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Tampa Bay coach Lovie Smith talks about the loss to the Saints

Transcript of Tampa Bay coach Lovie Smith's postgame press conference on Sunday, Dec. 28, 2014

(Opening statement)
"It's been a long year. A part of the plan wasn't to have the type of football season we had. We wanted to finish up strong. Talking about this game today, I thought in the first half we did some good things. Establishing the run, that was kind of our plan. Took [care of] the football, for the most part, fairly well. Defensively, we hung in there. We didn't get as many takeaways as we would've liked, but we got a few. We saw some guys make some good plays, [Bradley] McDougald, [Keith] Tandy. But in the end, just couldn't quite pull it out. So it's kind of been the tale of our season a little bit."

(On playing reserves to prepare for the future)
"Well, you can say a plan for the future. I felt like we were running the football fairly well. Playing pretty good defense. We felt like we could get a look at some of our players. We did want to get a look at some of the players we haven't seen, yes."

(On linebacker Danny Lansanah not starting)
"Danny violated a team rule is what Danny did. So, we held him out a little bit until the end."

(On how much evaluation took precedence over winning)
"Not at all, as we see it. With the lead, we wanted to play some of our linemen. We wanted to see some of them in the second half. That was a part of our plan going in. We had a lot more success in the first half than I thought we would, especially being able to run the football. With the lead, if you play pretty good defense you should be able to hold on to that. They made a couple of plays at the end there. Their interception that they got on a pass that if we catch the ball and not give them that quick turnaround, it's a totally different game."

(On ending up with the first overall pick)
"My comments last week were, 'We're going to get a good pick.' Nothing's really changed. I know were in a little bit better of a position but going into this football game, we were going to have an opportunity to get a pretty good football player. When you're down there, that's one consolation, I guess, from the season we've had. So, that's where we are right now. We were anxious to play this last game. We wanted to get 2014 in our past to get to this next year, where I know good things will happen for us."

(On putting any thought towards next year)
"Not really. We've known what our record was and, as I said, we knew we would be down there somewhere. The way to get ready for next year is to know as much as you possibly can about our current roster. We feel like we've done that. To get an opportunity to sign a couple of those players going forward, which we were able to do, is a good thing. Again, going forward I like the position we're in. We need help, and we'll be able to get the best help around."

(On if he was surprised by the solid play in the first half)
"The running the football part, yes. We got some big things for Mike Evans and Vincent Jackson going over 1,000 yards receiving. That's good. So, for the passing game that was good to see. In order for us to go from the bottom of our division to the top, you got to be able to run the football. There was a commitment, that was a part of the game plan. To see it work that way was refreshing. When you can run the football, it's a lot easier to passing the football. It opens up everything. I don't know how many plays they had in the first half but not a lot. So, that was supposed to be our formula for winning football games. At least we got a glimpse of it."

(On whether he feels the game was lost due to substituted players)
"To me, it had nothing to do with substitution. You look at how we played and, to me, I'm going to go back, we were moving the ball fairly well, even in the second half. We played a lot of guys in the first half also. Vincent Jackson only played a few reps, so that happened in the first half also. The team we put out on the football field had a chance to win right up until. We didn't have some of our best players there right in the end, but the guys we had in there we felt like we could move the ball and be able to win with."

(On the advantage of declining the holding penalty on a second-and-20)
"To get the third-and-long. We had, what, a third-and-15 on that play? That was the advantage. You get off on third down, you're off the football field. That's an easy decision right there to give an offense two plays instead of just one. If we get into a third-and-15 situation, that's what I think it was or so, we should be able to get off the field on that. Take that every time."

(On evaluating the roster)
"We're going to evaluate our entire roster. When you look at the last football game, we had one more chance to see all of our players. Right now, we're going to evaluate it all. Our play at the quarterback position hasn't been good enough as it hasn't been good at any position starting with my position. It's a total evaluation of everything. That's where we are."

(On thinking about controlling the draft)
"I'm sure as the days, the weeks go by we'll get used to being in this position. I've never been in this position and that's kind of low on the list of things, right now, to think about. I just know that we need to make improvements, and we're in control now of the improvements that each team will make. We start the domino effect, so I guess that's a good thing."

(On wide receiver Mike Evans' absence late in the game)
"Mike wasn't long in there before that also. Mike played very little of the second half, that's why he wasn't out there. He wasn't loose and ready to go. Our plan wasn't to play Mike an awful lot in the second half, that's why he wasn't out there. There were some other players we wanted to look at and those were the guys that were out there."

(On the point in which they decided to evaluate rather than play the best players)
"It started early. We have a game plan each week. Now, I don't tell you all the game plan, but we have a game plan each week. Our game plan was that. Those guys you saw in the first half, the game plan was for them to be in there. In the second half, we wanted to look at more football players. I don't think that's out of the realm of possibility to look at some other guys. We're not going to the playoffs, we have a comfortable lead and we're going to run the football. Defensively, we played about all our guys except for Lavonte David a little bit. The guys we had out there fought right up until the end and they made some good plays to win there at the end."

(On the backups elevating their status)
"That's hard to say right now. We have video on those guys, so we'll get a chance to get one more good evaluation of them. We saw them on a critical situation on how they were going to perform then. But we have some guys that did some good things. We can talk a little bit more about our running game. Bradley McDougald I've talked an awful lot about. It was good to see Keith Tandy get in there and make a couple of plays. So, there's a lot we got out of this game. Whether we have two or three wins, or we would liked to have had a win at the end of the season, but where we are right now, we know more about our football team going into the season. The guys fought right up until the end."

(On how difficult it is not having a win at home this season)
"Not a good feeling to be in. It's as simple as that. One win wouldn't have helped an awful lot, either. We're going to feel better when we're winning our division. Until then, we don't feel good an awful lot except for knowing our roster a lot better and knowing the direction we need to go. It's about all you can get right now. There's not a great feeling. If we would've won today, we would've felt better about this game, but, the season as a whole, it's not where we want to be. We won't be there long."

(On if the top pick in the draft can turn the team around)
"We need more than just the one but picks coming in from the draft. We're going to get some good picks from the draft by our position, yes. In free agency too. Our free agent class didn't work as well as we would've liked it to this year, but you don't stop just because of that. You keep going. We see that we have some holes on our roster, and we'll start working to fill them, which we feel like we'll be able to do."

(On if the players knew the game plan to substitute)
"The players knew that everybody that was dressed and ready to go should be ready to go until we tell them you're not going anymore. We don't every go in and saying you're going to play this many plays. That's not the base part of it. The 46 guys we had, active and ready to go, we wanted them to be ready to go right up until."

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