Q: What are some of the things that Matt Ryan does well?
MP: Obviously you are talking about a tremendous quarterback here, who is showing great poise and leadership out there running the offense. This guy is really cerebral, very smart quarterback and player who is able to go out, diagnose the defense and get the ball to the proper people. [He can] handle the offensive scheme and the check system down there where he can change the play at the line of scrimmage based on the defensive look. You know, get the ball to the running backs, get the ball to the tight ends, out to the wide receivers. He really uses the audible system if he has to along with just the whole tempo of the offense in general. The guy is just a really good, phenomenal quarterback. [He is] really accurate, has good arm strength, like I said, recognizes defensive coverages very well, and I think just a really tough guy. A competitive, tough player who can stand in the pocket and make those hard throws if pressure is in on him. If he gets hit, he can still stand in, get the read, get the proper route progression and get the ball where it has to go. So, he's just a very, very talented quarterback.
Q: Do you feel like you have elevated into one of the league's elite defenses, and how are you approaching this week?
MP: Well I think for us, we approach every week just trying to get better and improve. It's the very beginning of the season, and we don't pay attention to a lot of those things except for trying to win the ball game and putting our team in the best position to win every time we go out on the field. That's all we're really trying to do. We're trying to get better than we [were] last game, play better than we did last week, and obviously this week is a huge challenge for us with Atlanta and the different problems that they present. They're a very well coached offense, great quarterback, excellent running backs, good players both at the wide receiver and tight end positions, along with a big offensive line up front, which does a great job of protecting the quarterback and running the ball. They're just a very well coached team with Head Coach Mike Smith, Offensive Coordinator Dirk Koetter. It's just a very big challenge and we're just trying to improve every week to get better.
Q: How would you describe the Falcons offense, and will it be a vastly different offense from what you faced in the first three weeks?
MP: I think first and foremost Atlanta is a very explosive offense. They have great players; Julio Jones, Roddy White and Harry Douglas at the receiving position, the two running backs [Jason] Snelling and [Jacquizz] Rodgers are both phenomenal also along with the quarterback who I talked about earlier. So, it's just a very explosive team. [They are] a team that can run the ball, throw the ball, a team that can have big plays. They get the ball downfield, they get the ball short and have very good catch and run skills. Their skill players can break a tackle and turn a shorter route or a shorter play into a big gain. Even out of the backfield with the two running backs, when they get the ball in the passing game they can make things happen. Certainly Atlanta is a big challenge for us, and I don't really compare week to week, because I think each individual team is their own team. The offense that we're facing this week is the Atlanta Falcons, and that's we have to try to stop, and that's what we're focused on right now. You know, Tony Gonzalez is a great tight end, a person that is very clutch for them, and it's a challenge for us at the tight end position too. It's just a really good opponent for us this week.
Q: The defense has not surrendered any points in the fourth quarter this year. What does that say about the defense and how they perform in critical moments?
MP: I think for us, it's important as we take each game, each week for us to try to improve throughout the game, and certainly that would lead us into the fourth quarter situations that come up. Obviously at that point in the game is when every play becomes more critical than the previous play, and that's when you have to try to focus and play your best and really get everybody on the same page of what we are trying to accomplish. Certainly that is a point of emphasis for us, that as the game goes on each play becomes more critical than the previous one, and you're running out of plays at that point. So you want to execute to your fullest capability and do your job exactly how we need it to get done along with the communication factor that we are trying to stress and emphasize. It's just really an emphasis point for us that as the game goes on, every play becomes more critical and the situations become more critical, and we really need to have our best effort at that opportunity and time.
Q: When you look at what Dirk Koetter has at his disposal and the number of different combinations they can use because of their personnel, is this a game that you go into preparing for a number of different looks to adjust to what they are going to do to you?
MP: I certainly think that with Atlanta, they do a great job of using all of their personnel available to them. So certainly they will go out and mix different personnel groupings into the game from the standpoints of their skill players and even throwing a couple extra linemen in there when they have to. As far as all that, you really have to do your due diligence as far as what they are trying to get done within those groups, and take a look at them and hope that everything is covered when you go into the game in terms of the different ways they are trying to attack you. Certainly it poses a huge challenge for us with a team like this that has excellent players and depth at all those positions, and can really roll different kinds of combinations of people and players into the game. That is a big challenge, and then at that point you hope when you get into the game that you will be able to adjust if there is anything new or unusual that comes up and be able to handle that on the field at the time.
Q: Can you talk about the progress of Alfonzo Dennard, who is off to a good start to the season?
MP: I think everybody on the defense is trying to get better every week. Certainly Alfonzo, Aqib [Talib], Devin McCourty, Stephen Gregory, Logan Ryan, Kyle Arrington, all those guys and Marquice Cole, everybody that we've had out there, [Duron] Harmon, are just trying to improve and get better every week. That's the progress that we're taking a look at and trying to evaluate, along with the guys in the front, whether it's the linebackers or the [defensive] line. Everybody plays a role in the game, and hopefully they can go out and execute that role to the best of their ability. But, we are certainly looking for improvement out of all of them, and what I will say right now is obviously they're all working extremely hard from the defensive standpoint. From Vince [Wilfork] to Jerod [Mayo] all the way through, these guys are just trying to get better and they're trying to work really hard to improve each week. That's really all we can ask from them and all we can get out of them.
Q: Steve Gregory has talked about the importance of having a year under his belt in the defense. What have you seen from him in terms of his growth in this defense?
MP: Well I think anytime you have a player that's been multiple years within a system, obviously they are going to have some improvement in terms of the understanding of the scheme you are trying to run, the communication, the principle behind it. So certainly he has been able to develop, and push forward through, and the same with all of our guys. I've known Steve a long time, so he is a hard worker, a guy that really tries to go out and do what you ask him to do, and he's going to try to do everything the way you want it done and to the best of his ability. Certainly I just give him credit for working extremely hard to improve from one year to the next, but obviously even every day. He is in the back end with all those guys I just mentioned; Devin McCourty, Talib, Dennard and Kyle Arrington, all those guys are just working together along with our linebacking corps from a coverage aspect and also the run game. [He's] really just been able to fully digest what we're trying to do and take it from a whole [added] year of experience.
Q: Do safeties and cornerbacks hold meetings separately, or do they all meet together so that they have a good idea of the inner-workings in the secondary?
MP: Well I think just in general as basic philosophy of teaching, I think what you want to do is approach it from a holistic point of view and break it down into its fundamental elements from there. I think that's what you want to do with your position groups also. So, it doesn't matter what the subject is, if you can grasp it from a full concept standpoint, break it down into its individual parts, and then bring it back together and go back through it as a holistic unit, I think that's the best way to get it done.