Atlanta Falcons Head Coach Dan Quinn
Conference Call with New Orleans Media
Wednesday, December 20, 2017
*How confident are you that Tevin Coleman could be back this week? *"That's a good question. He's still in the process for us, but he is going to do some practice, limited, today non-contact stuff for us today. He hasn't been cleared for contact yet, but he has been cleared to do some things in a non-contact stuff way. As far as the protocol goes, I just trust the guidelines that they give us, but I am pleased that he is going to be participating some today."
*What is the offense missing without him in the backfield rotation? *"Certainly, we are fortunate to have Tevin (Coleman). He and Devonta (Freeman), we utilize them both together some. Both of them are able to be used outside as receivers as well. Having that ability to play both is something that I think stands out. If you like running back play, this is the game. I think there's four good ones that all are unique that are all unique catchers, runners, (have) toughness, can make guys miss. All the ingredients that you're looking for. We're hopeful and we'll take it day by day until we get the final word that he's good to go. We're also hopeful that (Andy) Levitre is going to get some work in today. Past that, we are in pretty good health."
*Regardless, it does seem like the running game for you guys has done well throughout the past month, could you touch on some of the reasons why? *"Sure. In our system, we're really featured in a way we like to run. We call it wide-zone and we like that because it also enables us to really work some play action. We like play action passes, the keepers that come off that and our run game is really important to us. The way we try to feature the guys where the try to get the ball on the perimeter, and make a cut to get vertical, and get upfield. Some of the play-action can come off of that where we can move the ball down the field that way. They both really work hand in hand with one another. I'd say, just more reps, more turns at it, feeling comfortable. In our scheme, it really takes all 11. That might sound unusual, but the tight ends, the line, the way we come off the ball, the receivers, and even Matt (Ryan) to where he can carry out play fakes to go. It's the way and style that we come off the ball. I think (Devonta) Freeman, over the last month, has really felt more like himself. If we can get both of them back, that's certainly a factor for us."
*You mentioned if you like running back play then this is the game. How surprised are you that even you are saying that considering the quarterbacks in this game? *"That goes without saying and it certainly should not. I guess I should say, 'if you like explosive plays, this is your game.' Both offenses really have ways to have explosive plays both in the run game and the pass game. This whole division to me always, even way back in the summer, I thought there was going to be a battle for it where teams are going to play tough as hell. Going into it, you always talk about quarterbacks first and, as you're going through that, the guys in this division are really accomplished quarterbacks. I would probably say the feature of the week might be the running backs, but the story is always at the quarterback spot. It goes to show how well those four runners are playing."
*To have you expand on that, how much tougher are the Saints to defend this year because of their balance? *"For years, I've always felt that the running backs have been a large part of their game and really when they are at their best. I've also admired how they feature the guys in different roles. Although the jersey numbers have changed, there are still some positions that certainly make plays in the roles that they have. Whether it be at running back and all the way through the years from guys who were just fantastic catchers out of the backfield. That was from my time in Seattle, only playing New Orleans sometimes, and then here where it is twice a year. I've just been impressed through the years in the pass game. Not every team does it that level and I really tip my hat to Sean (Payton) and Coach (Pete) Carmichael because not everyone knows to feature those guys and get them involved in that way. They have to have the skill to do it, but then how to feature those guys where they already have really good receivers, a quarterback who can throw the ball down the field, and now you add in the running backs, and it makes you have to defend the whole field, and that's part of our system as well. When you have to defend everybody, there's a lot different of ways to attack. I'm not surprised by it, but I have been impressed through the years by their ability to run the ball and use the running backs in the passing game as a good weapon this them."
*How do you view the Saints' ability this season to intercept balls and what do you attribute to that? *"Number one, I know the guy who's calling the plays has such a good background with that, talking about Dennis (Allen). Anytime a team can create opportunities and for them to be in the top five in creating interceptions, you're playing aggressive. They're also doing that with forced fumbles and I think those two things together, when you're really ballhawking, it's the interceptions and the forced fumbles. It's been part of ours that we are still searching and battling for with our turnover margin. That's why I like the turnover margin stat as a team stat because it is not just about the offense taking care of it. You can't get in the plus without the defense creating them. That to me is a real factor in why they're playing well defensively, the interceptions and the forced fumbles combined, I think that's a factor. We've had a number of them taken away by some fouls this year. I think it's been five or six, but don't quote me on the exact number. That's a part of our game for us to play our very best. Our ballhawking has to ramp up.
*More than one of their interceptions have come off of tipped balls and they have had their DBs appeared to make some good adjustments in the air. How do you see that? *"The tipped ball sounds like it might be unusual, but it's really not. If you can get your hands on some and the aggressive way you play, we have a saying around here, 'good things happen to those who run.' If you break on the ball, and the ball's in the air, and you go get it, who cares how you got it. You were ballhawking enough to go. To me, I've been impressed by them. I know they have the ability to go after it both ways, either by interception or forcing fumbles. We know that's going to be a factor in this game. I think both offenses have explosive plays and then the ball is usually the factor. Two teams know each other, two teams match up well, it's going to be a hell of a fight. Those two things, in my opinion, will be a real factor. Who takes care of it better, who goes after it better, and who has more explosive plays, will be a real factor."
*Since you were the defensive coordinator in Seattle, you're five and two against the Saints. Is there anything that you can point to as to why you and your defenses have had success against them? *"No. None. I imagine the offense scored some points. I do not know that. Each game is different. I have huge amounts of respect just for how they play. Not just extending the whole field, the different personnel packages, the run game, the screens, the shots down the field. For us not to talk about Michael Thomas right now is crazy. Here's a guy who is over 1,000 yards already. You can tell this team has weapons and they know how to feature them. That's part of coaching that I really enjoy the most is what unique stuff does a player have and then how do you feature them with the calls. There's no better example of that this year than the way they are utilizing the running backs and the different styles they play them in. I'm not surprised that they are doing well offensively, they just normally do and know how to feature their guys in the right way. We know we have our hands full. We can't wait, in terms of battling for it all the way through. We are really looking forward to coming down there and seeing them."
*Coming out of the last game, were you surprised that Sean (Payton), the next day, made it a point to criticize the officiating in the last game you played and saying it's a problem for the league? Since you were also coaching in that game, what was your impression? *"I had zero time when (the refs) were mentioning the call being overturned, so I don't comment too much time on it. Every game is a battle for it and there's all sorts of factors that go into it. That's his prerogative and his opinion. I don't share it, but it's certainly his opinion to view it how he'd like to. Every week's different and every challenge is different. It's just not something I comment on publically."
*Theoretically speaking, if you're playing a team twice in three weeks and the next game is at their place, would there be any benefit in their coach saying something to potentially, even subconsciously, affect the mindset of the officiating? *"I would have to say no. I don't think it's in anybody else's hands. It's not the refs, it's us executing and going. I see your storyline and where you're going, but no I would not think so. They will be there, every game is different, the plays are different, the crews are different. Generally, that's why it's so much fun when we battle for it week to week with division games. The division teams know each other so go throw your records out and go battle for it. To me that's where the real story is. Who can execute best, who can take care of the ball best, who can create more explosive plays. I think that's where as players and coaches we put our focus, knowing that we have no control over how they are going to call a game."
*The Saints have four guys on their roster from Georgia and I think you guys have three from the New Orleans area, how odd is that when you look at this rivalry? *"I think it kind of speaks also, for you guys living down there and us here, to how good and how strong football is in these two states. It's seen from the youth level, to high school ball, it is seen in college ball, and all the way through pro ball. It is not surprising. I think on a lot of rosters, you're going to find guys from Georgia and Louisiana because the ball is so good. This just adds another fun element to it with you guys being down there and us being around our way. Not surprised. If you went around the country and looked at a lot of teams, I'm sure these two states would be well-represented by top notch ballplayers. It just so happens that twice a year they get to do it their own states. It's fun and it's just another part of the story."
Do you think Deion Jones even has the perspective to be aware of how amazing it is that he is this kid that grew up in New Orleans when Drew Brees wins the Super Bowl for the Saints, and then the first three times he plays him, he intercepts him twice in huge situations?"I think as a ballplayer you don't, but the one in New Orleans last year was certainly emotional for him based on the story and hearing about it. I didn't even know about all the background prior to him explaining it to me. Years from we'll be like 'remember that time with Deion?' It'll be a story for a long time to come, but each game you go battle for it and is different. It'll probably be something fun to talk about years and years from now, but it doesn't have a lot of bearing on this week's game."