the field, you could see that Matt was in some pain but I got a pretty good feel when I was out there that he was going to be alright. I didn’t know if he was going to be alright for this ball game, but it was comforting to see how he was feeling. He was in a lot of pain but he indicated that he thought he was going to be alright. We got him in and let the doctors look at him and the trainers. Probably the best thing about it was, he got back out there quick enough that we had a third down and eight. As he was on the sideline back there, I was kind of running behind the bench and asking if we could get him out there and he said, ‘Let me try to take a drop,’ and by God, it was one fell swoop. He just started his drop and he ran right out into the huddle. He got out there and completed a [49-yard] completion. I don’t think there was any doubt when we came back on the sideline that he was going to be out there and we needed him there on that third down and he was able to produce with the completion to Harry Douglas.
ON TACKLE WILL SVITEK, WHO STARTED FOR SAM BAKER: Will had a tough draw yesterday, but I thought he really competed. . . He played with a lot of energy in the ball game. I thought he held his own. Those are two outstanding defensive ends and he was matched up against (Kyle) Vanden Bosch for the most part and it was fun to watch it on tape this morning and last night on the plane ride. Those two guys got after it. [Svitek held Vanden Bosch sackles.]
ON RYAN’S TOUGHNESS: I think it’s very important. Without a doubt, Matt Ryan is a leader of our football team and to see him be able to get up from some of the unfortunate hits that he’s had to take throughout the year, I think it not only energizes the offense, but it energizes the defense and our entire football team. Really, when any of our guys are down and they get back up and we know that we can have them back out on the playing field, I think it helps, whether it’s an offensive lineman, a starter that gets nicked and gets back in there. I think we feel a lot more confident with those guys in the mix than we do with our backups.
ON HIS PLANS FOR THE BYE WEEK: The first part of the week, we have got a lot of things that we have to do like we would normally do, finishing up our work on Detroit. Then here this evening, instead of moving forward to a new opponent, we’re going to take a couple of days and do some intensive evaluation and self-scouting ourselves. When I say ourselves, that starts with the coaching staff. The number one conversation tomorrow morning when we start our day will be about evaluating our practice schedule, in terms of how we may want to adjust it. I’ve got some ideas that I want to discuss with the staff in terms of as we get further in the season, we always
adjust our schedule a little bit. It’s something that I want to discuss with the offensive, defensive and special teams staffs and then we’ll move on to try to do some drilling down in some of the areas, even though we’ve been doing it, for example, our third down efficiency, our red zone efficiency, some of the areas that we’ve fallen short on, we want to take a good evaluation of that. At the end of the week, we will take some time off as a coaching staff. We need to re-energize our batteries just like the players are and get ready for the second-half run. I know when the guys come back in here on Monday, players and coaches, we’ll be ready to roll and start our preparation for Indianapolis.
ON JASON SNELLING TAKING OVER FOR FULLBACK OVIE MUGHELLI IF NECESSARY: I think Jason did a very good job. Jason’s had to do this before. Last year, we missed Ovie when he was injured in the San Francisco game. He stepped right in and our offense didn’t miss a beat. Jason stepped in yesterday into a no-huddle situation where he was playing fullback and we were running our no-huddle offense and we didn’t miss a beat out of our 21-personnel [2 backs, 1 tight.] Jason has done it in the past and he’s very familiar. That’s one of the reasons we have him on our roster because he gives us flexibility to play both the fullback and the halfback.
–D. Orlando Ledbetter, The Atlanta Falcons beat blog