Falcons’ Smith: ‘We have to keep improving, clearly’

Credit: D. Orlando Ledbetter

Arthur Smith said he is proud of what the team is building despite loss to Buccaneers.

Here’s what Falcons coach Arthur Smith had to say after the 48-25 loss to the Buccaneers on Sunday:

On the game plan when Atlanta cut the lead to three points: “I’m proud to coach this group. We are building something in there. These guys fight. So, you go on the road like this against a really good, veteran team, our guys kept swinging. It’s unfortunate what happened at the end. We’ll go in there and watch the tape and keep moving forward and correct things. You have a ball game 28-25, we are backed up and get to third-and-inches and we don’t convert. Obviously, they get the short field, they go up and couple tipped balls later and that’s what the score was. We have a group of fighters in there and I’m proud to coach them.”

On the tipped passes that led to interceptions: “I think what happens is it’s humid as hell out there. I have to look at it, I don’t want to overreact there. A lot of times those guys are rushing, they’re tired and so it’s two guys fighting in the mud there. They did a nice job getting their hands up and we have to evaluate how that happened and why. That’s my snap judgement.”

On the failed fourth down conversion: “There’s a lot of plays, you can’t just blame it on one play. We have to be able to convert third-and-inches to not even put the punter back there. Everybody has a job to do. Obviously, you get down to the fourth quarter those plays are magnified, but there’s a lot of plays lead up to it. Like everything, we’ll go in there and evaluate what we did well, and what we didn’t. We have to keep improving, clearly.”

On the team’s margin for error: “The margin of error is small in the NFL. It usually comes down to turnovers. We had three, they had one. Ours came at critical times in the fourth quarter. I would say that about any game in the NFL. There are very few times you could say the margin of error is big in the NFL. These are professionals, two teams going out there and fighting it out. That’s every week – the margin of error is small.”

On what he told the team after the game: “They got two pick-sixes off tipped balls? That’s 14 points right there. It looks ugly in the box score, on the surface looking at it. Understanding the context of the game, we had a chance in the fourth quarter, we have to convert. To go win it or at worst flip it. We had all three timeouts maybe you pin them back and you have a chance. We didn’t convert and they did. That was the difference.”

On not using all three timeouts in the first half: “I can give you the reasons, they sound like excuses. We can’t let that happen, for multiple reasons. Luckily, we still had a timeout, we handled the situation pretty well. They had an array of penalties, we took advantage. We were getting the ball. Hoping to go double them up, we got a field goal right at the end of the half. We get the ball, rip off a decent run, they tip it up and they intercepted it. I believe they went up 28-10. So, we have to clean stuff up, that’s every week. Having said all that these guys keep swinging, and you take advantage, there’s a positive. We handled the situation before the half. We didn’t double them up because of the tip ball right there. And they went up 28-10.”

On the frustration from mistakes: “There’s usually a reason when you lose. When you look back on those it certainly doesn’t help. We got 15 more. This group is going to fight. That’s who we are going to be, and we are going to keep improving.”

On the signs of the team’s growth: “We were better in the red zone, two-minute [offense] right before the half. I’m proud of the defense, we went aggressive. They stopped us on the quarterback sneak. We put the defense out there with the short field with Tom Brady over there. Those are the risks. We weren’t going to come out here and not swing. Those are the things that stick with you. These guys kept coming back and back. It’s just a shame when you get in there with a three-point game and it ends the way it does. They took advantage and credit goes to Tampa.”

On the defense’s performance versus Tom Brady: “The score got out of hand but a lot of that comes from the offense, right? You could almost put four of those touchdowns give or take. Two of them for sure were pick-sixes. One of them was a tipped ball right into the red zone and then the other one we went for it on fourth down. I know everybody feels sick when they see that box score, but there were some positives. They got to the quarterback, Dante (Fowler Jr.) made a big play. That was a huge play. That changed things, because that could’ve gotten ugly and Dante stepped up and caused the sack fumble. Those guys, at times they got pressure, we knew they were going to throw it down there and credit to them. They made the plays.”

On the injuries and moving forward: “That’s life in the NFL. We have to look at the injuries. Obviously, you take everything seriously and it’s the next guy up. That’s our job as coaches, to adapt. That is unfortunately life in the NFL. So, you have to find ways and put the guys in the best position to succeed. We’ll look at that. We don’t have to make those decisions right now.”

On the penalties on the kickoff return to start the second half: “There were two flags. They picked up the horse collar and went with the block in the back. That’s their call, those guys have a tough job to do. That was a pretty big swing there because that led I believe – coming out, we had the run, the next one was the tipped pass.”

On the decision to go on fourth down twice: “You want to get something positive going. We had something we were trying to get them to jump. Clearly it didn’t work, and just where the game was right then. You have to make those calls. You don’t want to give them the short field. I felt better the next time, wanted to be aggressive. I felt that we needed something to get us a spark, that was why. Flip a coin there, when you go for it. Early in the game, where I felt we were. I made the judgement to send the punt team out and try to get them to jump. Obviously they didn’t, so we punted it.”

On Cordarrelle Patterson: “He’s a good football player. We hope to build off that. He’s fun to coach, and I’m glad he’s on our team.”

On Kyle Pitts’ performance: “I think it’s a sign of his growth. Kyle (Pitts) we will continue to add every week. It’s a credit to him and obviously the comfort level of Matt (Ryan) and him. I think you are starting to see that pay off.”

On learning the tight end position: “It’s a hard position to play in the NFL. You’re asking them to go be a receiver, you’re asking them to block like a tackle at times. We move him all over the place. A lot of rookies can’t handle that. Kyle clearly can. Like I said, I’m excited we’ve got 15 more opportunities to work with this group and it’s a long season. We’ve got to continue to get better. There were some good signs, but obviously we’ve got to find a way to win these games and not have the things that happened in the fourth quarter. That’s the difference.”

On coaching rookies: “They are all different. As a coach that’s why I don’t do comparisons because it’s not one size fits all. It’s what they can handle, and hopefully Kyle (Pitts) has a long productive career. But have other guys at that spot, start slow and then year two, year three. But I think what you are seeing is why we brought Kyle in here. I think his growth has accelerated and what we are asking him to do. I’m pleased with that and hopefully looking to build off of it.”

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Falcons’ 2021 schedule features trip to London, January trip to Buffalo

Atlanta Falcons Schedule

Eagles 32, Falcons 6

Buccaneers 48, Falcons 25

Falcons at New York Giants, Sept. 26 at 1 p.m.

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

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

Here’s the rest of full schedule.