Q&A: Smith takes ‘full responsibility’ for the gamble

Atlanta Falcons running back Jason Snelling (44) is brought down by New Orleans Saints defensive tackle Tom Johnson (96) and others during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Nov. 13, 2011, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

Atlanta Falcons running back Jason Snelling (44) is brought down by New Orleans Saints defensive tackle Tom Johnson (96) and others during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Nov. 13, 2011, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

Falcons coach Mike Smith said the plan all week was to be aggressive against the New Orleans Saints.

So, in overtime, with just a few inches to go he could not go against what he had been preaching all week and dial-up a punt on fourth-and-inches.

Here’s what Smith had to say after the Saints defeated the Falcons 26-23 in overtime on Sunday:

OPENING STATEMENT: I thought it was a heck of a football game. I felt that our guys played extremely hard beyond 60 minutes. But the bottom line today was that we didn’t make the plays that we needed to make and the Saints made more plays than we did. We are disappointed with the outcome of the game, without a doubt. But this is a very good football team. That is a very good football team over there. Unfortunately, we did not make the plays.

ON THE FOURTH DOWN DECISION: It was something that I take full responsibility for. It is my decision and my decision solely. At first, we were going to punt the football. I had a change of heart and I wanted us to go for it. I thought the ball was inside of half a yard and I thought we could get it. I didn’t want to give the ball back to the Saints. In previous games, in close games that we played them, we punted the ball and they’ve gotten the ball back with three minutes to go in the game and we never saw it again and they ended up winning the ball game. That was the decision-making process that I went through.

ON THE RUN BY MIKE COX: The review kicked in and it was not a first down. We had fourth and inches. We had to make a decision. Unfortunately, the decision that we made did not work out today. Again, it’s not anybody’s fault. It’s my responsibility as the head football coach, you have to make tough decisions in a football game and I take full responsibility for it.

ON NOT RUNNING A QB SNEAK ON FOURTH DOWN: We had talked about that as well. We’d gone through the process. This isn’t something that you just do hap hazardly. These are things that you talk about. You got fourth- and-inches calls. You’ve got fourth-and-1 calls, you’ve got fourth-and-3 calls. Seeing the way that they’d lined up because they called timeout, we felt like at that point that the best play for us to run was the play that we ran. Unfortunately it did not work out.

ON IF HE CHANGED PLAYS WHEN THEY CALLED TIMEOUT: I don’t want to talk about that in terms of the plays that we had. I think that would give our competitors down the road an advantage.

ON SENDING OUT THE PUNT TEAM AND THEN RECALLIGN THEM: Just the down and distance and it went through my mind in terms of what happened in the previous games where we had been stopped with three or four minutes to go in the ball game twice before in the six games that we’ve played and we did not get the ball back. I felt like if we’re not going to be able to move the ball two or three inches, then we probably are not going to win the football game. That was the decision making process and it was something that I had talked to the coaching staff about. If fact, we had practiced a couple of plays on Saturday and had some discussions about what we’d run in certain situations.

ON THE DEFENSE: We gave up some big plays in the passing game especially. In certain personnel groupings they were able to hold the ball and throw the ball down the field.

ON THEIR MINDSET IN OVERTIME: When you get the ball, you want to go ahead and try to end it. We felt like we’d been very aggressive in everything that we did throughout the day in what we did offensively, defensively and on special teams. We wanted to stay that way throughout the end of the ballgame.

ON THE PENALTIES: It was very disturbing in terms of the personal foul penalties. I believe that there were five in the first half. You can’t have that. Some of them, we were able to overcome. But when you play a good football team like the New Orleans Saints, you can’t have those types of penalties.

ON THE ONSIDES KICK: It worked out. It was basically based on the same thing. There were four minutes and basically the conversation that we had as a coaching staff in the staff meetings during the week. We have not had success giving them the ball in the last three or four minutes. . . That was part of the decision making. I know that it will be scrutinized all week long and again I want everybody to understand, I take full responsibility for that.

ON NOT HAVING FAITH IN THE DEFENSE: It wasn’t that we didn’t have faith in the defense. That’s a very good quarterback. By no means is there a lack of faith in the defense. It’s a matter of what has happened when we have played them in the past. It’s always part of the decision making process.

ON NOT GETTING PRESSURE ON BRESS: We did not get pressure. They blocked up some of our blitzes with some of their formations that they had, we weren’t able to get pressure. They had a very good game plan in terms of trying to neutralize the pressure that we would put on them. 

ON HARRY DOUGLAS: Harry made some great catches on that last drive, that 94 yards where we kicked the field goal to tie the game, he made some big plays in that drive.

ON BEING SO AGGRESSIVE: That’s was the message all week, that we’re going to be an aggressive football team. That we are going to be aggressive in everything that we did. Unfortunately, it did not pan out the way that we would have liked it to.

–D. Orlando Ledbetter, The Atlanta Falcons beat blog

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472 comments Add your comment

gt

November 13th, 2011
6:29 pm

Here us a question for Mike. How did you get this job, with such a stupid call? Unbelievable

Jim in Va

November 13th, 2011
6:31 pm

Bottom line Smitty you were outcoached-team wasn`t outplayed and what is up with all the dumb penalities?

Realist

November 13th, 2011
6:32 pm

Going for it on 4th down was the right call. Throwing to Cox on 3rd down… not so much.

Soho mojo

November 13th, 2011
6:35 pm

Rams got to Brees, why couldn’t we? Therin lies the problem for the Falcons.

Rick Morris

November 13th, 2011
6:36 pm

I have no problem with going for it on 4th….gutsy call …..roddy white should shoulder the responsibility in this game 2 dropped ( one batted into defenders arms) and 2 personal fouls….no excuse…..

Coach (Needed)

November 13th, 2011
6:36 pm

I really believed that the Offense would have gotten the ball back if they had punted, and even if you are going go for it on 4th and 1 on your own 30 yard line in a sudden death situation, please don’t not run straight into the part of the field where literally the whole defense is waiting on you!!!!! The left side of the field was wide open, why not put Rodgers in there and run a toss to left? I’m still speechless over the bone headed play call at the end of this game!!!! If you are going to lose, make the opponents work for it, do not hand them a win on a silver platter!!!!!!!!!!!

BirdBrain

November 13th, 2011
6:37 pm

Love the call. Hate the play. Matt Ryan is 6′5″ – I’m guessing he could’ve gone over the center for two inches. Or two feet. We deserve better than Mularkey.

Savannah Fan

November 13th, 2011
6:37 pm

No pass rush at all -nothing all day

Techbuzz

November 13th, 2011
6:37 pm

Why do we wait until 1:55 to play like WE KNOW WE CAN????? Matty was masterful (with the exception of no TD) on taking the birds down the field from our own 1 yard line in that time span. I just don’t understand WHY we have to wait until SO LATE in a game to finally take our heads out of our butts and FINALLY play some ball. Had we played the whole game like we did in the last 1:55, we would have won the game by 3 TD’s…probably, or at least 2. I just don’t get it? As a Falcons fan it does infuriate me to no ends with games like this.

And how many times is the D going to KEEP getting burned by the same 1 or 2 TE’s or WR’s? First of all, we got NO PRESSURE on Brees and second, if you leave the same receivers wide open, Bress will eat you alive!

And stupid, stupid, stupid penalties!!!!!

SMith talks about the 4th down play

November 13th, 2011
6:38 pm

Mr. Panic Button

November 13th, 2011
6:39 pm

So Harry Douglas was hot and the Saints didn’t have an answer for him before the end of regulation to tie up the game. WTH would you go back to your conservative play calling after passing the ball all over the Saints? Maybe Smith doesn’t have confidence in Ryan’s passing ability as much as we think. Lord knows Ryan needs some serious coaching on his mechanics, accuracy, deep throw timing, and having heart (grow an F’n pair).

gman

November 13th, 2011
6:40 pm

yea, but come on, it wasnt the call to go on fourth, it was the play, how long are we going to have to deal with this, Good, Bad, and Ugly offense. it looked like they were surprised to make some plays. somebody needs to tell Matt Ryan, we appreciate your offseason film study, but after this season we want you in the weight room, because you have no control of the deep throw.

CGD...........

November 13th, 2011
6:40 pm

MR BLANK SHOOTING BLANKS!

Bob Who?

November 13th, 2011
6:41 pm

CGD...........

November 13th, 2011
6:41 pm

MATT RYAN AINT THE ONE GRASSHOPPER!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Bob Who?

November 13th, 2011
6:42 pm

Two Dat! Who Dat, Who Dat, say going to beat them Saints!

CGD...........

November 13th, 2011
6:43 pm

“Maybe Smith doesn’t have confidence in Ryan’s passing ability as much as we think. Lord knows Ryan needs some serious coaching on his mechanics, accuracy, deep throw timing, and having heart (grow an F’n pair).”

ACCURACY!!!ACCURACY!! ACCURACY! OR LACK THERE OF IS A QB KILLER!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Mike

November 13th, 2011
6:46 pm

It is easy to 2nd .guess! I don’t fault going for it, wish he had QB sneaked for the 2 inches.

old man

November 13th, 2011
6:47 pm

I agree with the call. Statistically, you are not going to keep Brees from scoring on his second and third chances in OT. The odds of stopping Brees, and the odds of at least keeping him from flipping the field on us in some bad way were very low. The odds of making the 4th down were higher. I’m sure they discussed the naked boot, a drag route to Gonzales or Palmer, etc., etc. I suspect they outsmarted themselves a bit on the actual play called, but you could just as easily flip a coin on what tendency to anticipate.

I remain a big Ryan advocate, but we learned two things. First, Ryan’s strong suit is not the deep downfield ball. He’s adequate or a bit above average, that’s all. His play calling and short and intermediate game is pretty darn strong. Second, some of our receivers dropped some balls today. And missed some blocks. And picked up some thug penalties.

The Defense looked good overall.

MO

November 13th, 2011
6:50 pm

Poor decisions by coaching staff and undisciplined play of players will lead to losses. Very disappointed in the play of Roddy White, he really needs to STFU during the week and make more plays on Sunday. Mike Smith when given the chance will make poor decisions far too often to be the type of Head Coach this team needs to take it to a Superbowl Championship. Matt Ryan clearly has THE ugliest deep ball in the NFL short of maybe…well I was gonna say Tebow but Tebow has the arm strength just no technique. I would seriously consider using Roddy White as tradebait to try and get back into the 1st rd to pick up a LT and move Baker to RG as Hawely will presumably take over at C next season. This is not a knock on Svitek so much as it is on Baker. Matt Ryan is going to need more time in the pocket to wind up and deliver balls deeper down field and this line can not provide that. Cannot invision a scenario by which John Abraham is resigned as a Falcon next season. Thomas Decoud is a guy who just is not good enough in coverage to be a starter in ths league IMO. I like the kid but he just does not have the coverage skills to be 1st string…he’s special teamer and backup caliber FS at best IMO. NFL Network’s Michael Lombardi made an interesting comment when Dimitroff decided to basically mortgage 2 yrs worth of draft picks on Julio Jones. He said that Dimitroff had a distorted view of his team needs and while he believed Julio Jones would be a great player he did not believe the player was what the Falcons needed at this stage of the “process”.

Oh and I was first but I don’t really care about such things LOL

Lil 7thWard

November 13th, 2011
6:58 pm

Questionable decisions, onside kick, going for it on your 30 yd line. We’ll take it…..GEAUX SAINTS!!

gman

November 13th, 2011
6:59 pm

I am a Falcon fan, but to be honest, i dont think they deserve the playoffs, because nothing will change, some coaches, not all need to go

old man

November 13th, 2011
7:02 pm

Just looked over the stats. Ouch.

I agree Ryan’s long ball game is not nearly as good as, say, Aaron Rogers, but why does Rogers always seem to have receivers roaming free way downfield? We ought to have a tremendous element of surprise in our favor when we run those routes, but our opponents always seem to have our guys well covered, often with double coverage. Ryan’s long throws are often less than perfect, so we never have a chance. Other QBs in the league find guys so wide open that they can adjust to the ball, and make less than perfect throws look right on target. It’s almost like they have someone in our huddle, knowing when we are going over the top.

gman

November 13th, 2011
7:03 pm

Im sick of people praising Turner, yea he’s a bowling ball, but hardly do you see it, most yards come from the outside, and i believe we can do better, he’s starting to look like the tiptoe burger.

Mr. Panic Button

November 13th, 2011
7:04 pm

MO I couldn’t agree with you more…about it all!

gman

November 13th, 2011
7:05 pm

old man, can you say play calling

Soho mojo

November 13th, 2011
7:05 pm

Otoh if they would have made it and won, Smitty would be the man with the biggest pair in ATL.

Scott Anderson

November 13th, 2011
7:06 pm

What a buffoon of a play to go on fourth down and run up the gut. How about play action, QB sneak, end around, something other than to get stuffed. Saints knew exactly what was going on and stacked the box. They had a time out to see how the Falcons lined up.

Smith loses game and takes credit. Nice one.

Ryan still cannot throw it far enough downfield. The receivers are outrunning his arm. And Ryan is just not accurate enough in the red zone. So many almost interceptions it was a pity really.

Falcons might think its not important but I dont think they win 10 and miss playoffs.

they stink

N.O. FAn in ATL

November 13th, 2011
7:06 pm

You gotta love them Saints!!!!!!! When it’s time to play.. WE play!! NO PRESSURE on BREES!!! I loved it.. We gave the falcons those touchdowns.. Our defense needs to pep up a bit. Vilma will be back soon along with our other guys. The Falcons played a good game.. but.. it wasn’t good enough… Matt tried to pass the ball like Brees.. but no matter what no one says.. MAtt ain’t got nothing on Brees.. Brees is a QB and Darn good one at that!!!!!! The Falcons wanna be so much like the saints till it hurts.. once ya’ll get the ring.. then we can talk! until then.. Ya’ll are on mute….!! We will see ya’ll in the Mercdes Benz Superdome!! and once we lock the doors… there are not survivors!!!!

Mr. Panic Button

November 13th, 2011
7:07 pm

gman, I’ve been saying that Turner is not a feature RB and should never have been. He has poor feet movement and he doesn’t have “common sense” to run to the outside when he sees a pile of guys right in front of him. What does this fool do? Run and put his back to a pile of guys on the ground like he’s going to move them out of the way. He’d been better off stepping on a few of them and running over the top.

Mr. Panic Button

November 13th, 2011
7:10 pm

N.O. FAn in ATL STFU! You’re delusional if you think the Saints did anything for you to come here singing their praises. This is another example of the Falcons beating themselves with penalties and poor play calling by our coaching staff.

gman

November 13th, 2011
7:10 pm

it wasnt the decision to go, it was the play called to get it

Bro

November 13th, 2011
7:10 pm

Murlakey has no guts and no imagination. You ran the play that everyone in the stadium and the tv audiance expected. A fake to turner and a short pass would probably have been a big gain. But it is hard to run when the offensive line is pushed backwards two yards on a running play. What a bunch of wimps and what a wimpy call.

the truth...

November 13th, 2011
7:12 pm

Mularkey’s name is perfect………….he is absolutely full of it and is a total non-imaginative boring….

The problem isn’t going for it, the problem is a Defensive Coach (Smith) and a farce of an Offensive Coordinator (Mularkey) choose the call……….

Let Ryan run the offense….he is smarter than either Smith of Mularkey and runs the no-huddle great when allowed to do what he does best…

Bro

November 13th, 2011
7:13 pm

One final comment. IT IS TIME TO GET RID OF WHITE. NO HELP FOR THE TEAM AND STUPID PENELATIES. NOTHING BUT A BUM AND A STREET PLAYER. NOT A TEAM PLAYER.

J-bone

November 13th, 2011
7:17 pm

Put this one on Roddy’s shoulders…no excuse for the stupid personal fouls and penalties (Weems too.) They let the saints bait them into some bonehead situations, instead of just walking away from them. I expect much more from professionals. They’re supposed to know better.

kerryb

November 13th, 2011
7:19 pm

Don’t have a problem with Smitty being gutsy and going for it on 4 and 3-6 inches. The play call was horrible. You don’t hand the ball off 4 yards back on 4th and inches from your own 30 in OT. Horrible call.

old man

November 13th, 2011
7:19 pm

@gman, I would have gone on 4th, but with a different play. Smitty pretty much conceded that there was debate on what to do. The are really only two choices: go up the gut or do something different than that (QB boot, with or without a pitch option; TE or FB drag route; quick slant, quick sideline route, etc.). The people advocating the up the gut play won the debate. I’m quite certain they didn’t let Ryan make the call. Honestly, they should have given Ryan two or three options and let him make the call at the line. I don’t recall him even backing away and pretending to audible, even if just to throw off the Saints. Even if they locked him into a play, and gave him no option, they should have told him to do at least that. Was there any motion or anything on that play to create any indecision for the Saints? I can’t remember but I don’t think so.

asheville falcon

November 13th, 2011
7:20 pm

That was the WORST call i have ever seen!!! Why not FAKE a run and throw a screen pass to TONY!!!!! Typical MIKE SMITH!!! DUMBASS!!!!! We all saw loading the box and new to throw!!!!!
I wish i could make the same mount of money for being STUPID!!!!!!! Thanks Arther!! Idiots.
Go Dawgs. Falcons are DONE!!!!!!!! as usual.

kerryb

November 13th, 2011
7:24 pm

When I saw Matt Ryan turn to hand the ball off I knew the game was over.

old man

November 13th, 2011
7:25 pm

I’ll tell you, I’m dying to know exactly what the discussion was about the play to call. I will bet it was dictated by Malarkey. The Saints D sold out on the play we called. Anything else would have worked, barring a dropped ball or something.

I go up and down (mostly down) on Turner, but this game is not on him. 96 yards, 22 carries, 4.4 per carry. Expecting him to bounce outside like Adrian Peterson on that play is asking too much. The Saints knew what we were going to run. That’s all.

CGD...........

November 13th, 2011
7:26 pm

10-6? MAYBE? THIS WAS A HUGE LOSS……

PLAYOFFS? THIS TEAM WILL GET CRUSHED……………………………

True Falcon

November 13th, 2011
7:28 pm

I’ve always said Matt Ryan and VanGorder are the weak links in the Falcon chain and it held true today with Ryan’s terrible passes and VanGorder’s inability to dial up pressure on Brees. But Mike Smith was an idiot to go for it on 4th down when it would have automatically put the opposing team in field goal range if we didn’t make it. Big idiot!

CGD...........

November 13th, 2011
7:28 pm

RYAN YOU WILL MAKE A GREAT COACH SOON AND PROBABLY WIN A SB!

IT JUST WONT BE AS A PLAYER..

RODDY GO TALK TO A PROFESSIONAL ASAP? PLEEASE……………

COACH SMITH JUST CALL IN SICK TOMORROW. U DESERVE A DAY OFF?

embarrassing

November 13th, 2011
7:28 pm

Soho Mojo

“Rams got to Brees, why couldn’t we? Therin lies the problem for the Falcons.”

Amen….Amen…….Amen!
That is the reason this game was lost. Not the 4th down call! Not Ryan!

whodat70816

November 13th, 2011
7:31 pm

Saints Defense takes full responsibility for that stop!

WHO DAT!

old man

November 13th, 2011
7:32 pm

How could Roddy look so inspired last season, and so mediocre this season? It seems like he can’t decide if he wants to play. Or work. Maybe that’s it. If you really cared about your work, why would you get those penalties?

CGD...........

November 13th, 2011
7:33 pm

STICK A FORK IN THIS BIRD! OH WELL THIS IS A LOCK 0-47! COUNT ON IT!!!!!!

old man

November 13th, 2011
7:33 pm

Can the team just have a rule that no players are allowed to have Facebook pages or Twitter accounts? The team can have a website, that’s all. Period.

whodat70816

November 13th, 2011
7:34 pm

Where’s STEVE-O….I want to ask him how that awful saints red zone defense worked out for him today?

While I’m at it….

How in the world did the Falcons lose to a team that lost to the winless Rams? AND

How did the Saints -6 turnover ratio work out for you guys today?

WHO DAT!