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Roddy White, Mike Smith talk about Sunday's game

Transcript of Atlanta Falcons coach Mike Smith and wide receiver Roddy White's conference calls with the media

Atlanta Falcons Wide Receiver Roddy White
Conference Call with New Orleans Media
Wednesday, December 17, 2014

What kind of atmosphere are you expecting in New Orleans? Will it be a playoff atmosphere in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome?

"Absolutely. It's going to be loud and crazy in there. I can't wait to get down there."

Do you kind of like the fact that it's been so long since the two of you have played?

"Yes, the way the NFL's doing it nowadays with the division games counting it at the end of the season is great and the way they separate it and everything like that. It's an important game for both teams with the season we've been having. We're both right there. The winner of this game is probably going to win the division, so the excitement will be there. Everybody will be pumped. Everybody will be ready to go."

The Saints have three new starting defensive backs since you last played them and some different looks on defense. I don't know how much film you have had a chance to watch yet, but what do you see out of their new look on defense if anything?

"I've really watched the film these last two days and the personnel's changed so much since we played them in the first game this season. They've had a lot of injuries, guys getting hurt and stuff like that, but they have put some guys in and those guys have made some plays. Just watching the Bears game they're going out there and guys are picking off balls and things like that. These guys are playing with confidence. I don't know if they've played a group like ours yet as far as depth at wide receiver and guys we can put out there to make plays. It's different in that aspect of it."

You guys started fast this season and then slumped. Do you think your team is round back to where you were at the start of the season?

"I just think right now our guys are playing at such a high level. Julio's (Jones) was playing great football until he got hurt last week. Harry's (Douglas) has been playing outstanding and (Drew) Davis has been playing well the last three games. I just think that our guys are playing right now at a very high level. I love it. I love the way those guys are going out there and making explosive plays. The last three or four weeks, we've had about 10 explosives and that helps win football games. We've been having red zone problems the whole year. We haven't figured it out yet. We just have to be better down there. When we get down there we have to score touchdowns instead of kicking field goals. I feel like these last couple weeks we have put ourselves in bad situations just getting inside the ten, getting inside the five and basically kicking extra points. We have to find a way to punch the ball in the end zone and we'll be better."

Did you see that Keenan Lewis told a reporter that the Saints were going to give you your funeral when you come down here on Sunday?

"Yes, may we rest in peace."

Is that your response to that?

"Yes, may we'll rest in peace. I don't have a response for that because the game is played on Sunday at 12:00. When the ball kicks off and we start to tangle, get it up and mix around and mingle out there, then we'll see who the better team at the end of the game is. That's all that's going to matter. Anything that comes out of their locker room, comes out of our locker room, there's no kind of motivation that's going to make us step up and be like 'Oh, they said this'. No, we know what it is, it's Saints-Falcons."

Did you get your confidence back as a team in that Green Bay game?

"I think it was actually the Arizona game. Our guys played extremely well in the Arizona game. We made a lot of plays. It was a big game for us at home and we went out there and executed the game plan and made a whole heck of a lot of plays and then from there we went to Green Bay, couldn't pull it out there at the end, and didn't get an opportunity to get our offense out there. That's when I thought we played well. We had 400 yards of offense. We just got in the red zone three times and kicked field goals. You can't do that in this league. You need to score touchdowns. So, I think our guys are playing really good football. The offensive line is doing a heck of a job. We're throwing the ball two yards and getting, 40-, 50-yard gains and stuff like that. We need to continue to be an explosive offense."

This division race is obviously a little odd this year? Does this feel like a race for a division title? Does it feel as big as it is?

"Yes, I feel like we are in playoff mode and we have two weeks left in the season. This is it. You lose this game, we're pretty much done. We are in playoff mode. We know we have to win our next two games to make the playoffs and that's the only way we're going to make it. We're locked in. We're going to take it one game at a time and be focused and be mentally and physically prepared."

If Julio Jones can't play, do you put more on yourself?

"Absolutely. Me being a veteran guy, I have to go out there and play good veteran football if Julio doesn't go. Regardless of if he goes or not, I still have to go out there and play well for my team to have to chance to win. That's going to be my expectation for this game. I have to go out there and execute and make plays and help our team, especially when we get down to the red zone area. I feel like that's affected us all year. We have to figure out how to dissect and get a better read on defenses and what they're trying to do to us when we get out there. It's hard when you go out there with four guys at receiver and three guys and they're playing a lot of eight-man drops and stuff like that, but we just have to figure out whether we're going to run it in or throw it in, but we have to figure it out."

What makes the Saints-Falcons rivalry so special to you?

"It's the atmosphere and how excited the two teams are to play  each other. The dislike is there between the players and everything about this rivalry, even though the Saints have won most of the games in the last five or six years. Every time it's been close, it's always been down to the wire, always we need a score or they need a score to win. That's just how it's been and they have gotten the best of us the last couple of time. We won the first game at home. We have to go down there and make a statement."

This is the time of year a lot of your teammates are talking about college football and bowl games for their alma maters. Is it kind of bummer or frustrating what your college's football program has been going through the last few months?

"It's been a bummer being bowl-eligible and not being able to participate in a bowl, cancelling our program. It's been a bummer. All the support that people have given out to UAB, it's been frustrating. From where that program started and how it achieved goals, getting to division 1 from being a division 2 school. To getting people to where they followed UAB football, to it getting shut down all of a sudden it sucks."

Atlanta Falcons Head Coach Mike Smith
Conference Call with New Orleans Media
Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Are you as excited to get down here as Roddy White is?

"Well we're looking forward to having a competitive game. That's always what happens when our two teams get together and it's the final two weeks of the season and there's a lot to be playing for, not just for our two teams, but for a lot of teams. We're looking forward to coming down and competing."

This has obviously been a weird NFC South this year. Is there the same feel as if say both the Saints and Falcons were 10-5 or 11-4 or something. Do you think there will be the same feel because of the playoff implications?

"I think games at the end of the season when they have implications as to who's going to play in the second season, it doesn't really matter what the records are. The quickest way to get to the second season is to win the division and that's what we're trying to do and the Saints are trying to do and the Panthers are trying to do. It ought to be an interesting two weeks. It always is when our two teams play each other whether it's in the Georgia Dome or whether it's in New Orleans."

Have you ever seen the Clint Eastwood movie the Unforgiven where he says 'Deserves has nothing to do with it.'?

"No, I haven't (laughter). I'm not a big movie guy."

I just wonder if you feel that philosophy applied at all to the NFC South Championship race at this point?

"What's the quote again."

Deserves has nothing to do with it, in other words does a team from the NFC South deserve to be in the playoff race?

"The way that the NFL is set up guys, each team competes for a division title and whoever wins the division is an automatic playoff team. This isn't like it's the first time it's happened. If you look back a few years, there was a 7-9 Seattle team that you guys had to go play when you were 11-5 in 2010, so when you get to the second season, everybody's record is 0-0. The NFL sets up the parameters and the rules you have to play by. The NFC South is still a very competitive division. It is every year we've been here."

What are your thoughts on the rumors that the NFL is considering adding another playoff team in each conference and reseeding because of the way the NFC South has played out this year to kind of prevent a team that maybe wins the division with under a .500 record from hosting a home playoff game?

"Like I said, you guys in 2010 had the exact same situation with you guys and they weren't talking about it then. I don't pay attention to what they're talking about. We all know when we start the season what the parameters are for the playoffs. I really don't have a comment on what changes they're talking about. Our focus is strictly on the next two weeks, more importantly this week down in New Orleans."

How would you balance being disappointed with the record with being proud of the guys for maintaining enough to stay in this position where you can still control your chance to make the playoffs after a difficult season where it may have been emotionally difficult for people to bring their best every week?

"I think it says a lot about the guys we have in our locker room. They've worked extremely hard. We haven't gotten all the outcomes that we've wanted. We haven't played consistent football. Usually when you're on the wrong side of the score, that's usually the case in the NFL. The league is so close and balanced. They've set it up to be that way and if you don't play consistent football, you're not going to have the win-loss record that you'd like to have. We're not going to concern ourselves with anything that we can't control. We know the situation that we're in now for this week, just like New Orleans knows what their situation is. We're looking forward to a very competitive game. When these two teams get together, they're usually very hard-fought games that come down to one score or less. Over the last seven years since I've been there, I think that all but two of them have been (decided by) eight points or less if I'm not mistaken."

I'm sure you saw where a local radio station down here started a hashtag that was published in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution called Save Smitty when you were really struggling. I wanted to see what you think about that that the fans down here were really rooting for you to continue to be in Atlanta?

"I'm not going to comment about a hashtag or anything. The great thing is this is a popular game, the NFL. We go out and try to do the best we can. I'll say this, every week there's 16 of us that are real smart and there are 16 of us that aren't very smart depending on the outcome of the game. One week this year there was a tie, they were both not very smart."

You've probably been asked a lot this week and what's the status of Julio Jones and what happens if he can't play Sunday?

"I spoke to them (Atlanta media) on Monday and basically said we're not going to have a Julio Jones update every day. We're anticipating Julio Jones is going to play. We'll make a decision if he is going to not at about 10:30 Sunday morning central time."

I guess this probably wasn't a consideration but often in some tiebreakers an intra-conference game isn't as important as an inter-conference game. I know that you try to treat everyone the same, but in terms of making the playoffs and how certain tiebreakers operate was it more important to have Julio healthy for this game rather than the Pittsburgh one. Can you speak to that in any way?

"Guys, we like to have our best players every week. That's our goal and our goal this week because we're playing an NFC division game is to have all of our players out on the field to give us the best opportunity to win."

Speaking of having everybody back healthy, what did you think of the Saints offense in Chicago with Josh Hill getting a couple of touchdowns and all of the top three running backs contributing. Is it a lot to contend with?

"It's one of the top offenses in all of football. They do a great job and it starts with Drew (Brees). As I look at it there's been a lot of water under the bridge since week one. When I look at the depth chart, really the wide receivers, the rookie wide receiver (Brandin Cooks) is the one guy that was there in week one (and isn't now) and I know that there have been some guys that have missed time during the season. I haven't paid too much attention to it during the season. When you look at their offensive line it's the same five that started game one. When you look at the tight ends, it's the same group of tight ends. The wide receiver group is a little bit different and you're healthy back at the running back position, so correct me if I'm wrong, the one wide receiver, the rookie (except for Brandin Cooks) is basically the group that started the season and you guys look like you're getting healthy at the right time. I was very impressed with the performance of your football team on Monday night offensively, defensively and special teams. It was a dominating game."

Keenan Lewis, the cornerback here, made the remark that the Saints are going to give the Falcons a funeral when they come down here. First of all, if you heard about that have you assessed if that's fired up the locker room more than it would for this football game and if not, do you feel that since it's such a heated rivalry anyway, do people need any more fuel to be up with so much on the line in this game?

"I'm not aware of that comment. When the Atlanta Falcons and New Orleans Saints get together, you can throw out the records, throw out what the situation is. Its two teams that love to compete against each other. I'll leave it at that. It's a great feel for the fans of New Orleans and the fans of Atlanta when those two teams play."

I'm sure you watch film, but the Saints have had a number of personnel changes in their secondary last week. I just wanted to get your thought on versus Chicago this week with some of those changes?

"They made some changes at the safety position and at the corner position and they played extremely well. I thought they did a great job. Rob (Ryan) had the quarterback confused in the game on Monday it looked like. They weren't throwing the ball and having the efficiency that they've had in games past and there's tweaks that happened in terms of roster moves. Obviously it paid off for you guys this week."

Does that make it tough for you to prepare for because there isn't a lot of film except for that one game with those players in?

"They've used different guys but what happens throughout the season is you watch some tape of your previous games and there has to be somebody that's dinged and out. We don't get an opportunity to truly evaluate the individual, but still it's going to be more schemes and how Rob Ryan is going to try to present the defense to us and we're going to have to react to that. When you're on the offensive side of the ball you want to be reactionary to how people are going to try to defend you."

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