Atlanta Falcons Head Coach Mike Smith
Thursday, December 22, 2011
Can you talk about the rivalry with the Saints and Falcons since youâ€™ve been in Atlanta?
â€œThis 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 itâ€™s because the franchises came into the league around the same time. Theyâ€™ve been very competitive games since weâ€™ve gotten here and weâ€™ve been evenly matched. Weâ€™re trying to have sustainability here just like Sean (Payton) has done with Mickey (Loomis) down there. Thatâ€™s our goal is to be a team that shows that they can sustain from year to year success and thatâ€™s what weâ€™re trying to do.â€
Is there a part of you as a fan that gets excited for this type of game? It doesnâ€™t seem like itâ€™s going to be just another regular season game.
â€œIt is because itâ€™s scheduled during the regular season. Anytime that youâ€™re playing a division game, it has more meaning. As I mentioned earlier, this has been a great competitive game since weâ€™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. Itâ€™s going to be a great atmosphere. I know Seanâ€™s going to have his team ready and weâ€™re looking forward to coming down there and competing. We expect that it will be a great atmosphere to play a football game. You canâ€™t ask for anything more than that.â€
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?
â€œCertainly you guys have had a lot of success (in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome) this year. Youâ€™re 6-0 and youâ€™re scoring is much higher when you play in your building. I think youâ€™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 youâ€™re going to be a relevant team in December, you have to win at home. Weâ€™re familiar with you guys just like youâ€™re familiar with us. Itâ€™s not like non-division games, where youâ€™re coming into a new building not knowing what to anticipate and expect because we go there every year. If itâ€™s a team thatâ€™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. Weâ€™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.â€
How are you feeling personally and how have you managed to keep what went on with you from being a distraction to the team?
â€œIâ€™m feeling much better. Iâ€™m fine, as I mentioned earlier in the week, itâ€™s not my heart. Thatâ€™s about all I want to say about it. Itâ€™s not a distraction, I can assure you that. I was back at work Monday after the Carolina game and weâ€™ve been rolling. Our preparation for you guys, we actually had a chance to start a bit earlier so weâ€™ve been focused on getting prepared for this game Monday night.â€
What do you think about the allegations that have been made about the Saints defense in the last few weeks?
â€œWhen I watch the game tape of the New Orleans Saints since Iâ€™ve been here, all I see is a very passionate, aggressive football team. Thatâ€™s the traits that you want to have with your football team and I think thatâ€™s what the Atlanta Falconsâ€™ traits are as well. Itâ€™s two competitive teams that will be going out there to play on Monday night.â€
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?
â€œWeâ€™ve been more efficient and have played more consistently over the past few weeks. You never can really put your finger on it. Itâ€™s such a subjective evaluation, but I do like the way that our guys have prepared. Weâ€™ve been very consistent on the practice field and weâ€™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 canâ€™t say enough about the team down there, especially what theyâ€™ve been doing offensively. Theyâ€™ve just been off the charts in terms of what theyâ€™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 itâ€™s going to be a big challenge for our guys, but I know weâ€™re looking forward to it.â€
Can you talk about Drew Brees a little more in the context of breaking Dan Marinoâ€™s record?
â€œIn my mind, Drewâ€™s having a MVP season. Thereâ€™s no doubt about that. Heâ€™s distributing the ball extremely well. Everyone looks at just the passing numbers, but itâ€™s also what theyâ€™re doing running the football as well. Theyâ€™re a top ten team in running the football, theyâ€™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. Heâ€™s doing a really outstanding job. The pass completion percentage, heâ€™s over 70 percent right now, which is the highest in NFL history. That tells you the level heâ€™s playing right now. Itâ€™s just amazing to watch him go out and run that offense.â€
Is it possible that at the age of the early-30s is actually when quarterbacks are entering the prime of their careers?
â€œI think the maturity level is different with each person. Some guys mature earlier than others. I hope heâ€™s at his highest level because if he plays any better I donâ€™t know if thereâ€™s any way to stop him.â€
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