Falcons’ Arthur Smith: ‘Glad we got the win’

Credit: D. Orlando Ledbette/AJC

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Falcons coach Arthur Smith comments on his players' persistence in 17-14 win over the Giants.

Credit: D. Orlando Ledbette/AJC

Here’s what Falcons coach Arthur Smith had to say after the 17-14 win over the Giants on Sunday:

Opening Statement: “Before I forget, just want to say happy birthday to my mother. Hopefully I gave her a pretty good birthday present, or the Falcons did. She turned – and I won’t say her age, but she’s celebrating a birthday today, so I just want to wish my mother a happy birthday. Glad we got the win. With that, fire away with questions.”

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Q: Why wasn’t (Falcons Tight End) Kyle Pitts involved in the offense for the first two or three and half quarters?

A: “Yeah, look, those are surface narratives. You’ve got to give the defense, has a say too. It’s a game of cat and mouse and sometimes these 1-on-1 progressions, they took it away. He’ll go to other places. We try to get all our guys involved. Because he didn’t touch the ball early, doesn’t mean he wasn’t called. Those are really surface narratives, but when you come up and the games on the line, they change it up and (Falcons Quarterback) Matt (Ryan) found him when we needed to, so I was happy to see that.”

Q: Along those lines, how nice was it to see him pop open there on that last one?

A: “It was big, it says a lot about him. I mean, I’ve been around a lot of players, they try to do different things to take you away or they’re trying to take certain things that we’re trying to attack them. I give the Giants a lot of credit, that’s a smart football team. They’re well coached, I’ve got a lot of respect for (Assistant Head Coach/Defensive Coordinator) Patrick Graham and those defensive players and they sat in there and there’s always things we got to clean up. I told you guys whether we win or lose we got to keep improving. Clearly there’s a lot of things for us to improve on, but at the end of the day, it says a lot about a guy like Kyle – touched the ball three and a half quarters and two of the biggest plays in the game, he comes up big in the clutch.”

Q: He’s is a young guy obviously. Did you have to talk to him to keep him from getting frustrated?

A: “No, he’s exactly who we thought he was when we drafted him. He’s not even 21 yet and that’s not only the physical traits, the mental traits, I think that shows up.”

Q: How do you think your defense played today? What do you think that says about the veterans on this team?

A: “Yeah, we talk about this all the time. It’s a 17-week grind now. We clearly didn’t play well enough Week 1 and Week 2. We’ve got a ton of things to improve on. If you don’t improve, like I said, we’re not going to be the same team September as we get into October, November and that’s what the good teams do. You find a way to improve and defensively, there was things we felt we didn’t put them in bad spots. We played complementary football in all three phases. Won the field position battle in certain areas that let us get to that first touchdown that we desperately needed. I don’t like the fact that we got the ball, and we gave it right back. Those are the things we can work on. Got a chance to at least bang the field goal in there knowing they were getting the ball after half. When they had to, critical plays, it’s going to say a lot about your culture. To me, culture is when there’s tough times (and) what it says about you. Week 1, Week 2, you get a game like this on the road, the easy thing to do would be, ‘Oh, here we go again.’ These guys scratched and clawed and fought and I can’t say enough about these guys and their mentality.”

Q: Speaking of avoiding that, ‘Oh here we go again’ feeling, they get a touchdown and a two-point conversion early in the fourth quarter. What did you see for the response from both sides of the ball?

A: “I’d say that’s who we want to be. It’s not going to perfect. We know we’ve got a ways to go, but you can see when we needed the last two drives, guys stepped up. Stepped up, went down the field, scored a touchdown, kept swinging and found different ways in the clutch. (Falcons Tackle) Jake Matthews, (Falcons Running Back Cordarrelle) Patterson made a huge play. We got it down there and Kyle gets open, and Matt did a great job hanging in there and getting him the ball and ultimately won us the game and then (Falcons Kicker) Younghoe (Koo) piked it through there for us. That’s what we want to do. You want to be in games in the end and it’s a huge learning process and a big step in our program.”

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Q: Kyle Pitts was taken away most of the day. You were able to get the ball to him late.

A: “Like I said, defense has a say too. We want to get the ball to our best players, but defense has a say too. We found (Falcons Wide Receiver Calvin Ridley) Rid a lot early, we got the running game going at times when we needed to, (Falcons Wide Receiver Olamide Zaccheaus) O.Z. stepped up. Again, it’s not an isolation. This whole thing, ‘Hey, we’re going to play isolation basketball.’ Yeah, we want to get Kyle the ball, but you’ve got to give Patrick Graham and the Giants defense credit. We chipped away and chipped away, and he comes through at the end. The surface narrative — yeah, sure I’ll look at it. Can I call him a slide or a screen to force it to him? Yeah, maybe, but the way we were playing the game, we’ve got a lot of work to do. They have a say. You could put it on me, but again it says more about his character. He kept chipping away and made a critical third down and a big catch in the last drive to set us up. Again, I call those surface narratives and I think it’s disrespectful to the Giants and their defense and their defensive staff.”

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Falcons tight end Kyle Pitts (8) misses a pass in the end zone against New York Giants cornerback Logan Ryan (23) during the second half Sunday, Sept. 26, 2021, in East Rutherford, N.J. (Seth Wenig/AP)

Credit: Seth Wenig

Falcons tight end Kyle Pitts (8) misses a pass in the end zone against New York Giants cornerback Logan Ryan (23) during the second half Sunday, Sept. 26, 2021, in East Rutherford, N.J. (Seth Wenig/AP)
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Falcons tight end Kyle Pitts (8) misses a pass in the end zone against New York Giants cornerback Logan Ryan (23) during the second half Sunday, Sept. 26, 2021, in East Rutherford, N.J. (Seth Wenig/AP)

Credit: Seth Wenig

Credit: Seth Wenig

Q: A credit to the player for staying ready when it did come to him?

A: “That’s what your job is as a pro and if that’s not the job description, then we got to find a different one. That’s the guys we have, that’s their mindset and I can’t say enough how proud I am of these guys to grind through a win like that we desperately needed on the road.”

Q: You were talking before about how this was a big step. What do you think it says about the level of buy in that your players have to do what you guys did last week initially before the fourth quarter and then do what you did in the fourth quarter today?

A: “It just says we’ve got to focus. It doesn’t change, that we got to improve. We know that it’s not going to change just because we won. It’s the name of the game and that’s what we’re preaching is growth and improvement and hopefully we see that again this week. We got the right mindset in these guys. This will say more about us that anything else. If we had found a way to win bigger, that would have been nice. Maybe it would have helped everybody’s blood pressure, those involved in the Falcons. It says more about our character and it’s something to build off (of) because we got plenty of things to correct.”

Q: You had mentioned earlier in the week about process. Seeing how this has progressed, does this make you feel more comfortable in what your process has been?

A: “You got to believe. You’re always willing to adapt. That’s the thing you’ve got to be objective. You’ve got to have core beliefs and you always have to be able to adapt and innovate. I’ll look at the film obviously as a staff. What we can do better, but we’re constantly doing that. Hopefully this is a step that can get us going moving forward in a positive direction. To win a tight game like this and play good situational football at the end as a team in all three phases, hopefully we build off this.”

Q: Just on a personal level, the feeling of getting your first win as a head coach. What do you think you’ll take away most from this day?

A: “I think years from now you’ll look back. I’m so focused. Really, it’s about everybody in this organization, about the players, the staff, the whole organization top down and bottom back up. A lot of people put a lot of work into this. We’re a team and the credit goes to them, not to me. Hopefully, we’ll get a lot more wins than just one, so that’s kind of how I look at it. One day I guess when I’m sitting in the mountains maybe I’ll reflect back on it, but my mind is on Washington now.”

Q: Did you at least get a game ball out of it?

A: “Yes, I did.”

Q: When you send a guy like Younghoe out there with a kick like that, are you less nervous because of who he is?

A: “Well, I know we’ve got a belief in him. That’s why they’re here and at that point, the players are the ones that go make it happen. We’ve got all the faith in the world in Younghoe and same thing with (Punter) Cam (Nizialek). Don’t discredit Cam. Just like (Offensive Lineman) Jalen (Mayfield) was a low-hanging fruit from Week 1, Cam was a low-hanging fruit from last week. You stick with them, see how they respond. He made some hell of a plays with those punts. Again, it’s not perfect, but that’s why we make the transactions we do and we have a belief system that allows guys to improve.”

Q: How big was that 37-yarder late in the second quarter that kind of flipped the field – Cordarrelle downed it. That was a big play.

A: “Absolutely, that was a big-time play in a game like this. In a game like this. That’s a good observation because that is a huge play. Those are winning football plays and I’m proud as hell of Cam. He stepped back and bounced back, that’s what you want to see.”

Q: You mentioned O.Z. (Olamide Zaccheaus), he made a couple of big catches for you. The one in the first half, how critical is that moment to make that catch the way things are going?

A: “Obviously, when it gets to a game like this every possession is magnified. Most are in the NFL, but especially one like this. It wasn’t the prettiest day of offensive football. We’ve got all the faith in the world in O.Z. I was talking to some guys on Friday, telling you guys that he’s dependable, he’s reliable and when you’ve got guys like that it gives you a chance to win.”

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Falcons wide receiver Olamide Zaccheaus (17) celebrates with his teammates after scoring a touchdown during the first half against the New York Giants, Sunday, Sept. 26, 2021, in East Rutherford, N.J. (Bill Kostroun/AP)

Credit: Bill Kostroun

Falcons wide receiver Olamide Zaccheaus (17) celebrates with his teammates after scoring a touchdown during the first half against the New York Giants, Sunday, Sept. 26, 2021, in East Rutherford, N.J. (Bill Kostroun/AP)
caption arrowCaption
Falcons wide receiver Olamide Zaccheaus (17) celebrates with his teammates after scoring a touchdown during the first half against the New York Giants, Sunday, Sept. 26, 2021, in East Rutherford, N.J. (Bill Kostroun/AP)

Credit: Bill Kostroun

Credit: Bill Kostroun

Q: Was there times today whether it was at halftime or whatever and you had to talk to the players and say, ‘Hey guys, just stick with it, just keep going’?

A: “They had a good mindset. To be honest, I think that was a big challenge after Week 1. We got out and jumped out and then it kind of got away from us. We came out and it didn’t go our way, and I didn’t like that feeling on the sideline in the second half. Last week, we go down to Tampa and clearly, we didn’t do enough in the four quarters, but the guys were fighting and swinging. You talk about culture, like you kind of have to shift the mindset, so we’re always talking about that. Hopefully, today is another step in the right direction to get us going.”

Q: How do you go back – like (with) what was going on in the second half in Week 1 on the sideline, how did you go about making that shift or trying to eliminate it?

A: “It’s all of us. That’s why I don’t have this fixed position that that’s the way it’s always going to be. Maybe I’m crazy, but I believe you can change it. We talk about it, we show plays and try not to let guys do anything more than what we’re asking them to do. I think that happens sometimes where guys think all of a sudden you’ve got to make a play, they go off-script and they understand what the consequences are – you could screw the scheme. So, that’s one thing and then just the belief. You have to have tunnel vision and just go and just build off it, and that’s the only way I know how to do it and we’ll continue to do that starting tomorrow.”

Q: Are you thinking there’s no way you’re going to shave tomorrow?

A: “No. This thing is growing. I won’t let it get completely unkempt, try to look like some of you guys back there. My wife suggested it, so we’ll see. I’ll keep it going.”

Q: You mentioned your mom earlier. Did you have any family here?

A: “No. No, I didn’t, so maybe I’ll tell them to stay away.”

Q: Your wife suggested it because she likes the look or she’s just looking for something to shake you out of 0-2?

A: “Probably both. Probably both.”

Q: So, is this the regular season beard then and not the beginning of a playoff beard?

A: “I don’t think you can call it a playoff (beard) – ‘Just get a win’ beard, how about that? (laughs)”

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Eagles 32, Falcons 6

Buccaneers 48, Falcons 25

Falcons 17, Giants 14

Washington FT at Falcons, Oct. 3 at 1 p.m.

New York Jets vs. Falcons in London, Oct. 10 at 9:30 a.m.

Bye Week

Falcons at Miami Dolphins, Oct. 24 at 1 p.m.

Here’s the rest of full schedule.

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