Atlanta Falcons Coach Mike Smith and RB Michael Turner conducted conference calls with the New Orleans media on Thursday morning. In the transcripts below, they discusses their 12-2 team's efficiency on offense and defense, some Tuesday tweets by WR Roddy White as well as the enhancement of the Saints-Falcons rivalry by the 2010 success of both clubs:
Falcons HC Mike Smith
We've seen Matt Ryan a few times at this point. Can you talk about what he's done well and how he's improved this year?I think that Matt is distributing the ball extremely well in our passing game, which is a sign of maturation process as a quarterback. He has a very good understanding of our offense. We've been able to expand our playbook and what we're capable of presenting each and every week. I think that he has continued to develop as the leader of our team. He is our cowbell in terms of leadership. He's done an outstanding job of managing the game each and every week."
A lot's been made of his record at home as a quarterback. Could you reflect on that from a coaching standpoint?I think it's very impressive to have the record at home that Matt has had and we've had as a football team. When we first got here three years ago, one of the things we talked about, put emphasis on and was our plan for success was that we would have to make sure that we would take care of our home field and if you're going to be a relevant team each and every year, you have to control your record at home. It's really a simple formula. If you win at home and split on the road, you're going to look up at the end of the season and you're going to be in the conversation about being in the playoffs. It's been an emphasis point from the very beginning. I think it's an advantage for us, our fans. They are very knowledgeable fans and know when to cheer and when not to cheer. They're very helpful in terms of procedural penalties and causing them for opposing offenses, but I really think it's something that we set as a plan for us to be successful as a team and organization and to be relevant was to make sure that we took care of our home field.
Does the focus on him take away from what the team has done in that sense?No, I don't think so. Matt Ryan's 19-1 and every person on our team's 19-1. It's not just the quarterback. Matt is our quarterback and it's a team record in terms of what we've accomplished. We've been very fortunate. There have been some very tight games. Some of them have gone our way, some haven't, but for the most part, we've taken care of business.
What was your reaction to Roddy White's tweets yesterday?I don't really have a whole lot of reaction to it. I think Roddy was probably trying to have some fun and I really don't have any response to it. It's not going to have any bearing on the outcome of the game this week. To me, its' two teams that have a lot to play for going down to the last two weeks. It's not really a factor in our preparation.
Was he asked to stop tweeting or reprimanded in any sense?My conversations with my players are between my players and myself. We really don't talk about what we talk about.
Heading into the season, did you have a twitter policy for your players?The whole league has a twitter policy that's in place. I think every team went through the same presentation that the league gives.
You guys are doing so well in so many categories such as third down conversion rate, turnover ratio and ball possession. Which of one of those is your favorite that you think is a hidden key to winning?We've talked all along in terms of how we want to go about enhancing our chances to win. You mentioned all of those and they're very important and they are emphasis points. One is possession of the football. I think possession of the football is paramount in taking the ball away. We've been very fortunate to be in the positive side in turnovers with a plus 13 differential this season. Our offense has done a good job in securing the ball. Our defense has taken the opportunity to take it off of guys. There's two other factors that are very important to us. One is time of possession. I know New Orleans is doing a great job with their offense and time of possession. When you have time of possession of the football, it's one of the big factors of winning the game. One of the factors is possessing the football. The third thing is penalties. Especially, since we've gotten here we've emphasized penalties in the fourth quarter and on third down. We want to try to not have penalties in those situations. So many games come down to the final drive or two, meaning it can be a one-possession game, meaning you don't want to get penalties and put yourself in a situation where you're behind the sticks and then the final thing is no special teams penalties, because they are really spot fouls and really those are the things that we have emphasized as a coaching staff to our football team and they're basically interactive. It's not just the offense or the defense. They are interactive when you start to talk about time of possession. The defense has got to get the offense the ball back. When you talk about turnover margin, you're talking about giveaways and takeaways and of course penalties involve all three phases of the game.
We always hear about Matt Ryan, time of possession and third down conversions. What is it about the defense that you've been more proud of this season?That we've kept teams out of the end zone and that we've scored more points than our opponents. Ultimately that's the statistic that matters and I think there's some statistics that you look at that you want to be successful. But most of those are interactive like we mentioned, like the time of possession, the turnover margin and the penalties. I think that we've done a good job of taking the ball away this season. We've had ten different guys create turnovers as far as interceptions are concerned, so we have a lot of guys that are contributing. It's a young team in some aspects. Guys are getting experience and I think they've gotten better as the season's progressed. That's the thing that I'm most proud of. I really like the way our guys play the game. They really go out and much like what New Orleans' defense is; they're attacking. They fly around. There are not many plays where it's just one guy making the tackle. There are four or five guys running to the football. That's what defensive football is all about.
Obviously every game is a big game, but this being a division rival that you might face in the playoffs and the glow of Monday Night Football, does this make this something that you like heading into the playoffs for your team to go through?I found out very quickly when I arrived here in Atlanta that the biggest rivalry is the New Orleans Saints. I guess it goes way back, because when both teams came into the league it was basically at the same time or within a year or two. So, regardless of what the ramifications are it's a big game. I know the fans in Atlanta when we go to New Orleans, there's a contingent of fans that come and we'll expect the same thing here. It has been that way every time that we've played and I think that we've had very competitive games the three years that we've been here. They are the defending Super Bowl champs and they'll be that until there's another one crowned in February. I enjoy the competition. I think Sean (Payton) is one of the most innovative offensive coaches and of course his record speaks for itself. I know we're excited about the opportunity to play them and this happens to be on Monday night this week.
Do you think the teams are going to enjoy a national spotlight? It seems like you guys have been lost in the Brett Favre, Michael Vick spotlight this year?We really don't concern ourselves with the perceptions outside of our building. We've been very businesslike in our approach this season. I really like the work ethic. The guys just come to work each and every day. Now we have fun and want to have fun, but when it's time to go to work, we go to work.
Falcons RB Michael Turner
Q: Can you talk about the role you guys are on with the team's eight-game winning streak?
"We are just playing good team football right now. We have been working hard since March and putting a plan together. Everybody is comfortable in their roles. We just go out there and execute."
Q: The Ravens had success running the football against the Saints last Sunday and you guys had success with it against the Saints earlier this season. Did they run similar to the way you guys did in week three?
"Teams usually don't look that far back at game tape or anything but Baltimore is known as a running team. That is no secret. They just went out there and played a great football game."
Q: How much have you guys discussed the fact that with a win Monday night you guys clinch the NFC South?
"We just see it as the next step and next game. We know how big the game is – it's no secret. We know what's at stake. There is no need to talk about it we just have to go out there and do our jobs."
Q: Your teammate WR Roddy White has received some attention for some things he posted on his Twitter account. What was your reaction to what was said?
"I have no feelings about it. At the end of the day, it's going to be us versus them on Monday night. No matter what is said between now and then it won't have any bearing on the football game."
Q: Do you believe the Saints defense is better than they were last year?
"They have always been playing solid and are an opportunistic defense. They haven't been getting as many turnovers as they did last year. They were making big plays and scoring a lot of touchdowns last year but they still seem to get turnovers at the right time this year. When you think a team is about to put them away, they come up with a big turnover, get the ball to Drew Brees and go down to score and win the game. They have always been a solid group but it seems different from last year with the amount of points they score on defense."
Q: You guys are 19-1 at the Georgia Dome with Matt Ryan at quarterback. What makes you guys so tough to beat when he is at QB?
"It's just a team effort. When we are all healthy and line up on that field we think we have a pretty good chance of winning that football game. That 19-1 record is great but we need to get to 20-1."