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QA with Falcons Head Coach Mike Smith

    <span>              <span style="">Q: Atlanta has never had a back to back winning season. How are you trying to change that? Is it a locker room or cultural change or more trying to impose your beliefs on the locker room?</span>                 

A: I was not aware of that until the day after our season (ended) last year. That was something that our media here brought to our attention. It's really not a concern for me or the football team. When we got here, our mindset was going to be that we were going to change the culture not only in the locker room but in the entire building. I think that's something that we have done and something that we are continuing to do. As a coach and as a player in this league, you are basically on one week cycles. You can't concern yourself with what happened last week, much less over the last 44 years of the history of the organization. It's not anything we've ever addressed as a team, because of the article that came out at the end of the season last year.

Q: How much of your 4-2 record can be attributed to Matt Ryan?

A: I think that in this league your quarterback play is very important. I think that Matt has continued to play like he did in his first year here, but it's a team game. Offense, defense and special teams, but we're all aware that it is a quarterback driven league. Our quarterback has continued to progress.

Q: How would you gauge the importance of this game in terms of divisional and playoff races?

A: This is a long season. This is just the eighth week of the season. We're playing our seventh game. So we have ten games left on the schedule. As you guys know, there's going to be a lot of water that goes under the bridge over the next ten weeks and this is a very important game for us. It is the next game first and foremost and it is a divisional game. Divisional games are very important. We're familiar with New Orleans and they're familiar with us and right now they're playing as good as any team in the league in terms of production. They're an outstanding team. Sean's (Payton) got those guys hitting on all cylinders. I'm very impressed with watching those guys on tape in all three phases.

Q: What can you see as the difference between this year and last year in the Saints secondary?

A: I know that when Gregg (Williams) came in and was hired as the defensive coordinator, he wanted to change the mindset of that defense. I know that he spoke about how they were going to be aggressive and they were going to attack the football. It is very obvious that they're doing that, especially in the secondary. They're leading the league in interceptions and when they do intercept the ball, they're taking it back for touchdowns. I do think that's the most impressive thing that I've seen to go through six ballgames and have five defensive touchdowns, I don't know if it's a record through six games but I'm sure it's very close. The secondary is playing with a lot of confidence just like their entire team is.

Q: Are you eager to see how your team responds in the situation of going against a high profile divisional rival on a Monday night game?

A: I'm interested each and every week to see how we're going to play. To me, this is not any different than any other ballgame. As I told our guys when we started the season, in 2008 we had 16 one o'clock games. This year we have somewhat of a change in our sequencing. It doesn't really matter if the game's kickoff of at one, four, eight, nine or midnight, we have to go out there, play and compete. It should be a fun night. Atlanta and New Orleans have been division rivals since they both came in the league, so I know that the proximity geographically makes it a great rivalry.

Q: Do you worry that your team could have trouble sustaining success like the Saints did two years ago in 2007 when they missed the playoffs?

A: I think our guys have worked very hard through the offseason. One of the things we've talked about from the very beginning when I took this job was that this league, all 32 teams has a roster full of players that have ability. The good teams and the great teams are the ones that have sustained ability. I think it's really hard to differentiate between the number one team and the number 32 team in this league. It's a very fine line in terms of the ability of the players. It's the guys who can sustain it. We talk about sustaining it from play to play, from week to week and from season to season. It's something that we talk about all the time. It's really not about ability. It's about sustainability and the great organizations in this league that win year in and year out are the ones that are able to sustain their level of play.

Q: Do you think you guys have been able to do that this year so far?

A: Yes. I'm very encouraged by the way that we've played through the first six games. Of course as a coach, it doesn't matter what the outcome is, when you watch the tape, there are always things you can improve on. I think our players understand that as well. Win, lose or draw when we come in and watch that tape we know there are things we can improve on. It starts with me through the coaching staff and all the way through the players. I think we all have to be accountable and we're all in this together.

Q: Do you think you are a better team now than at any point last year?

A: We're a different team than we were last year because of the dynamics of our roster have changed on both the offensive and defensive side of the ball. In terms of how this teams' going to be judged, in week 17 in the National Football League. There are so many ebbs and flows in a season. I don't think you can really get caught up in making evaluations week to week. I tell our guys all the time. Ultimately we're going to be judged at the end of the season.

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