Falcons’ Arthur Smith: ‘I did a really poor job getting us ready to go’

Here’s what Falcons coach Arthur Smith had to say after the 32-6 loss to the Eagles in the season opener Sunday:

Opening Statement: “I did a really poor job getting us ready to go. I feel awful for our fans. Everybody showed up today. We’ll do a better job. That game is not going to define us. It’s a long season to go. I certainly didn’t do a good enough job getting us ready to go today.”

On his message to the team afterward: “It’s a long season. Nothing matters. But what goes on there, we gotta improve. We’ve been in worse spots. It’s Week 1. We got 16 games to go, and hat’s off to Philly. They did a great job coming in here. They took advantage. Situational football. They scored in the red zone. We didn’t. And then we got down and we played right in their hands. That’s what happens when you get down multiple possessions and you get out exactly what happened what you saw at the end there.”

On the two red-zone possessions: “The first one, I think we were first-and-5. Trying to plug a run in there. Went for a quick play action right there. Didn’t get it, clearly. And then third down, they got a little bit of pressure there. But that’s what happens. You get to the third down. They’re obvious. I gotta go do a better job. I gotta go look at the film. I don’t want to overreact, but that’s what it looked like on the field. Second one down there, [D. Orlando Ledbetter], we made mistakes. We go a little play-action, cover the guy out. If he had caught it, it would have been ruled back. Those are self-inflicted wounds. And that’s what I’m really — I gotta do a better job there.”

On procedural penalties in the red zone: “Sure. That’s bad football. I was talking about the one where we got down on the 2 [yard line]. We kept getting backed up at the end of the first quarter, I believe, going into the second. Hat’s off the to the Eagles. Like I said, the yards don’t matter. You go down. You gotta score touchdowns. It changes the momentum of the game. Right before the half, the one you’re talking about, we get the false start. We’re trying to get it backed up to get into a drive and be smart there because they get the ball coming out in the second half. And you’re backed up. When you’re backed up, they won the field position battle. You name it, right down the list, and credit to Nick [Sirianni] and their staff and really their players. Like I said, we didn’t win that situation. You get the false start. We don’t get the first down. We get a defensive short field. They’re fighting and they score right before the half.”

Falcons head coach Arthur Smith runs off the field after 32-6 to the Philadelphia Eagles in the season opener Sunday, Sept. 12, 2021, at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta. (Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@ajc.com)

Credit: Curtis Compton / curtis.compton@ajc.com

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Credit: Curtis Compton / curtis.compton@ajc.com

On why he felt they weren’t able to execute in the red zone: “Because you go there and you have -- if you’re going to have penalties, guys. Nobody that’s in this league is coaching the hold. That doesn’t happen. Those fouls are part of the game. I gotta go back and look why those ones late. What we need to do better. Again, I don’t want to overreact to that. The officials have a hard job. I don’t want to blame them for anything. I gotta see what we’re doing, make sure it’s something obvious, we made a mistake there. We’re just dropping back and they’re playing zone coverage and guys going routes. I don’t know. I have to look at that. It’s the stuff, presnap, false starts, the things you try to pride yourself on, and we do in that situation. You’re backed up, you’re going to give them a short field. You get down on the 2-yard line and you have an illegal formation. I’ve got to clean that up. So, yeah, I do put that on me.”

On whether he saw anything in practice that made him think the team would make mistakes in this game: “No. But historically you go to a lot of week ones and you go in there. It’s hard to answer that without sounding like I’m making excuses. I gotta look at the film. I gotta evaluate what we’re doing just to make sure these guys understand. When we’re getting fatigued like we just gotta do the basics.”

On the game plan: “No. The narrative you’re going with about Matt [Ryan] and deep shots, no. The game plan was to not let what happened at the end of the game when you get obvious [passing situations] and you gotta play obvious football and that’s a damn good front. I wasn’t just sitting there pumping their tires. It’s the truth. When you get obvious, it’s hard, and so when you look at the stat line and, what, we gave up three sacks late? You’re playing three-quarters in a two-possession game. Certainly not pretty, but when you’ve got obvious and you’re playing right into their hands and that’s what happened and what’s that I was trying to avoid all game. And I thought we did a pretty decent job in the first half. He was pretty clean. And we obviously didn’t score the touchdowns, which led us we got down too many possessions. That’s on the offense. Defense is out there fighting, and we didn’t put any stress on them.”

On whether Philadelphia made adjustments after the first two drives: “No. They played it there, and that’s not a shot at John [Gannon]. Line in the front and they’re going to play zone coverage. And, again, when you get behind the sticks and you’re not moving the ball, you’re playing right in their hands, and that’s what happened.”

On the pace and the tempo on those first two drives before they stalled: “I think we had four possessions right at the first half so, we had two go down and only come away with six points. Hat’s off to them. And the one before, we gotta go back and look at that one. Obviously, we needed to get something going there. It’s about scoring touchdowns in this league and eliminating self-inflicted wounds, and we didn’t do a good enough job. I’ve gotta do a better job. And then the one before the half you’re trying to play the game there. You want to get going on the drive. You’re backed up. But you also don’t want to go three-and-out in ten seconds and give them the ball back. We had the penalty. We didn’t convert. And you saw the end result. They scored a touchdown. And then we had another penalty on the extra point. Those are subtle things. And then they end up going for 2. And that’s completely on us. That’s what happened.”

Falcons head coach Arthur Smith calls a time out against the Philadelphia Eagles during the first half Sunday, Sept. 12, 2021, at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta. (Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@ajc.com)

Credit: Curtis Compton / curtis.compton@ajc.com

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Credit: Curtis Compton / curtis.compton@ajc.com

On avoiding being predictable because obvious passing situations put heat on your offensive line: “They would have put the heat on anybody at the end of that game when you’re down multiple possessions like that. That’s not our excuse. Credit to them. They beat us. And whether we had a rookie or you’re just back there and you’re throwing 50 times, that’s a good front. Put it right in their hands.”

On where the team goes from here: “We gotta get better. I gotta get better. I think that one is pretty obvious. I gotta go back and look at the film. Certainly, he didn’t look like they were doing anything for him the first couple drives. But as the game wore on, whether it was Jalen [Hurts] or anybody, we didn’t hold off at the end when it was obvious.”

On the replay review at the end of the first half: “Again, you’re in the heat of the game. My opinion doesn’t matter. I was pretty much asking what they’re seeing out there. It’s a scoring play. It doesn’t matter whether you’re under two minutes or not, they’re going to look at it and confirm it. Again, they got a hard job. I was trying to ask him what they were looking at is pretty much what I was doing.”

On whether that was what his conversation with the officials was about: “Yes. Pretty much.”

On what he means by he should have done a better job: “I’m going to evaluate everything. Whether we win or lose, we gotta turn it around. We got 16 more of these things. Like I said, I’ve been in worse situations. The narratives write themselves. We had won, you can write the narratives. You lose neither one of them are true because we got a long journey ahead of us and we gotta get better. Where I think I’m frustrated is I gotta evaluate what I’m doing, whether it’s coaching, messaging, about let’s get lined up and not when you’re on the two-yard line get in an illegal formation. That’s the stuff that really concerns me. Whatever you feel like it is there, that’s just the truth. That’s coming from me. I’m not trying to be a martyr here. That’s my job as head coach. I’m responsible for the entire team. When you go out there and you have those self-inflicted wounds right there, that’s a problem.”

On the mood of the team: “If we had won or lost, you always worry about guys believing stuff that’s not true because it’s such a hard journey. And if we don’t come in tomorrow and correct what needs to be corrected on the film and we don’t turn around and get ready for Tampa, who’s had a couple days, then we got issues. And that’s the same whether you win or lose. That’s going to be my approach every Monday, or I guess Friday after we play New England. That’s the name of the game. You’ve got to improve. You want to send a message, we’re not going to be the team today, whether we won or lost, that we’re going to be in October or November, or December. We gotta get better and I gotta do better.”

On positives taken away from the game: “I don’t know about that. I’d have to look at the film.”

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