Atlanta Falcons Head Coach Mike Smith
Thursday, December 22, 2011
Can you talk about the rivalry with the Saints and Falcons since you've been in Atlanta?
"This is obviously our biggest rival. I found out real quick when I became the head coach and became a part of this organization that New Orleans is our biggest rival and I believe it's because the franchises came into the league around the same time. They've been very competitive games since we've gotten here and we've been evenly matched. We're trying to have sustainability here just like Sean (Payton) has done with Mickey (Loomis) down there. That's our goal is to be a team that shows that they can sustain from year to year success and that's what we're trying to do."
Is there a part of you as a fan that gets excited for this type of game? It doesn't seem like it's going to be just another regular season game.
"It is because it's scheduled during the regular season. Anytime that you're playing a division game, it has more meaning. As I mentioned earlier, this has been a great competitive game since we've been here. Our guys I know are looking forward to competing. You want to be in this situation where games in week 16 and week 17 have a whole lot of meaning, and they do for both teams. It's going to be a great atmosphere. I know Sean's going to have his team ready and we're looking forward to coming down there and competing. We expect that it will be a great atmosphere to play a football game. You can't ask for anything more than that."
The Saints seem to have a convincing home-field advantage this year, but the Falcons always seem to play very well in New Orleans. Can you talk about that?
"Certainly you guys have had a lot of success (in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome) this year. You're 6-0 and you're scoring is much higher when you play in your building. I think you're winning by over 21 points per game, which is a phenomenal number when you think about it. To be successful in this league, you have to take care of business at home. I think everybody starts the season with that in mind knowing that if you're going to be a relevant team in December, you have to win at home. We're familiar with you guys just like you're familiar with us. It's not like non-division games, where you're coming into a new building not knowing what to anticipate and expect because we go there every year. If it's a team that's coming in every three or four years with the rotation, it may be a little bit of a shock with regards to the fans and the noise in that building. We're familiar with it. We have to make sure we have our plan in place to be able to communicate because the fans there are a big factor in the success that New Orleans has had at home."
How are you feeling personally and how have you managed to keep what went on with you from being a distraction to the team?
"I'm feeling much better. I'm fine, as I mentioned earlier in the week, it's not my heart. That's about all I want to say about it. It's not a distraction, I can assure you that. I was back at work Monday after the Carolina game and we've been rolling. Our preparation for you guys, we actually had a chance to start a bit earlier so we've been focused on getting prepared for this game Monday night."
What do you think about the allegations that have been made about the Saints defense in the last few weeks?
"When I watch the game tape of the New Orleans Saints since I've been here, all I see is a very passionate, aggressive football team. That's the traits that you want to have with your football team and I think that's what the Atlanta Falcons' traits are as well. It's two competitive teams that will be going out there to play on Monday night."
Do you think one of the reasons your offense has been playing so well recently is the chemistry and lack of injuries coming together at one time?
"We've been more efficient and have played more consistently over the past few weeks. You never can really put your finger on it. It's such a subjective evaluation, but I do like the way that our guys have prepared. We've been very consistent on the practice field and we've been carrying that over into the games the last seven weeks for the most part. This week we have to really be focused. I can't say enough about the team down there, especially what they've been doing offensively. They've just been off the charts in terms of what they've been able to accomplish. Drew (Brees), who always plays at a high level, is even playing at a higher level right now. Just watching him operate in that offense has been very impressive and it's going to be a big challenge for our guys, but I know we're looking forward to it."
Can you talk about Drew Brees a little more in the context of breaking Dan Marino's record?
"In my mind, Drew's having a MVP season. There's no doubt about that. He's distributing the ball extremely well. Everyone looks at just the passing numbers, but it's also what they're doing running the football as well. They're a top ten team in running the football, they're the number one team in total yards, number two in points -- you guys know all those stats -- but just watching him operate, he looks very comfortable back there running the offense and there are so many different weapons and areas that he can distribute it to. He's doing a really outstanding job. The pass completion percentage, he's over 70 percent right now, which is the highest in NFL history. That tells you the level he's playing right now. It's just amazing to watch him go out and run that offense."
Is it possible that at the age of the early-30s is actually when quarterbacks are entering the prime of their careers?
"I think the maturity level is different with each person. Some guys mature earlier than others. I hope he's at his highest level because if he plays any better I don't know if there's any way to stop him."
Atlanta Falcons RB Michael Turner
Conference Call With New Orleans Media
Wednesday, December 22, 2011
On if he is paying attention to the hype of the game or just focused on the X's and O's…
"Just focused on X's and O's. Fans don't play the game. They are a part of the game, part of the action, part of the home field advantage but we can't focus on that. We have to focus on doing on our job and how we are going to handle the environment when we are on the road."
On if he agrees with some opponents calling the Saints defense dirty…
"Dirty? No. It's going to be a typical football game. There is going to be some pushing and shoving. It is going to get a little chippy out there with the rivalry and with all the emotions going into this ball game but you have to stay focused and do what is best for your team."
On if there is another team that they play as close as they play the Saints…
"Tampa has been giving us a run for our money too. Our last couple of games have come down to the wire. Each game has been close to a margin of victory of 6 points or less. Tampa and New Orleans are pretty similar in that but Saints-Falcons is No. 1 on the list."
On what makes the Saints-Falcons games so close…
"It's two teams that are going to give their all to win no matter what their records are. One team always wants bragging rights over the other. The fans from both sides talk a lot of mess to each other."
On how the Falcons offense has played well over the last two weeks…
"It's one of those things where everything is clicking at the right time. We feel like we are getting healthier and getting all of our weapons back. We are finally finding that chemistry that we think we need to get to the next level. Hopefully we can keep riding this momentum."
On if it was difficult to get over the 4th-and-1 play in overtime during the last Saints game…
"I don't think it is difficult at all. It was one of those things that coached decided to do and we have moved on from that. We won our next ball game and that's behind us."
On playing in New Orleans…
"The Superdome is always rocking. The crowd gets into it. No matter what time we play them it seem like it's going to sound the same to us – loud and noisy. You aren't able to hear or communicate well. We just have to handle the environment and go out and play.
On how they have had better success in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome than most teams…
"I think it's probably easier for us to focus on the Saints than everything else that is happening around us. When you have a rivalry like this, you do whatever it takes to win. "