Q&A: Falcons coach Mike Smith discusses his 5-0 squad

Falcons coach Mike Smith during the victory over Denver.

Falcons coach Mike Smith during the victory over Denver.

FLOWERY BRANCH — With the Falcons off to a 5-0 start for the first time in franchise history, Falcons coach Mike Smith met with the local media on Monday.

While elated with the 5-0 start, Smith knows the Falcons must continue to improve. He is not pleased with the run defense, the consistency of the coverage units and the turnovers committed by the offense.

Here’s what Smith had to say:  

OPENING STATEMENT: “For the second week in a row, we didn’t start the way we wanted to. It started with the opening kickoff and we had a nice return that was brought back because of a holding penalty. We had to start in a hole. We really shot ourselves in the foot the first half of the ball game. Self-inflicted, but we were able to show a lot of resolve, especially there in the fourth quarter coming back and scoring the 17 points to win the ball game.”

On key points to rally around going forward with the good start: “We’ve got a lot of things to improve on. First thing that comes to mind on the defensive side of the football is we’ve got to be better stopping the run. We gave up over 100 yards, 125 yards of rushing in the game yesterday. Much better in the second half. Thought we did a nice job making some adjustments there at halftime, but we did give up too many yards. It’s all

Atlanta Falcons tight end Tony Gonzalez pulls in a touchdown pass under pressure from Washington Redskins linebacker Lorenzo Alexander during the first half of an NFL football game in Landover, Md., Sunday, Oct. 7, 2012. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

Atlanta Falcons tight end Tony Gonzalez pulls in a touchdown pass under pressure from Washington Redskins linebacker Lorenzo Alexander during the first half of an NFL football game in Landover, Md., Sunday, Oct. 7, 2012. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

fixable, everything we’re talking about. I think we’ve got to become more consistent on special teams. We’ll have two real nice coverages, and then we’ll have them pop one out to the 30, 35 yard line. Those things will come back and haunt you if you’re not on top of it. You’ve got to be more consistent in our special teams, especially on our coverage units. Offensively, we haven’t turned the ball over, but when we have turned it over it’s been catastrophic. Two of them in the redzone, one returned for a touchdown and the other one in the game yesterday was in field goal range. We’ve got a lot of things we can turn to to focus on getting better.”

On holding a competition at middle linebacker: “We didn’t fit the run well. We didn’t basically take the blockers on in our terms. Our path to the ball and our tackling wasn’t what we needed it to be. We do have a rotation in the defensive line, not so much with the linebackers. We only have five linebackers on our roster, so it kind of limits us in terms of that. We’ll look at everything in terms of scheme, in terms of players and who’s playing and who’s not playing. I think it’s something we definitely have to fix.”

On keeping guys from relaxing after the 5-0 start: “During the week we try and be even-keeled. That’s something that we’ve always talked about. You’ve got to go through your preparation as a coaching staff and as a team. Then, you have to go play with emotion on gameday. I think our guys do a really good job with that. Believe me, they know, they watch the tape. Even though they were off today, we’ve probably had 80 percent of our guys in already today visiting with the coaches, wanting to talk about certain things. More about what we did poorly than what we did good. When you have that and guys are doing that on their own, I think it takes care of itself. We’ve got great leaders in our locker room all across the board that are going to make sure we stay focused on the task at hand. Right now, it’s just a start. You ask what do you think about 5-0 for the first time in franchise history? It’s just a start. That’s all it is.”

On there being an appreciation for where the team is right now in the middle of the process: “I think we’ve played efficient football for the most part this season. If you want me to look back and talk about the previous years, we did some good things. There are a lot of guys that have contributed and some are still here and some aren’t. I think you have to keep that in perspective. It is a process. I haven’t said that word in a while, but it’s a long process to get where we want as a football team and as an organization. Everybody in the organization is part of that process. Not just the 53 guys in the locker room. It’s the entire building.”

On the game yesterday changing TE Tony Gonzalez’s mind about retiring: “I was asked that and I think he said he was 98 percent at the start of the season and I know he’s not going to address it. I’m just hoping for that two percent. That’s how I’m approaching it. Tony’s playing outstanding football-13 catches yesterday. They were going to take some things away from us, in terms of how they were going to defend us, and when they did they got the ball in Tony’s hands and he was targeted 14 times and caught 13 of them. That’s hard to do.”

On balancing enjoying the great start but still grinding to get better: “I think it’s all about your focus. You’ve got to focus on the task at hand. The task at hand is mission number six for our football team. This is a group of guys, you’ve been around them, and you’ve seen them, they know how to have fun, but they also know how snap in and go to work when it’s time to work. I think that’s the important thing is that there has to be levity in everything you do in your personal life, in your work life. There are also things that you have to get accomplished and you have to do. I think everyone understands what our jobs are in this building.”

 

Atlanta Falcons running back Jacquizz Rodgers pushes Washington Redskins cornerback Richard Crawford away during the first half of an NFL football game in Landover, Md., Sunday, Oct. 7, 2012. (AP Photo/Richard Lipski)

Atlanta Falcons running back Jacquizz Rodgers pushes Washington Redskins cornerback Richard Crawford away during the first half of an NFL football game in Landover, Md., Sunday, Oct. 7, 2012. (AP Photo/Richard Lipski)

On closing the game with the ground game late:

“Each game is going to be a little bit different. My hat’s off to Coach Haslett and his staff yesterday. They did a nice job. It was very apparent what they were going to try and take away and force us to throw the ball underneath. They weren’t going to let the ball get thrown over their head in the passing game. At the end of the game, when we had to run it we were able to run it. They were loading the box when it was a run formation and again, we’re going to try and win the ball game the way it’s presented defensively. Some weeks it’s going to be running and some weeks it’s going to be passing it. The big thing for us is to score points and there is a lot of ways to score points. You can score them running. You can score them passing. You can return interceptions. You can score on special teams. Whatever we have to do to win. I think that’s the mindset that we have right now.”

On RB Antone Smith and LB Stephen Nicholas: “Both Stephen and Antone were injured in the ball game yesterday. We’ll have a little better idea on Wednesday. I can tell you this, (TE) Michael Palmer will not be back this week. We’re looking at again probably for the Philadelphia game. Stephen tried to play. It was an ankle injury and Stephen tried to play there. Came out in the second half and I thought he did a nice job getting back out there, but he just wasn’t able to push off so hopefully he’ll get feeling better in the next couple of days.”

On DT Corey Peters progress: “Corey has been working with our athletic performance group on the side. There will be a decision making process in terms of PUP from week six to week nine where you can come off the PUP. That’s coming up very quickly.”

On having a confidence that builds on itself after being successful: “Confidence is very important and it’s really about sustainability. I’ve said it many times that every team has a roster full of players that have ability. It’s the teams that can sustain it. That’s the thing that we’ve tried to build here, (GM) Thomas (Dimitroff) and the personnel guys providing us with players. We want to have sustainability for the long haul. I think you do that by building through the draft, which I believe we’ve done and supplementing with free agents and every so often trades. It’s about sustainability. You want to sustain not only from game to game and season to season but year to year. You want to have sustainability and be a relevant football team in the months of December and January. That’s really what you want to do as an organization.”

On K Matt Bryant being automatic: “It’s very calming to know that you’ve got a guy that’s going to put the ball between the pipes more times than not. He’s 100 percent this season. When the operation is good, meaning the snap, the hold, and the protection’s there, he’s going to probably knock it through. You saw what his range was yesterday. He has a very strong leg. He’s very accurate, and he’s got ice water running through his veins. I’ve said it many times. He doesn’t change his demeanor, whether it’s the first extra point of the game or it’s a game winner with five seconds to go on the clock. It’s nice to see, but I have to say our guys have done a nice job with the protection.”

On the job being different now than when you started because you’ve been here and been successful: “That’s the great thing about this job is no two days are the same. You can say that you have a routine, but there is no routine because there are so many moving parts. That’s what makes it personally so much fun to work with the guys, and men, and the ladies that we have in the organization and the building. We just have got to continue to go out and try and put together a good game plan each and every week once the season starts. That’s the number one goal and make sure to have our guys healthy because it’s about the players. You have to have the guys healthy on Sunday. I think you guys have been around enough that we give guys rest, some of the older guys during the week. I think it pays dividends. We’re five games into the season and it’s a long season.”

On QB Matt Ryan’s ability to take what the defense has given him: “I think Matt’s really matured and stepped his game up here this season through the first five games. He has a very good understanding of how people are trying to defend us. The thing about Matt is if it’s something that we haven’t seen and he can go over and look at that picture then he’s got it. That’s a good thing. When he can come back and the next time he sees it he knows where to go with the football or how to get us in the right play. He’s playing with a lot of confidence. He’s distributing the ball as you guys can see to multiple players. It’s not that he’s got one guy that he’s looking for. He’s going through the true progression and when you give him time to go through his progression he’s going to find the right guy. I thought our offense did a very nice job and our receivers, our running backs, and quarterback in allowing us to be sacked one time.”

On getting the Redskins off the field on third downs: “We did a nice job on third down. Through the season it’s not been the way we wanted it to be. I think we had the first eight in the game and they did not convert. Unfortunately, the one they did convert was a 77 yard touchdown where we had an issue with our coverage. Yesterday, I thought we had a really good tight plan for third down. I thought we did a nice job on first and second down as well. I think as I mentioned in previous games, we’ve had some issues with first down efficiency and second down efficiency as well.”

On how it feels to be one win away from being the winningest coach in franchise history: “It doesn’t mean anything in terms of what we’re trying to get done. We’re trying to win this week against the Oakland Raiders, and they’re going to be a team that’s going to come in here and be ready to play. They’ve been off for a week so they’ve had an opportunity to sit and evaluate what they’ve been doing the first four games. They’re very talented, they have a very talented running back. (RB) Darren McFadden is not only their leading rusher, but he’s also their leading receiver. (QB) Carson Palmer, the quarterback, has been a Pro Bowl quarterback. He can cut you up, so we’re going to have our hands full.”

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42 comments Add your comment

DR. FALCON

October 8th, 2012
11:35 pm

GOOD JOB, SMITTY! WE’VE GOT SOMETHING SPECIAL HERE! LET’S RIDE THIS THING ON THRU! FOR LONG TIME FALCON FANS, AS MYSELF, (34 YEARS), I WAND DESPERATELY TO PROVE THE NAYSAYERS WRONG! ATLANTA CAN BE A PRO FOOTBALL TOWN!

Singletary

October 9th, 2012
12:10 am

I can’t say ease up, but I hope the guys did enjoy their Monday off. Sustainability also requires rest. Give those 30+ an extra day during the bye week, and tell both Matty Ices to not come in early.

falconsrus

October 9th, 2012
12:21 am

Sustainability Smitty makin it happen

jofalcon

October 9th, 2012
12:55 am

Thanks Mike!!!! I love the focus each and every week……best coach ever and ur championship is coming soon.

Great Falconi

October 9th, 2012
12:58 am

On how it feels to be one win away from being the winningest coach in franchise history:

“What a joke. You’ve gotta be kidding me. 48 wins? That’s a franchise record? (loud, incredulous guffaws) This sure has been one pathetic franchise. (obvious sarcasm) I thought for sure that Glanville won more than that. He was a great coach. Anyway, I’m glad to be the guy who turned this ****show around. Wow. (shaking head) 48 wins.”

Great Falconi

October 9th, 2012
1:01 am

Smitty was then reminded that the record is 49 wins. He blamed the idiot who posted the comment that made him look stupid.

ken

October 9th, 2012
2:32 am

As a Falcons fan i love it. Falcons 5-0 and the Cheating Aints 1-4. ;)

TrueFalconFan

October 9th, 2012
6:15 am

Great Falconi=Great A**holi!!! RISE UP!

The Real Facon

October 9th, 2012
6:34 am

Dent is a joke at MLB. Has been form the start!

True American Hero

October 9th, 2012
7:43 am

Dent is a young player and will come along just like spoon did with time. The defense over all has played fairly well considering injuries and such. We have played against a Hall of Fame QB (Manning) and won, and two pretty good probably soon to be elite QBs (Cam and RG3) and won. Don’t forget Phillip Rivers, that man has his own ways of winning too. Our offense sputters at times, but comes through when it gets tight. Look around the NFL people, all the teams are competitive each week. Every team has players that can get them the win on any given Sunday. For a team that is usually mediocre in the past to be 5-0 in this league is something to be proud of. RISE UP!!!!

True Falcon Fan

October 9th, 2012
7:45 am

@6:15 HEY – I am the “True Falcon Fan” — I appreciate your pride & passion. However with all due respect you need to figure out your own name for the blogs!!!

Go Falcons — Raiders next

I usually just read but...

October 9th, 2012
8:01 am

@TrueFalconFan 6:15 am
you nailed it, Can I borrow it? I don’t think it can be said often enough. Actually, it would be nice to see at the end of every post on this blog today.
Great Falconi=Great A**holi!!! RISE UP!

Esquire

October 9th, 2012
8:01 am

True Falcon Fan is different than TrueFalconFan, no prob………..!!

Anderson

October 9th, 2012
8:23 am

Thanks,D-Led,for asking HC Smith about DT Corey Peters. HIs health/return is very important.

hoop235

October 9th, 2012
8:44 am

Thanks to Smitty, TD and Arthur for finally bringing us a team that is competitive every week and every year. If you keep working and improving, championships will come. Man it’s great to be Falcons Fan!!!

David

October 9th, 2012
8:47 am

Truckstop

October 9th, 2012
8:47 am

Glad to see they’re concerned about MLB.I’m sure they wish they had paid Lofton the big bucks ’cause just think what it would be like if he’s still here plugging the middle up (and covering the sidelines) on those running plays. The Falcons’ D would be much more stout.

Ed

October 9th, 2012
9:17 am

As a lifelong Falcons fan it warms my heart to see this team do so well. Mike Smith keeps this team level headed, and Matt Ryan has developed into a quarterback that can win this team a Super Bowl.

DR. FALCON

October 9th, 2012
10:01 am

ANYBODY SEEN HIRAMSAINT, OR SEENTHISB4? 1-5, AIN’T SO BAD! LOL!

Mikey

October 9th, 2012
10:30 am

What a team! They remind me a LOT of the ‘85 Bears. At this point in the season, they are showing an occassional dominating character but they are not yet dominating opponents consistently (just like the Bears). They are strong on defense and getting better every week. With the addition of Peters to the D-Line rotation, they could become dominating. Their offense has many more weapons than the ‘85 Bears so that is an advantage the Bears did not have. They are a team bent on continuous improvement and they are learning fast. They have great coaches that are teaching them well and they have outstanding schemes. Its only week 5 with 11 to go but you have to like what you see. It is SO nice to be a Falcons fan! GO FALCONS! RISE UP!

Big Time Dirty Bird Fan

October 9th, 2012
10:48 am

I love what Mike Smith has done over the past few years. He took a team that was down in the dumps and turned them in to perennial playoff contenders. We just got to keep on grinding, its still early and we have a lot of football to play. The season starts for us when the playoffs start. We need to show up when it counts but I am loving the start and hope we continue to build off the early success. Go Dirt Birds!! Lets bring back the Dirty bird Shuffle. ATLstand up!!!!!

GregKennesaw

October 9th, 2012
12:12 pm

Same People were calling William Moore a bust a few years ago….. Called Dunta a Bust……. look how they are playing now……

Five & O Falcons

October 9th, 2012
1:09 pm

It’s a process.

The “process” is undefeated so far this season.

Big O

October 9th, 2012
2:15 pm

I first suggested it early this year after Mike Nolan was hired as the new Defensive Coordinator, and again last month, and again today – Mr. Nolan, please let Kroy Biermann play some MLB! I have noticed Mr. Nolan, you already have used him some as a standup DE in pass coverage plays. And he looked fast and effective.

By the way, do you know Mr. Nolan that Lawrence Sidbury has a lower 40 yard time(4.53 sec.) than MLB Akeem Dent(4.73 sec.)? Sidbury’s speed, power, and height might make him a dominant MLB.

BYC

October 9th, 2012
2:37 pm

@Singletary: I was just thinking about that the other day, we got two Matty Ice’s cause Bryant is automatic. I still remember how bad Elam was, you’d never know if even the most routine FGs were going to go in. Kind of how the Redskins feel with Cundiff right now.

BYC

October 9th, 2012
2:37 pm

@Singletary: I was just thinking about that the other day, we got two Matty Ice’s cause Bryant is automatic. It’s easy to take for granted a good kicker but I still remember how bad Elam was. You’d never know if even the most routine FGs were going to go in. Kind of how the Redskins feel with Cundiff right now.

Frontman

October 9th, 2012
3:07 pm

Dent is a smaller Curtis Lofton. That doesn’t bode well for him…

Esquire

October 9th, 2012
4:34 pm

David

October 9th, 2012
8:47 am

bs
*************************************************

No man, Barry Switzer retired from coaching a long time ago…………..anyway, we got Coach Smith!!

Need extra storage space? Try Switzer’s Locker Room.
http://www.switzerslockerroom.com/

Esquire

October 9th, 2012
4:40 pm

DR. FALCON

October 9th, 2012
10:01 am

ANYBODY SEEN HIRAMSAINT, OR SEENTHISB4? 1-5, AIN’T SO BAD! LOL!
*************************************************
The Caints aint 1-5 yet, give ‘em a chance to get there on their own after their BYE week.

SeenThisB4

October 9th, 2012
5:20 pm

Hello!! I’m back to let you jerks know that my beloved Saints are back on the winning side, 12-4 is staring us in the face. You idiots just thought we were done. My man Brees has yet another record under his belt and soon, very soon, we will meet and we ALL will see just exactly who the Falcons are. Be ready to go 0-2 once again verses the Saints. Well gotta go, I got a new scratch and sniff jock strap from Drew I want to try before I got to bed.

DR. FALCON

October 9th, 2012
6:15 pm

WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN, SEENTHISB4? WE MISS YOU! NOT!! CAME OUT OF YOUR CAVE? THE FALCONS, WILL SWEEP THE ‘AINTS, THIS YEAR! YOU ONLY BEAT A SORRY ASS CHARGER TEAM! WE HELD THE CHARGERS TO 3PTS., IN THEIR OWN STADIUM! ROUTED THEM ON THE ROAD! THEY WENT UP AND DOWN THE FIELD, ON YOUR DEFENSE, IN YOUR HOUSE! YOU ACCOMPLISHED NOTHING!!!

takebadwithgood

October 9th, 2012
7:06 pm

SEEN I KNOW YOU LOVE US GIVE ME YOUR HAND ,LET ME HELP YOU ON THIS WAGON, STEP ON THAT FAIR WEATHER HIPOCRIT IN FRONT OF YOU

Falcon James

October 9th, 2012
7:09 pm

Great Article, DOL!!
The Falcon look good everywhere. Bryant is the man. He is like clock work. We had a few hickups that made the Redskin game closer than it really was. That is to be expected. When you are playing as good as the Falcon are playing, a hickup glares. So far it has not cost us a game and wins will keep coming. Bring on the Raider and then give these guys a week off. They have earned it!

Falcon James

October 9th, 2012
7:12 pm

STB4, Glad to see you climbed back on the wagon.

Can you regurgitate the Super Bowl story for us again? We just love it when you tell it.

JSS

October 9th, 2012
9:47 pm

Ledbetter, all I can say is I hope you had on a pair of Dr. Dre’s Beats to survive all that coach speak…

As I was laughing uncontrollably after we finished editing this evening and I saw the 6:15A and the 7:45 posts in succession, it just goes to prove, the last two Yugo and Ford Pinto models somehow survived and reproduced!

LOL at the Aints

October 9th, 2012
10:01 pm

JSS,, isnt it lights out at the Home,, LOL

LOL at the Aints

October 9th, 2012
10:04 pm

SeenThis will not be seen unless the Aints put together a winning streak, which Aint gonna happen with that Defense.

Adogg36

October 10th, 2012
4:58 am

Can u say Garbage aints Rise!!up!! Haters.

JSS

October 10th, 2012
7:12 am

LOL at the Aints
October 9th, 2012
10:01 pm
“JSS,, isnt it lights out at the Home,, LOL”

Not unless I forget to pay GA Power next month… How’s your business going?

dean

October 10th, 2012
8:06 am

Falcons are fun to watch this year so far. I hate to say it, though, SHOW ME IN JANUARY. If they do make it to The Big Game, leave Eugene at the house!

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