Q&A: Falcons coach Mike Smith addresses win over Vikings

Falcons head coach Mike Smith fights back a smile as his team improves with a 24-14 victory over the Vikings. Curtis Compton / ccompton@ajc.com

Falcons head coach Mike Smith fights back a smile as his team improves with a 24-14 victory over the Vikings. Curtis Compton / ccompton@ajc.com

Falcons coach Mike Smith didn’t want to dwell on the team’s lack of killer instinct after the 24-14 win over the Minnesota Vikings.

Here’s what Smith had to say after the win:

OPENING STATEMENT:  Did we make it exciting enough for you? As we know, playing in the NFL is always going to be a three-hour battle. Your opponent’s record when you’re playing has no bearing on the outcome of the game, from the beginning to the end. That was a hard-fought football game, and I thought we played through the ebbs and flows, especially in the second half of the game. We did a good job of keeping our composure as a football team and I think we showed our resiliency. We obviously made some mistakes that we have to address. We did improve in some areas that we had some shortcomings in last week’s game. As a coach and as a football team, you’re always having to deal with new issues and we have another set of issues that we have to deal with this week as we prepare for the Houston Texans.

ON CHRISTOPHER OWENS’ TACKLE: That was the most pivotal play in the ballgame in my opinion. For him and the effort that he put forth to run Percy Harvin down, and get him down on the three-yard line, it allowed us to put our defense out there and have an opportunity to live to play another play. We were able to have a goal line stand. There were a number of guys that made some significant plays in that goal line stand, but I believe it was Sean Weatherspoon from my vantage point that knifed in on the fourth down and was the first one to make the hit. You can’t say enough about our guy’s effort. If you have that type of effort, you are going to greatly enhance your chances of winning. You can overcome some of your shortcomings and some of the mistakes you make by hustling. That was a great play by Chris Owens.

ON MATT RYAN’S PROGRESSION OVER THIS SEASON: I think that Matt is getting much better as the season is going on. I think he has a much better understanding of what we’re asking him to do as the season has gone on. Again, we were able to do some different things in terms of our strategies and how we wanted to attack their offense, and I think he did a nice job. I think with the maturation process, the arrow is definitely continuing to go up. The thing about quarterback play is that at the end of the day, we have one more point than the other team. That’s the most important statistic.

ON THE KEYS TO THE GAME: That was a hard-fought game. Leslie Frazier and his coaching staff, I thought, did a very good job. We obviously have some things that we have to address that took place in the second half of that football game. Some of the positives, which I would like to talk about, was that we were three-for-three in the red zone. Red zone efficiency in the last two ballgames, we were two-for-nine. It was something that we took a good, hard look at in the early part of the week. I thought our improvement was evident there, but there are some other issues to deal with. That is coaching and playing the ebbs and flows of a football game, and the ebbs and flows of a football season.

ON THE VIKINGS GOING FOR IT WHEN THEY NEEDED TWO SCORES: The strategy is that you need to have two scores. I’m sure that they wanted to try to get the one there. It didn’t surprise me. There are different ways that you can approach that. The fourth-and-13, that was a big play. They ended up making a big play. Percy Harvin is quite an athlete and he made some plays in the ballgame. We were not able to eliminate his big plays.

ON WILL SVITEK STARTING OVER SAM BAKER: In terms of putting together our 46-man roster each and every week, we’re going to put our positions as open competition each and every week. Will (Svitek) has been in there and has played well. In our mind, he gave us the best opportunity to win this week. Next week, it could be something that’s completely different. That’s the way that we approach it. We said it from the very beginning. We’re going to play the players that we think are playing the best, and we’re going to play the players that give us the best opportunity to win.

ON RED-ZONE EFFICIENCY: We didn’t stub our toe like we did the last couple of weeks. We’ve had some untimely penalties the last two weeks that we weren’t able to overcome. We did do some things schematically a little bit differently, and we had some favorable down and distances and certain plays that are going to be run based on the yard line that you’re on. That red zone is always a difficult thing in terms of game planning because it does shrink the field for the defense.

–D. Orlando Ledbetter, The Atlanta Falcons beat blog

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43 comments Add your comment

FS

November 27th, 2011
7:16 pm

I think the killer instinct comes from the coach. I guarantee you that their opening drive was based on the conservative style coming from Mike Smith himself.

Be agressive and don’t let teams back in.

E Dub

November 27th, 2011
7:30 pm

This coaching staff will never have to apologize for running the score up. Why do we insist on taking our foot off the gas. Play calling hurt us against the Saints.m we should have 2 blow out victories. Defense is confident though. We’ve put to much pressure on them of late but maybe it works out for our good in January (& February).

Ichabod

November 27th, 2011
7:39 pm

As soon as we got ahead and Coach decided to go into the conservative, hunker-down, use up the clock mode, you could see the negative change in the Falcon’s play, and the Vikings become more aggressive. I’m sure Coach saw this as well, but he had committed, but it took the rest of the game to rekindle the Falcon’s fire. Owens can sure run fast, and made a great tackle, but a DB he isn’t. On that play in the endzone that he was defending he was just observing the receiver, if he had been looking at the ball he could have intercepted or defended it. Thought the team really played hard and made a lot of great plays. Bocher’s kicks have been particularly good the last few games, and I wonder what change he made. Great that we have Gonzo.

achybreakyheart

November 27th, 2011
8:08 pm

Yes..they won the game when it counted..BARELY! It seems to make absolutely no difference whom the birds are playing..they play good for PART of a game and fall asleep for other parts of the game..whats up with that??

They go against a 2-8 team and its a struggle all day..they get their dinky 17 point lead and dare the other team to beat them..and..they almost did with a rookie q/b once again!!

What is it with these sorry ass birds and ROOKIE q/b’s??….Yeah,yeah,yeah..M.S. and his same ver batim b/s!

Guess what? Another 3rd string rookie q/b will give them fits at Houston next week..Look for another close game..I say Houston by 3!!

Mo

November 27th, 2011
8:17 pm

Lawrence Sidbury quietly tied for lead in sacks with little playing time.The heir apparent IMO. Now THAT is a nice storyline.

dave

November 27th, 2011
8:24 pm

do you think if we starting throwing jones the ball he could catch it and run without pulling a hamstring. jones maybe the number one pick. but roddy is the man.

PlanB

November 27th, 2011
8:38 pm

MS had better quit playing so conservative when getting a lead or he could easily lose a couple of games and we don’t have room for that kind of loss. Good rundown by Owens but as Ichabod said, he is no CB. TD needs to be looking for another CB for depth when Grimes, Robinson or Hayden is out. Don’t know about Hayden’s injury still.

Sick & Tired Of Being Sick & Tired

November 27th, 2011
8:44 pm

I’m glad for the win…..BUT…….The conservative play calling from Mularkey/Smith is going to keep this team for going very far if they make the playoffs. Everybody in the Dome knows that Turner is going to run the ball on 1st downs when Mularkey calls the plays. Only when Ryan goes to the no-huddle is there enough variation in the plays to keep the other team’s defense off balance. PLEASE LET RYAN CALLED THE ENTIRE GAME!!!!!!

stendek

November 27th, 2011
9:18 pm

I changed my mind about Chris Owens. The young man singlehandedly pulled the Falcon tailfeathers out of the fire against a vastly inferior team from the Twin Cities. Thanks Chris. The defensive coordinator should have been given his walking papers when the Vikings converted that fourth and forever into a TD. Indefensible. Matt Ryan, Michael Turner and company proceeded to claim a 17-0 lead then went into hibernation. The conservative approach is sort of like the prevent defense – it more often than not prevents a win. MR had some decent throws but was way off on many others. Too many. MT started out with 40 or so quick yards then finished with well under 100. So much for controlling the game tempo and clock. The fourth down TD pass infuriated me but I also give kudos to the Falcon D for the game preserving goal line stand. Who cares if it came against a group without its top RB or QB? Not me. The FG kicker was fine as was the punter. Now that KO unit is another story. Which brings me back to Chris Owens… :)

Flo=Ri-Duh

November 27th, 2011
9:45 pm

When is Julie-O going to earn his keep? I had two questions about him when the Falcons drafted him. Is he durable enough- injured often in college. Are his hands good enough. He has some drops and some great catches. I will give him one more year but he needs to show us why he was drafted so high. He needs to start getting in the end zone.

Mo

November 27th, 2011
10:04 pm

You’ll give him one more year hell this is his first year. Weak a$$ falcon fans in here. LOL

Tommyb

November 27th, 2011
10:12 pm

Wow the Debbie downers I agree malarky sux van gorder has bad karma(ga southern)
But we have 7 wins

gem

November 27th, 2011
10:13 pm

disappointing win, but as Bobby says. A w is a W

hiramsaint

November 27th, 2011
10:39 pm

and 2nd place is 2nd place!

Michael M.

November 27th, 2011
10:46 pm

Go Giants………….Beat the Saints !

CDG..

November 27th, 2011
11:28 pm

one and done….

CDG..

November 27th, 2011
11:29 pm

Bobby Cox Jr…..

Butch

November 27th, 2011
11:57 pm

Smith is the most consistent winning coach the Falcons have ever had. He knows what has to be done.

DR. FALCON

November 28th, 2011
12:46 am

WE HAVE 2 TOUGH ROAD GAMES COMING UP! IT DOESN’T TAKE A ROCKET SCIENTIST TO KNOW, THAT NOBODY CAN STOP OUR 2-MINUTE, OR NO-HUDDLE OFFENSE! MATT RYAN WILL LEAD US IF MULARKEY RELEASES THE REINS ON RYAN, AND LET HIM DO HIS THING! SUPPORT OUR QB, MULARKEY!!!!!

trademark

November 28th, 2011
3:55 am

The problem is clear, and also not so clear. Here’s the rub: we all know and have screamed to the high heavens that this conservative play-calling crap has got us into more hot water than we deserve, letting teams back into games that they have no business being in in the first place. BUT, we do end up winning a ton of these games. I think what the coaching staff doesn’t know is that this formula WILL NOT work in the playoffs. That’s probably a good reason the Falcons (current incarnation) haven’t won one. It’s a big problem; we know how to win games in the regular season, but haven’t established that “killer” identity needed for the playoff run. Maybe the Jekyll/Hyde approach we’ve seen from the Falcons so often lately, ala “play one half ,balls to the walls, the other, meh” is them testing the waters to see if this approach is working. I would say a big yes. The other thing is that it is also possible that this is not the coaching staff. I remember a game in Ryan’s rookie season where John Abraham was miked-up and highlighted on “Inside the NFL” The Falcons built a big lead, and Abraham said something along the lines of: “I love games like this, we can relax and chill for awhile…over by the third quarter”, or something like that. I remember thinking, and still do, that this is NOT the attitude of a “killer-instinct” team. I’m wondering if this attitude is somehow coming from the players side as well. Not necessarily Abraham, but maybe it permeates the roster. If so, there is a HUGE problem to address, bigger than just adjusting some play calling. I hope I’m wrong there.

Oh, and before I forget…achybreaykvagina, you are a Troll. Go back under that bridge you crawled out from. You can make all the little NO wishes you want from there.

Sly Ty

November 28th, 2011
4:12 am

@ Flo=ri=da I am amazed at all the negative posts…..we did win the game, RIGHT? Being over aggressive can cause you to lose as well, just ask the Dallas Cowboy fans.

Rev Blake

November 28th, 2011
4:52 am

At some point, the coaching staff needs to let Ryan call the game! He has more than proven that he can run the no-huddle. I am so frustrated over this win because it didn’t HAVE to be close! Why does Smith feel a need to ATTEMPT to maintain a lead rather than BUILD on the lead? I’ve had enough of this “Rise Up” talk. I’m ready for a new chant.. “CUT RYAN LOOSE!!!”

old man

November 28th, 2011
6:28 am

@stendek

Give me a break. Ryan was off target? Completed 80% even with two drops by his receivers? What completion percentage will satisfy you? We have a total of 22 posts on this blog. I suppose that’s all you have left when you subtract out all of the Ryan haters (except one) who aren’t stupid enough post their drivel after he has a 128 QB rating. He is one of the top 2 or 3 winningest in the league since he was a rookie. Even when his stats are down, he wins. What a bunch of numbskulls.

trademark

November 28th, 2011
6:44 am

@old man. Agreed, some people are completely going to be against Ryan no matter what the hell he does. Even when (NOT “IF) he wins a Super Bowl, they will still criticize his play somehow, deserved or not. Perfect example:

“Matt Ryan completed 27-of-34 passes in the Falcons win over the Vikings. His completion pct of 79.4% is the highest in a single game by a Falcons QB with at least 30 attempts. Previous high was 78.4 pct (29-37) by Jeff George in Week 1 of 1994 at Detroit.”

And another Falcon passing record bites the dust….Period. End of Story. TTFN

old man

November 28th, 2011
7:15 am

We might end up being grateful for a Saints win tonight. If we beat out the Giants for the last wildcard by one game, then the Saints will be the team that puts us in the playoffs. A Giants win would leave six NFC teams with a 7-4 record.

Ackshun

November 28th, 2011
7:15 am

Hmmm when the Giants get through smacking the Saints aroiund tonight we will be tied for first with 5 games left.

terrell

November 28th, 2011
7:54 am

I guess Owens is good for something. lol

terrell

November 28th, 2011
7:59 am

Ackshun, the Saints can have the division. Didnt get us anywhere last year anyway. Just get in the Playoffs. Might be better for us if the Giants to lose, since they’re right behind us in the wildcard race. Giants lose this week, and next week to GB, and all we have to worry about are the Lions(who we hold the tiebreaker over). We’ve got the Saints again later in the year, so if you want a division trophy, we’ve still got time for that. I want that other trophy myself(LOMBARDI).

terrell

November 28th, 2011
8:04 am

Btw, I’m sorry Abe, I’m sorry Lofton, and I’m sorry Grimey, but Sean Weatherspoon is now our BEST defensive player.

Zoomie

November 28th, 2011
8:46 am

Good play by Owens to stop a TD.

If one “Oh s**t!” erases 20 “attaboys,” then Chris Owens owes the Falcons about 199 more “attaboys” to break even.

Of course, on the 4th-and-13 blown double-coverage that resulted in a touchdown, it was nice to see another Falcon besides Decoud in the camera with Owens. Welcome change of scenery.

Which brings up an interesting question: what type defensive scheme has a LB covering Percy Harvin downfield on an obvious passing play? Van Gorder? Buehler? Anyone?

And were my ears/eyes playing tricks on me, or during the second half, did I actually hear one of the announcers say, “Falcons first-and-ten: Turner up the middle for one yard” before the play was even run . . .

Mikey

November 28th, 2011
8:57 am

Congratulations Falcons! You are RISING UP! All three phases of the game are showing continued improvement. This is a complement to great coaching and lots of hard work from ALL the players. The offense is especially gratifying. This game demonstrated a very versatile offense that will be difficult to stop and can strike quickly. The defense is hustling and becoming more effective across the board with exceptional play from Sidbury and Spoon at crunch time. The red zone definitely improved and professionalism improved. Only 4 penalties and getting better. That really helped!

It is apparent that this team has the ability to jump on any team in the NFL, including the vaunted GB Packers. The next challenge for the coaching staff will be how to maintain a lead and control the adjustments that opponents make during the second half. This has appeared as a “nice to have” weakness since the Packers game but I have no doubt that this excellent team will address it. Fantastic progress team! Keep up the great work and show us how to handle Houston! RISE UP FALCONS! It is really a pleasure to watch OUR TEAM executing so well!

veaserva

November 28th, 2011
9:08 am

Letter: To coach Smith when you get a team down like the Falcons did in their last game you don’t let up and start playing conservative football . You put your foot on the neck of your opponent and finish the job .

JayCool 4Da Birds

November 28th, 2011
9:31 am

I don’t know what game you were watching where Ryan was mis-firing but he ony had seven incompletions and three of those were drops. Spoon is a beast on defense but Lofton is by far our best defensive player and since he will be a free agent at the end of the year look for him to get a fat pay check. Glad we won the game, we just have to fix the big plays that the defense are giving up. Get well soon Brent Grimes because we need you.

Mo

November 28th, 2011
9:34 am

The problem as I see it is some of you want Matt Ryan to be a certain type of QB…like a Brady, Rodgers or Manning or even now a Newton and yes I dare say it but a Brees. Guys with big arms that can beat you with the dip and dunk then kill you with the long ball, when guys like this have the very semblance of a running game and an average D they become unstoppable. Matt Ryan is not that guy. Don’t get me wrong I think we can win a ring with Matt Ryan and that’s really all that matters. The difference is some QB’s can make average players look like superstars(Welker, Woodhead, Moore, Nelson, Clark etc) and some QB’s need superstars to be successful, Ryan IMO is the latter of the 2. A tough Irish kid that through hard work perserverance and determination will bring Falcons fans what we so justly deserve A RING but it will take building a team of very good athletes around him. Most of the key pieces are in place IMO they just have to mature mentally and physically together. I too have found myself blaming the coaching staff when I see certain play calls that did not work but the simple truth is these guys are professionals and not only do they desperately want to succeed on a high level they have probably forgotten more about football than most of you will ever know sitting on your couch drinking beer and scratching yourselves. Every week I see someone post complaints about football plays that probably could not explain to me the difference between a 4-3 and a 3-4 defense or why a QB identifies the mike backer on every play. Simple stuff. Lets just be fans of the game stop being coaches you can’t be a coach your not qualified to be one and if you can’t be a true fan take your weak a$$ somewhere and watch a freakin soccer game and STFU!!

2 > 7

November 28th, 2011
9:53 am

Thanks, Coach for making the right call on Svitek/Baker. I’m ready for a Colts style offense: all no-huddle, with Matt calling the plays.

CDG..

November 28th, 2011
9:57 am

Coach Smith=Bobby Cox Jr
Melt= Chipper Jones

at least Bobby and Chipper won some playoff games…lol

CGD..

November 28th, 2011
9:58 am

2-9 really? Yawn..

Mo

November 28th, 2011
10:00 am

I rest my case LMAO!!!

CGD..

November 28th, 2011
10:13 am

2-5 last 7 against the winners= meltdown coming. I rest too Curley.. lmbo

True Falcon Fan

November 28th, 2011
12:52 pm

Was not a walk in the park, but i will take the “W”

Texans Next

Go Falcons

True Falcon Fan

November 28th, 2011
12:53 pm

CGD = BLAHBLAHBLAHBLAH………………..

MTSeats

November 28th, 2011
6:37 pm

Even God knows Ryan is smarter than Moooolarkey. And MSmith better learn this ain’t church!

Iron Head

November 28th, 2011
8:37 pm

Great post MO