Falcons’ Arthur Smith: ‘I’m really proud of this team’

Credit: D. Orlando Ledbetter

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Credit: D. Orlando Ledbetter

Here’s what Falcons coach Arthur Smith had to say after the 21-14 win over the Jaguars on Sunday:

Could you discuss how you were able to close out this game?

Yeah. You know, obviously, we wanted to end the game with the ball in our hands, but sometimes it doesn’t always go that way. Those guys battled. We stayed aggressive, [were]able to convert that third-and-2, got a call playing off of tendency there, conversion. We had to put the defense back on the field, but they’ve got to close games as well and that’s what a good team does. There’s no panic. Our guys, I think it says a lot about the character of this staff and this staff after the last couple weeks because we don’t live and die on the day-to-day narrative. [We] keep trying to improve and [I’m] really proud of this team and this staff.

Can you discuss Cordarrelle Patterson’s play and 151 yards rushing, a season-high?

Yeah. That’s what good teams have to do. That’s why you can live in all these narratives, and they’re all BS if you don’t continue to grow and improve. We felt good about it, about the run game, regardless of what statistics and situations, whatever. We kept chipping away and today was a great job by the entire offense running the football. Obviously, having CP [RB Cordarrelle Patterson] back adds an element. He’s a warrior. He’s a big, physical presence that can do a lot for us, and that’s clear. It was good to have him back.

Can you talk about Drew Dalman coming in at center and Mykal Walker at linebacker for Deion Jones?

That was the plan all week with (Matt Hennessy) and Drew (Dalman), and I thought Matt responded. That’s not an easy thing to go through. Yeah, it was a little unconventional, but we thought it was best for our football team. I thought it made us better and we’ll continue to do that. Guys are going to have to step up. It’s a long season. Deion [Jones] had something pop up at the end of the week and that’s why we develop the roster. I’m proud as hell of Myk(al) Walker. He stayed ready all year and he did a good job playing that role today.

Can you discuss the decision to put Drew Dalman in at center?

We felt good about it. Like I said, you can write conventional rules, whatever. But, you know, we felt good about the rotation. We’ve got a lot of trust in both (Hennessy) and(Dalman) and the work they’ve done all year with Matt (Ryan), so it is what it is. We felt good about it, and that’s why we went with it.

At the end of the first half, the clock ran down in a fourth-down situation when the Jaguars were going to kick the field goal. Did you consider taking a timeout there?

Well, it depends. You could make an argument either way, but they were going to get the ball after half. So, you burn the timeout. We were at the advantage. I believe it was second-and-11 when I called it. (It was) incomplete. I believe they had a third-and-11. They checked it down. We tackled them, watched and see if they were going to call a timeout, seeing what they were going to do. There was some consternation on the sidelines, so I think he was looking at me thinking I was going to call it. I was waiting, just playing the game because I felt with two timeouts, obviously, we threw an interception, I thought we had plenty of time to go down and score a field goal. With the balance between time and timeouts, we felt good it about it. Really, it was the result of what happened on third down. So, yeah, you could bang it there, but I didn’t want to give them that opportunity. I wanted to see what they were going to do.

The offensive line allowed just one sack and the Jaguars had four total quarterback hits. What does that say about that group?

It says they rally. They’ve got a tough-minded group is what it says. I told you guys, been saying all year, you can’t live and die with the day-to-day narrative. You’ve got to see the big picture. You look at minor obstacles that get thrown your way in a long NFL season, and it says a lot about this team. We’re chipping away, so we’re right in the mix and we’ve got six games to go playing meaningful ball in December. That’s where we want to be. Sure, you want your record to be better, but this team grinds. They do. Whether you start 0-2, you dip to 4-6, the easy thing to do would be rationalize and say, ‘Oh, this, that.’ Nope, we’re going to continue to work and try to get better.

What does Cordarrelle Patterson bring to the offense?

There’s a couple things. Certainly, he’s a good football player, and you’ve got to account for him. He plays a lot of roles, but he’s physical. He’s a hard guy to tackle and that’s stating the obvious here. So, it brings a different element in that right. When it gets late in the year and you’re running the football, those hits add up and he can do a lot for us. It says a lot about him and went out there and played today and he made an impact. But really, we needed something early. [I] felt we got some good momentum, and he was able to punch the ball in on that run and it kind of got us going again.

Did you have to talk Cordarrelle Patterson out of the kick return?

I made that decision.

You made that decision?

Yes, because he would try to do everything, so sometimes you have to save people from themselves. You want to coach guys like that.

Would you look at maybe making the choice of kick returner more of a permanent thing?

Well, I mean, every week presents different set of challenges. So, it’ll just be week-to- week and we’ll see where he’s at, you know, but I would make those calls. I’m not going to sit here today and back myself in the corner, but all options are on the table.

What type of statement does powerful running like today make?

Well, you can be physical in the wide zone, wide zone. So, no matter what scheme, you can add a physicality to it, which most people don’t, but I think we want to have a physical presence. Whatever scheme we’re running, wide zone, tight zone, gap, pin pole, there’s a lot of ways to try to run the football, but we want to have the physical element and that’s why we train the way we do, why we try to get up to the line of scrimmage. It’s good to see those guys’ hard work pay off. Then next week is going to present a whole different set of challenges and we’ve got to find a way to win a division game at home.

How did you see this group turn it around after the last few weeks?

Well, you take some time. I mean, the human emotion right after, you know, you lose two games like that, it’s easy, like I said, to go through the range of emotions. But when you take a step back and you can have some perspective, and that’s what we’ll all try, here, have some perspective. Here’s where we’re at, we know why, we deserve to be where we’re at, but it’s not catastrophic. I think too many times people think instant results. Well, there’s a lot of ways to go with it, but I don’t believe in that, and this team doesn’t. We kept it to work, things we want to tweak. We’ll continue to do that, so [that] says a lot about the character of these players and this staff.

What was giving you that confidence in the run game today?

(It was the) same thing that gave me confidence in Tennessee. When you’re installing a system, you know, there’s a lot of revisionist history. But there were times in ‘18 where it didn’t look too pretty, and we got going at the end of the year in the run game. (It) just takes some time sometimes and these guys work so hard. The easy thing to do would be, hey, let’s panic, let’s just start grab bagging, stealing plays that we think worked that other people [did] that may not fit us. That’s not we’re training to do. We’ve been training to hit these combinations, and they paid off today. [That] doesn’t guarantee it will be like that next week. Like I said, next week will present a different set of challenges, but it’s what we believe in. I’ve been through it before, so again, talk about perspective and going back to work.

(On RB Cordarrelle Patterson playing multiple positions)

He got his defensive snap today. Did you see it? Did you mark that down? I may put him on the depth chart for d-line next week, for free safety.

How does the rotation actually work?

Like I said, it was a little unconventional. But our plan was to go two on two and take it from there, and we’ll assess when we get back and watch the film and have a day kind of think about it and just see where we go from here.

How did the defensive unit play today?

They’ve improved, the defensive guys, again, Duron (Harmond), Erik (Harris). Those guys provide a lot of steady leadership. It’s good to see Richie (Grant) and Duron. It’s a long season, but (we) try to have perspective there too. They came up. They made plays. (Adetokunbo Ogundeji) continuing to have a (good season), just a quiet pro. A lot of these young guys are having impacts and they’re surrounded by some smart vets, and we’ve got to play together as a team.

Like you said, you’d rather end the game with the ball in your hands. But to get the defense to shut the door, just what kind of confidence can that give them?

A lot. It’s a team game. I mean, we would have loved to have converted that had third down. We didn’t, so, you know, credit to Jacksonville, but there’s no panic. The only thing there was they pumped the play clock there. It was a little bit of a… I don’t know what happened there, why they pumped it and then it went down. I’ll get to the bottom of that. We take a delay. It’s not catastrophic right there, but you don’t want to see the false start on the next one. Thomas Morstead, another guy came in this week. He’s a pro and he made an impact on the game. Not that Dustin Colquitt hasn’t punted well either, but that’s why we have a good staff. Everybody’s collaborative, and (General Manager) Terry (Fontenot) and his staff and all the coaches, we all collaborate. Those are underrated moves that nobody thinks about, but he had a huge impact on this game.

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Atlanta Falcons schedule and scores

Eagles 32, Falcons 6

Buccaneers 48, Falcons 25

Falcons 17, Giants 14

Washington 34, Falcons 30

Falcons 27, Jets 20

Bye Week

Falcons 30, Dolphins 28

Panthers 19, Falcons 13

Falcons 27, Saints 25

Cowboys 43, Falcons 3

Patriots 25, Falcons 0

Falcons 21, Jaguars 14

Next four games

Tampa Bay at Falcons, 1 p.m., Sunday, Dec. 5

Falcons at Carolina, 1 p.m., Sunday, Dec. 12

Falcons at San Francisco, 1 p.m., Sunday, Dec. 19

Detroit Lions at Falcons, 1 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 26

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