Q&A: Coach Mike Smith sifts through the rubble

New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees passes during the second quarter. AP

New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees passes during the second quarter. AP

NEW ORLEANS — Falcons coach Mike Smith was caught off guard by his team’s woeful performance against the Saints.

“I didn’t see that coming,” Smith said.

Here’s what he had to say after the Saints routed the Falcons 45-16 on Monday night.

OPENING STATEMENT: We obviously are disappointed in the way that we played i the ball game tonight. We didn’t play well enough in any phase of the game to give ourselves a chance to win. We didn’t make enough plays. There were some opportunities early on and then it kind of got out of hand there at the end.

ON WHERE IT WENT SIDEWAYS: We were 0 for 3 in the red zone. We didn’t score touchdowns when we got down there. We really had a tough time in the first half stopping them on third down. They were 8 for 8 on third downs and we had some very favorable down and distances. Third-and-8, third-and-10, third-and-12, third-and-13 and we weren’t able to get them off the field. That was really the thing that happened there in the first half. I thought the special teams played well through the first 30 minutes. Then in the second half they gave up the real long kickoff return to Sproles. . . That’s kind of where it got out of hand and got out of whack. We had way too many penalties. The penalties were very lopsided in terms of penalties committed against our team. Some of them happened in the red zone and knocked up behind the sticks and early in the ball game as well.

ON TRYING TO RALLY IN THE SECOND HALF LIKE THEY DID AGAINST CAROLINA: No doubt about it. We knew we had to come out and play one play at a time. We went out there and got an interception on that first series defensively, but the offense had a three and out. Then the next drive I believe they went down and scored on an 80-yard drive. They had way too many long drives where they were moving the ball in chunks.

ON THE PASS DEFENSE: We had some opportunities to get them on the ground twice there in the first half and he was able to get out. If you don’t get the pressure and affect Drew, he’s going to make the throws. That’s what they did today. Unfortunately, we did not play very well today. I know that our guys are disappointed in the way that we performed.

ON IF THE SAINTS RAN UP THE SCORE AT THE END: Drew Brees has had an outstanding season in terms of the number of yards that he’s thrown for. My hat is off to Drew. That’s a longtime record here in the NFL. He accomplished that tonight against us.

ON THE STATE OF THE DEFENSE: I hope it’s an aberration in terms of the way that we’ve been playing defense. We had some opportunities there in the first half where the ball was thrown. We had opportunities to intercept it and we didn’t intercept it and they were able to continue and keep their drives alive. It happened twice in the first half. We were not on top of our game in any phase in terms of our football team in my mind. We just weren’t playing very consistently. It was just not the type of effort that you want to have when so much is on the line in terms of what the outcome could have meant to our football team.

ON HOW HE FELT COMING INTO THE GAME: I felt like we have a very good week of preparation. I though the guys handled Christmas Day and Christmas break that we had built into our schedule. I didn’t see this coming. We didn’t play Atlanta Falcons football and the scoreboard indicates that.

ON WHY THEY DIDN’T RUN MORE NO-HUDDLE: I think we ran a little bit more than that (six plays). Early in the game we moved the ball down the field. In the third drive, we jumped into our no huddle. We moved the ball down the field, but we weren’t able to put it in the end zone. Then in the second half we ran some of our no huddle out of our 21 personnel package. We were running it not out of our 3-wide set. We were running it out of two-back, one-tight end set.

ON REGROUPING: It’s just like any other week. We have to make corrections. We have to evaluate the film. Believe it or not, there’s going to be some positives that you’re going to be able to take out of this game.

ON THE TEAM BEING TOO HAPPY ABOUT BEING IN THE PLAYOFFS: There was a lot to play for in this ball game in terms of seeding in the post-season tournament. Believe me, our internal goals are much higher than just making the playoffs and being a participant in the playoff field. We knew what was at stake tonight. We knew that we didn’t have complete control, but we had an opportunity if we would have taken care of business there would have been a potential to move up in the seedings. . . we are disappointed. But no, I don’t think it had anything to do with us becoming a member of the playoff picture and securing a spot. We were fighting our tails off before the ball game to try to enhance and get our seeding a little bit higher.

FOLLOWUP ON IF THE SAINTS RAN UP THE SCORE TO GET BREES THE RECORD: Again, guys I’m not going to comment on that in terms of running up the score. It’s our job to go out there and stop them. I doesn’t matter if they are running the ball or throwing the ball. The job of our defense is to go out and stop them. Again, my hat is off to Drew Brees. It’s a record that’s been long-standing. He’s had a great season.

–D. Orlando Ledbetter, The Atlanta Falcons beat blog

Get instant updates on Twitter at AJCFalcons and you can join the Facebook Fan page at AJC Falcons.

682 comments Add your comment

P. Bull Terrier

December 27th, 2011
1:28 am

Rumble or rubble? First or too slow?

DMF1120

December 27th, 2011
1:29 am

Smitty always with the classy answers

DMF1120

December 27th, 2011
1:30 am

Rubble and first damn it!

P. Bull Terrier

December 27th, 2011
1:40 am

I didn’t think the Saints were running up the score at the end, but they were obviously trying to pad Brees’ stats so he could get the passing record before tha game ended. I’m surprised and a little disappointed that the Falcons didn’t seem more motivated to keep Brees from setting the record against them. At then end of the game, something as simple as taking an offsides penalty would likely have prevented Brees from setting the record until next week. It might seem a little cheap to prevent him from breaking the record by taking a penalty, but it also seemed a little cheap to set the record by passing when the Saints would normally be running out the clock.

Dr. Warren

December 27th, 2011
1:42 am

It’s all about the quarterback. Ryan is good. Brees is super-great. If the Falcons had Brees, the score would have been reversed, as well as the teams’ fortunes.

StevoDeg

December 27th, 2011
1:43 am

DMF, I totally agree. Smitty never seems to say anything controversial. I, for one, didn’t feel they were running up the score; they wanted him to get it, and I like how Smitty said that “it’s our job to go out and stop them whether they are throwing the ball or running the ball.” Congrats to Brees and the Saints! Looking forward to next week and the week after!

Ben

December 27th, 2011
1:46 am

Something tells me the Falcons blew this game knowing they’d face the Saints in the playoffs in 2 weeks. They wanted to see what the Saints did best, then use that against them in the playoff game. You really think the Falcons played their hardest and lose 45-16? Call me crazy, but that’s IMO.

JSS

December 27th, 2011
1:50 am

Ran up the score? Man, this is the NFL! If you can’t stop it, then get out of the way!!!

JSS

December 27th, 2011
1:52 am

C-R-A-Z-Y talk!!!

who dat #15

December 27th, 2011
1:52 am

Ben

December 27th, 2011
2:00 am

No win is as good as it seems, and no loss is as bad as it seems. And your never as good, or as bad as you think you are.

Fire BVG

December 27th, 2011
2:06 am

I know Smitty won’t comment about the officiating but someone should at least ask him so that it’s out there.

JSS

December 27th, 2011
2:07 am

“And your never as good, or as bad as you think you are.”

Phooey!!! January 15th showed exactly what they were… The loss to the Texans showed exactly how to stiffle them… And tonight showed exactly will happen when they get into armed conflicts with teams that have superior firepower!

BrickHead

December 27th, 2011
2:26 am

Well the good times rolled into the river. The Falcons looked bad…………….I mean BAD. If they can’t finish the drill in the red zone, they will get there ass handed to them quickly in the first round and it will not be pretty. Good times were fun while it lasted! LOL

painter

December 27th, 2011
2:26 am

Poor Mike Smith. What a joke of a performance in front of the entire country.

Reggie

December 27th, 2011
2:42 am

ON IF THE SAINTS RAN UP THE SCORE AT THE END: Drew Brees has had an outstanding season in terms of the number of yards that he’s thrown for. My hat is off to Drew. Wait did the coach just “tip his hat”….hmmm seems like i heard this before

Jay Dubu

December 27th, 2011
2:43 am

This game reminded me of the playoff game against Green Bay last season. The Falcons’ defense could not stop the opposing offense on 3rd downs.

dawgforlife

December 27th, 2011
2:49 am

I can’t think of a single player who had a good game…Ryan played okay…didn’t turn the ball over…but, you have to get the ball in the end zone..of course some of the blame also has to go to that bunch of mularky we call an OC…seriously!…we had 11 days to prepare (and I waited 11 days to see) and that showing is the best we could come up with…dang, if we can’t do any better than this, we don’t deserve the playoffs….truly tonight we saw just how far away from an elitre team we truly are…two high pressure games against elite teams GB 48-21…and it wasnt even that close….NO 45-16 and it wasn’t even that close…shakes head

Heath

December 27th, 2011
3:09 am

We need a break away running back. Mike Turner rumbles, but we have no one that can break away. I guess we’ll draft a 160 lb RB in the 6th round that will be knocked backwards whenever someone breathes on him.

Joe Falcon

December 27th, 2011
3:28 am

Falcons clinched playoff spot Sunday. This was a meaningless exhibition game for the Falcons. Nobody got hurt, that’s all that matters. And we’re in the playoffs, that’s all that matters. Hopefully we will see a third and final REMATCH that COUNTS in the PLAYOFFS in NEW ORLEANS. Records don’t matter, season doesn’t matter, states don’t matter because it’s WINNER TAKE ALL, BABY!

What?

December 27th, 2011
3:40 am

Didn’t play Falcon football??

Been a fan for 35 years. Unfortunately Coach Smith, the one thing we can safely say after that debacle is your team played Falcon football, perfectly.

Bet the house

December 27th, 2011
3:46 am

If we have a rematch it will be a rare opportunity to bet (and win) on an absolute sure thing. No matter the Vegas line, bet everything you have and everything you can borrow against the Falcons.

They are 2-10 in their last 12 against NO and have mentally capitulated. The 4th down stop in OT in the first game will be remembered as the turning point in the Smith regime-after that, the deluge!

HATinGA

December 27th, 2011
6:14 am

Cant play zone and rush 3and 4 guys he eats it alive. I mean could playing man and bringing pressure work worse? The Zone defence against an elite passer is death, the teams that beat NO this year maned up and came after Brees. The Idea with zone is to hit the reciever and knock the ball out, and thats a penalty now.

Buddy Landell

December 27th, 2011
6:34 am

Bet the house- smitty made the correct call on that 4th and inches earlier this year. higher probability: we convert 4th and inches or we stop Drew Brees?

Tim

December 27th, 2011
6:46 am

Falcons are pretenders. Two wins against teams with winning records. That says it all. The defense is as weak as it’s been in several years. This season will end the same way last year did. With a tremendous thud.

ctfalconsfan

December 27th, 2011
7:11 am

Clearly this season has been a disappointing one and unfortunately many Falcon fans are just happy making the PO but this team had sooo much promise, a loaded offense that should be in the Top 3 in all offensive categories but is instead is just middle of the road…
I’m at the point that I hope we lose the next two so that Mr. Blank will look for a better coach as Smitty and his his staff are out coached weekly.
- If we dont fire Smitty then we at least need to fire both coordinators as MM and BVG haven’t done the job required!!

Old White Haired Man

December 27th, 2011
7:16 am

Ouch!!! In the words of a long time falcons fan “Well, there is always next year…”

Sick and Tired

December 27th, 2011
7:19 am

This game disgusts me. We S%&k!!! Mr. Blank PLEASE go at least talk to Bill Cowar (spelling) and at the VERY LEAST fire Brian VanGorder! Our defense is horrible!!! We’ve got guys playing a scheme they are not meant to play. Even little league coaches can see it!

hitithard

December 27th, 2011
7:25 am

exactly right ctfalconsfan, Tim, What?, and dawgforlife. Hard to say it any better. I think it is very obvious to most people that our defense is weak. Our run defense is better than they showed last night but our pass defense is always bad, year after year. The main reason for that is our pass rush is always the worst in the NFL. Our offense is better than most but play calls are consistently predictable, overall pitiful. Both coordinators need to go and if Smith cant do it he needs to go also.

Ellabell 1

December 27th, 2011
7:27 am

40 year Falcon fan. That was classic Falcon football. When we get to a big game, we always seem unprepared. It’s time for Mike Smith to quit being Mr. Nice Guy and start getting a little mean!

DJ

December 27th, 2011
7:28 am

Come on folks. If you believed the birds(on MNF) were to win…I have prime real estate for sale in flood ravaged Cobb County as a great vacation/resort setting.

hitithard

December 27th, 2011
7:31 am

I’ve been a Falcon fan for 32 years and what is so frustrating is we are still not one of the best teams in the league. Blank has brought a lot of talent to this team, and under Smith we are better than we have been in the past, but we are not good enough to beat teams in the playoffs and have no chance to go to the Super Bowl. We are so bad in some key positions. Has anyone watched these games? Our defensive front 4 needs to be CUT and replaced with really, anybody. It is so obvious. Our DBs are not good enough but really are asked to do too much because our front 7 is so weak. If we did have Bill Cower I am sure he would clean house on defense cause he would not stand for such mediocrity and inconsistency.

Buddy Landell

December 27th, 2011
7:34 am

Stop with the Bill Cowher talk. He will come back to coaching and fare about as well as Jimmy Johnson did with the Dolphins. The current Pittsburgh coach is doing better than Cowher did. Dick Lebeau is the evil genius up there, the HC is the figurehead.
Falcons FA flops- PeerlessPrice, Edgerton Hartwell, Ike Reese, Dunta Robinson, Ray Edwards

Hey CT Falcons Fan...

December 27th, 2011
7:34 am

…I’m in CT too! Are there really two of us up here? Where are you? I’m in Wallingford…

Buddy Landell

December 27th, 2011
7:35 am

Please edit the title to “Rubble”, instead of Rumble. We looked inept on the field. They are laughing at our team, probably at our beatwriter too. last night

Falcon Bill

December 27th, 2011
7:38 am

It pains me to say it, but my hat’s off to Drew Brees. He’s not just a great football player, but he’s a good man as well, a high quality individual. I just hate that he plays for the despised Saints. Congratulations on the record Mr. Brees. May it stand for a long time. That said, I hope we kick the living snot out of Tampa Bay this week!

Big Dude

December 27th, 2011
7:39 am

Van Gorder, go back to college football. Too much talent on this team to be wasted away. Mularkey will get his shot elsewhere and will not be missed. What a wasted year! Nothing to draft next year for improvement on defense or offense. Totally frustrated…..

Hey CT Falcons Fan...

December 27th, 2011
7:39 am

It’s just so frustrating when the team can be good enough to beat all of the mediocre and awful teams but can’t hang with the elite (e.g. NE, Pitt as well as GB and NO). We don’t have a signature win in the Smith/Ryan era but some nice regular season wins (@ Jets in ‘09, vs. Baltimore last year, @ San Diego and @ GB in ‘08, @ NO last year )…just wish we could get to the next level…

ctfalconsfan

December 27th, 2011
7:40 am

Hey CT Falcon fan, I’m in Clinton, there’s another one of us in Westbrook as well so at least 3 Falcon Fans strong in CT!!!

SeenThis B4

December 27th, 2011
7:42 am

“The Saints have defeated the Falcons twice already and that’s got to be in the heads of the Atlanta players.” — Pat Yasinskas, ESPN NFCS

That’s true, if the Saints get a early lead in the playoffs against ATL, I think the birds will roll over.

It is also apparent that that is true as well for their fans, the Saints are definitely in their heads now.

So much for all the talk about keeping this a close game. I said it would be a blow out, and I was vindicated.

I am a Saints fan to the core but all this talk about Mike Smith needing to go, is abosulutely crazy. He’s the best coach the ATL has had in decades, and some of you want to get rid of him. Shameful.

Wrecker

December 27th, 2011
7:45 am

Record of teams Saints have beaten, excluding the Falcons: 62-88. They are better than the Falcons, but let’s not pretend they have played a tough schedule. Saints’ SOS is 30th in the league according to Sagarin.

Cal

December 27th, 2011
7:45 am

Why do we keep coming back to this every other week. STOP IT!! The falcons secondary is horrible and has always been. The pass rush is sub par at best (on one side). I wonder if I’m the only one living in reality……..We need a new D Coordinator (OC to for that matter).
The falcons have never invested in a good secondary yet, which is crazy because the NFC has become a pass first confrence. The falcons has no chance to win in the playoff, not even against the Lions. The falcons have not beat a good team once this year (they beat the lions when they running backs were injured and Stafford was not at a 100%). I’m not going to get my hopes up because i know the out come of this playoff run, and it’s not good. My only problem, is the fans keep watching us beat below average teams, they’ll beat Tampa Bay this weekend and the fans will think its all good again. The week after the falcons will get smashed in the first round of the playoffs. The point is…….If the fans don’t start being honest and complaining about the product on the field, we’ll be doing this same thing next year.

Jesse Tanner

December 27th, 2011
7:49 am

For one, there is no defense, Dunta – Doesn’t and Abraham couldn’t pass rush the old folks home. Where is this expensive interior line (Jerry and the Peters)? Smitty needs to look hard at keeping Van Gorder, and consider getting rid of Mulelarkey also. If Spagnola becomes available dump Van Gorder and get Sagnola. Maybe he can motivate that bunch. Very lack luster, and no heart.

Hey CT Falcons Fan...

December 27th, 2011
7:49 am

Three of us in CT? That’s amazing…how far back to you go? I became a fan in the 80s when I was a kid and loved Bartkowski/Andrews/Jenkins etc…and thought all the local teams were boring in comparison…

Seenthis is right, by the way–Smith is the best coach we’ve had. But at some point this team needs to go to the next level…who knows, maybe they’ll shock the world and win a playoff game…

Big Dude

December 27th, 2011
7:52 am

Hey Seen This, If this is the case, The next game (1st. rd p.o.) will be will be like this last game. I want to believe that this was a total embarasment to the Falcons, that they come back and save face and blow the Saints out of the Superdome. Congrats to Brees.

Dee

December 27th, 2011
7:52 am

Man, what was up with the refs last night? Normally, I don’t complain about the refs,but last night was atrocious. A missed offsides by the Saints defense, a flag on a holding call called back nullifying a safety, PIs not called with their CB coming over the back of Julio. Just wow.

Falcon Bill

December 27th, 2011
7:55 am

I’ve seen several posts on here saying this or that player is no good, and I have to disagree. We have some very fast, athletic and smart players on our defense. We just ask them to do dumb things. What I don’t get is why we’re mostly playing a soft zone. We’re essentially in a “prevent” defense most of the time. When have you ever seen it prevent anything bad from happening? We have the personnel to have a swarming, aggressive defense like Pittsburgh or Baltimore, but we don’t take advantage of the talent we have.

On offense, we really miss Harvey Dahl, and we need a stud LT. You saw how the Saints O-line abused us last night. The center of their line is huge and strong. Their tackles are quick and athletic. Fix the O-line and we’ll become an elite offense. Oh, and learn how to run a screen play!

SeenThis B4

December 27th, 2011
7:55 am

What would you have gained on the Safety, Brees didn’t get the first down and the Saints had to punt anyway. All that controversial call did was not reduce the score by 2 points. Big whoop.

Statick

December 27th, 2011
7:56 am

I wonder how long Smitty is going to go with Brian VanGorder as his DC. The guy blows. There’s a reason the defense hasn’t been able to get off the field on 3rd down for the past 3 years. It’s not the players, it’s the college type scheme that we run and the college type idiot we have running it. Fire VanGorder. He’s outclassed when it comes to going against elite QBs and/or aggressive offensive playcallers like a Sean Payton.

Preston Thompson

December 27th, 2011
7:57 am

Are you folks ready to believe me yet? The Falcons are not ready for prime time and the playoffs is going to be an embarrassment, but last night should a fool the light. Malarky is out of his mind. Who in their right mind is going to put a 5′6″ back in to block a defensive end? Then have to watch him tackle the end to stop im. Yep, you guessed right this time, Malarky.

I’ve said this before too, if the one perticular defensive backs, yeah, and some of the others too, insist on looking like witch doctors, then go to Hati and do it right. But if you want to play football cut those damn worms off your head and study football. You are a joke and a sad excuse to call yourself part of a football team. That Robinson looks as lost a last years easter eggs.

When those two changes are made, look out Atlanta, you gonna see some things happen you’re gonna like.