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Falcons: Mike Smith Conference Call Transcript
Q: What do you see when you see the Patriots offense?
MS: Well I see a quarterback driven offense with Tom Brady, who still has a great grasp of the offensive scheme, and he is distributing the ball to the different players that he needs to. Obviously they are doing a great job, they are 3-0. I don’t think you have to dissect it more than that.
Q: Do you still see the Patriots as having a timing/rhythm offense?
MS: I think it is the same offense that they have run for years there. I think it is a game plan offense and it changes each and every week. They do a great job with the tempo; they do a great job with changing personnel. I don’t see anything different.
Q: I think the Patriots have had three different running backs lead the team in rushing through three games. Does that make it difficult to focus on one player, and can you characterize the talent they trot out there in the backfield?
MS: I think they’ve got some guys that have great skill sets at the running back position. They’ve done a good job of keeping those guys fresh and putting guys in roles that they can be successful in. You know Stevan Ridley…they basically have almost the same skill sets in my mind. They’re all in the 220 range except for Leon Washington, who I consider a change of pace back. But, when you start talking about Ridley, LeGarette Blount and [Brandon] Bolden, they are very similar in terms of their skill set. They are powerful runners, I think they are north and south runners and they’ve done a great job.
Q: Considering your situation, it would seem of paramount importance that you guys win this week.
MS: Well this is the most important game for us because it is the next one. You’re guaranteed 16 opportunities and you want to make the best out of each opportunity. I think everybody in this league has that same mindset where the next game is the most important one.
Q: So there is no particular importance attached to this game because of the fact that you would be 1-3 if you lost?
MS: Absolutely not. You can’t concern yourself with anything but this game, and that is the mindset that we take each and every week. We’ve doing it that way since we’ve been here, and we will continue to do it that way.
Q: What kind of impact has Aqib Talib had on the Patriots’ defense?
MS: He is a very physical, athletic corner that has the capability [if] they want to match him up with the number one receiver. We’re very familiar with him from having played against him while he was in Tampa, so we’ve seen him a number of times and we know that he is an outstanding player. We anticipate we’ll get his best shot this week. He is a good football player, their best cover guy by far.
Q: What jumps out at you when you look at their defense?
MS: Well, when you look at their defense, I think it starts with the front seven. Vince Wilfork is playing at a very high level, playing a lot of snaps in the game. I’ve been very impressed with him. He can take over the inside; you’ve got to get four hands on him. Chandler Jones and [Rob] Ninkovich help out quite a bit with the pressure they can apply on quarterback, Ninkovich from the outside of course and Chandler can line up inside and outside. And I think they have very physical, big linebackers with [Brandon] Spikes, [Jerod] Mayo and [Dont’a] Hightower. It’s probably the most physical group. They have the capabilities with Ninkovich to play both the 4-3 and 3-4. So they can be very multiple, and that’s something that Coach [Bill] Belichick and his staff do a great job of is giving you different pictures and different looks.
Q: Is there any one person on their defense that you have to game plan for?
MS: Oh there [are] a number of guys that you have to be aware of where they line up. For the most part, Vince [Wilfork] is going to line up as the right defensive tackle, but they’ll move him around occasionally. You have to know where Chandler Jones is. Is he going to be lined up as a rush end against your offensive tackle or is he going move inside? And then, I think Jerod Mayo is a tackling machine. He led their team in tackles last year, so I think defensively their front seven is as good as any front seven in the NFL.
Q: What about your run defense? What’s been the biggest change this season?
MS: Well, we’ve been more efficient in defending the run through the first three games. I think our guys have a better understanding of what we are trying to do schematically. I think Coach [Mike] Nolan and his staff are doing a very good job instilling into our football team the importance of stopping the run. At the core of the game, it is about control of the line of scrimmage, so you’ve got to be able to stop the run because at a certain point in time, teams are going to try and run the ball on you.
Q: Offensively in the red zone, for lack of a better term, what has been the issue thus far?
MS: Well we haven’t scored touchdowns when we’ve been down there. We’ve had to kick field goals. Our red zone efficiency is not where we want it to be. I think we are at 50 percent, and we’d like it to be in the upper third. We need to improve that. We need to run the ball better, and we’ve got to be more efficient throwing the football when you are down there in a condensed field. Efficiency must be perfect because you have smaller windows and not as large of an area to attack.