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