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Atlanta Falcons Matt Ryan and Mike Smith preview Saints game

Atlanta Falcons Quarterback Matt Ryan
Conference Call With New Orleans Media
Wednesday, September 4, 2013

What are your overall thoughts about the game against the Saints this Sunday?

"I think everybody is really excited to get the regular season going.  Obviously it is a place we are very familiar with, (and) a team we are very familiar with.  We know it's going to be a tough challenge for us down there, (it) always is.  There are always a well-coached, tough, physical football team and we are going to have to handle the environment when we get down there, but I think that is something that our veterans can help some of the younger guys come along.  We are going to practice hard all week so we are ready to go come Sunday noon central time."

Are you a little curious to see what they will throw you defensively with a new scheme?

"Definitely.  It is one of those things early in the year, it's always a little more difficult when you are going against a new coordinator.  We have obviously played against Rob Ryan before and know the challenges that his scheme presents and certainly there are some.  There is nothing you can do about it.  We will have to make adjustments as we see during the game and get a feel for what they are trying to do and who is going to be out there. That's the case for everybody this time of the year."

Were you a little surprised this was the first game on the 2013 schedule for both clubs?

"No, I'm never surprised with the way the schedule shakes out.  It's different every year and like I said, I think everyone is just excited to get this season underway."

How do you think the Saints defense will respond after being the worst defense in NFL history last year?

"They have talent.  They have talented players and they are a very prideful bunch.  I know that every time we played against them it has been a physical matchup and a tough matchup.  I expect them to play very well, I really do.  It's going to take our best and a really good effort from us to go out there and be successful."

What can you tell us about Steven Jackson and the impact he has on your team?

"Steven has been great for our football team.  He is a great leader.  Obviously, he has been an incredible player for his tenure in the league.  He is a huge addition for us.  I think on the field, his diverse skill set adds to our offense.  But, even more so off the field, just his work ethic, his experience and his leadership has been huge for our locker room.  I think guys have been very impressed and have tried to emulate some of the things that he does."

What stands out to you that has made Drew Brees so successful for a long period here in New Orleans?

"I think it is his work ethic and I say that from watching him from afar.  I think he is always extremely well-prepared.  It's like every week he is extremely consistent and he knows how to attack defenses.  He is aggressive, but he is also, during the offseason, is an extremely hard worker.  So I think there is no shortcut to that kind of success.  I think you have to work towards it and he has certainly done that and been an incredible player."

You and Drew both received lofty contracts the last two years; do you feel a burden on you to play up to that contract?

"I can only speak for myself, but I set high expectations for my own performance in the way that I work.  I think at the end of the day if you are worrying about what everybody else thinks, it's taking away from you being the best player that you can be.  For me, I am going to continue to work and prepare the same way that I always have in trying (to find) ways to get better, improve, and work harder.  I'm going to focus on that and then try and let all the other stuff take care of itself.  That's been the way I have approached my career and that's the way it's going to be the way I continue to approach it."

How did you approach this offseason after being so close to the Super Bowl last year?

"I think it's important to learn from your past experiences whether they be good or bad and try and use that as motivation moving forward. I think guys have done a great job of that.  You don't want to be consumed with what we did last year because obviously, it has no bearing on what's going to happen this season.  For the most part during the offseason, training, and training camp, it has provided the motivation that we need, that we needed at those times, but I think for everybody and specifically myself, I think the exciting part is what's in front of us, the opportunity that is in front of us this season. I think we learned from it.  I think we used it as motivation, but I think we are on to what we need to do now."

Is the Mercedes-Benz Superdome one of the louder crowds to deal with?

"It's definitely one of the most intense and one of the loudest venues in the NFL and we know that.  I've been down there five times now and played down there five times and I know every time it's loud and it's hostile.  With the veteran guys that we have, we understand what it takes to go down there and execute at a high level and we need to be at our best."

Can you talk about the comparison to the Falcons Saints game in 2006 after the reopening of the Mercedes-Benz Superdome to the game this Sunday?

"It's tough to compare the returning of a coach and what happened with Hurricane Katrina.  I think they are two different things.  Certainly I watched that game in 2006, I think as did everyone in the country.  It was an awesome win for that organization at that time and I think it kind of lifted everybody's spirits. At this point, I think they are two different things.  We are just going to prepare the same way we always do to go out on a road game and prepare for a tough road test.  We are going to try and do everything we can during the course of the week to have ourselves ready to go with whatever shakes out on Sunday.  We know it's going to be loud.  We know it's going to be tough.  And we know it's going to be a 60 minute football game.  That's really where our mindset is at."

Can you talk about not having Todd McClure back as your center?

"It's tough.  It's one of those things where I have played with him for five years, my entire career and he had been such an important part of helping me come along and specifically with this game, I would say it would be a homecoming game for Todd going back to Louisiana where he grew up and where he lives.  It kind of brings a little extra to it, but our guy Peter Konz, who is playing center for us now, has done a great job in that transition.  I think that some of my experiences can help him out in a similar way that Todd helped me out because there is always a unique relationship between a quarterback and a center."

Atlanta Falcons Head Coach Mike Smith
Conference Call with New Orleans Media
Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Can you talk a bit about facing Rob Ryan's 3-4 defense that you don't have a lot of film on because it is new to the Saints?

"I think the first game of the season creates all kinds of challenges for every team in the league because all of the teams have gone out and vetted their coaching staffs to come up with new ideas, even if you're running the same scheme. It will be different because we are facing a 3-4 defense. We did play the Dallas Cowboys last year where Rob was coaching, so we do have some film. It's not like the 3-4 is something that has just been invented. Rob does an outstanding job with his defenses everywhere he's been. He will create some issues for offenses. In the first week it's a little more extenuated because you won't have film and you're going to have to make adjustments on the sideline."

After coming so close to the Super Bowl last season, what was your approach coming into this offseason and into this new year?

"Our approach doesn't change. It was tough the way our season ended; there is only one team that is happy at the end of the year. I told our guys when we came back in March that we are not 10 yards away from the Super Bowl, we are however many days we had from the opening of camp to the next Super Bowl. That's what every team is aspiring to accomplish. It's a learning experience for us and I reiterate it to the guys all the time (that) you learn from things that go well for you and things that go poorly. There is positive reinforcement and negative reinforcement. We've got to learn from it (and) make sure when we're in that position again that we do everything in our power to have a different outcome."

What does it mean to play in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in Sean Payton's first regular season game back from suspension?

"Every year it's a tough schedule and you never know how tough it is going to be or how it plays out because the NFL is so competitive. We look forward to playing a division game right off the bat. It will be a great measuring stick for us and it's a great atmosphere there in New Orleans. It's going to be a fun way to kick off the season playing a division opponent which, in our mind, take a little more weight than a non-division game."

Does your team do anything extra to try and prepare for the sound that you will face on Sunday at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome?

"We play in a lot of loud venues and the Superdome down there in New Orleans is one of the loudest. We have ways that we prepare and we've been actually preparing through training camp. We will pipe in crowd noise like most teams do in practice; we've done it. After our second preseason game we started going through that process and sporadically doing it during training camp once we close training camp to the public. It's always a challenge when you go on the road and you're playing in a loud stadium, and it will be loud this weekend."

What was attractive to you about trying to get Steven Jackson to sign with your team this past offseason?

"Steven has a very good skill set, not only as a running back but as a receiving back. It gives you options on the offensive side where you don't necessarily have to have a change of pace back. You can run the same personnel groupings and the same plays with Steven in the game. He's been very effective as a runner. He's had nine consecutive 1000-yard seasons and he had one season in which he caught 90+ balls. We like his skill set, not only running the ball, but as a receiving back as well."

Matt Ryan signed a big contract extension. Is there a danger or concern of a player putting too much pressure on himself to live up to that big contract?

"I don't think so. We talk about it all of the time (that) in this business we're all competitors. Pressure that comes from the outside is not even close to the pressure that comes from within. We're very driven. I would say that 99.9% of the people in this profession are very driven, and the internal pressures that they put on themselves is much more than the external and I don't think that would be an issue at all."

Can you talk about having Matt Ryan at quarterback for your club?

"Matt, from day one, came in here and has been a starter from the very beginning, from the very first game that we played and he's been very successful. Matt works as hard as anybody that I've ever been around, in terms of his preparation. I don't think any of that will change."

Does the return of Sean Payton add another dimension to this season opener?

"I don't believe so. Sean is a very good football coach and his record speaks for himself. We're looking forward to playing him. It's a division game; it's going to be a competitive game. I know that we're anxious to start the season just like you guys are down there."

Judging from past experiences, this game will probably come down to the fourth quarter. What do you think are the keys for your team to win on Sunday?

"Well, if history repeats itself, it will come down to the fourth quarter. I believe seven of the ten games we have played since we've been here have come down to eight points or less. Two of them have gone into overtime. It's going to be the team who takes care of the football. Early in the season, I believe that turnovers are even more critical than any other part of the season. We are going to have to take care of the ball and try to take it away from them, and they're going to try to do the same thing to us. I think that's what it will come down to. The team that wins the turnover battle is probably going to win the game."

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