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