By Rob Hamilton

Here are the questions and and answers from the Falcons post game press conference Sunday after the loss to the Panthers eliminated them from playoff contention.

First up, (former) head coach Mike Smith:

Opening Statement:

 “Today’s game, like most games in the NFL, is about winning the line of scrimmage. We did not do that on either side of the football. Offensively, our quarterback was under duress all day. We weren’t able to establish the running game, and I thought after the first couple of drives at least we played a little bit better. We lost the turnover battle. You can’t give the ball to our opponent have them return it for touchdowns multiple times. That was the difference in the game, and with that I’ll open it up for questions.”

On how disappointed he was in the performance:

“You guys saw the game. Very disappointed in terms of how we performed. Not acceptable, at all.”

On how concerned he is with his future:

“Ma’am, I’ve answered this many times. I’m here as the head football coach until Arthur Blank tells me anything different.”

On what he said to the team in the locker room after the loss:

“This is not how you want to finish. I appreciate their hard work all this season, but this is not the way that you want to finish. Hopefully, the guys that are going to be here in the future will remember it.”

On whether he believes his staff deserves to come back:

“I’m not going to comment. That’s not my choice. This is a business about winning football games, and that’s how you’re judged. I understand that, and I’ll leave it at that.”

On how much Matt Ryan’s pick-six affected the momentum of the game:

“Again guys, when you turn the ball over and you get where your defense isn’t even out on the field when they’re scoring that’s tough to overcome. Statistically, when you throw pick-sixes you’re not going to like where you’re at.”

On what he wishes he would’ve done better:

“I wish I would’ve done a whole lot of things better. Ultimately, I’m the one that’s held responsible. This is a 6-10 football team, and there’s one person that the record’s attributed to, and that’s the head football coach. We were 6-10 in 2014. There are a whole lot of things I could’ve done differently and better. They’re all learning experiences, and I will take those and in the future make sure that I don’t make the same mistakes that I made this season.”

On the effort of the players on that second pick-six:

“Guys I didn’t see. I saw guys trying to get him down. I didn’t see a specific player, and I’m not going to attribute a comment about things I didn’t see.”

On the last two seasons and how difficult they’ve been:

“When you don’t win, it’s not fun. We know what the expectations are. We set the bar very high here from the very first day. We won a lot of football games, and in the last two years we haven’t been able to do that. This is a business about what have you done for me lately. Obviously, the season this year was not up to the expectations of me or anybody in the organization, nor any of our fans.”

On the report on ESPN about the team hiring a search firm:

“Look guys, I’m not going to comment about what you guys talk about, and what you guys have. There’s distractions every day you go to work. When you go to work you have distractions at your work. When I go to work I have distractions at my work. I’m not going to comment about some report that probably has no validity to it.”

On the practices this week after coming off the big win and whether there was anything that led him to believe this might happen:

“Absolutely not. Shocked that the way that the ball game went. Thought we had a good week of preparation, but we didn’t execute obviously across the board.”

On whether this losing season sends any signals that there are problems within the organization:

“It sends signals to me that I didn’t get the job done. I’m the one that’s held responsible for it. No one else in this building is, and it’s my responsibly for the seasons that we’ve had the entire time that we’ve been here.”

QUARTERBACK MATT RYAN

On difficulty in the pocket today:

“Across the board we didn’t do a very good today. Hats off to Carolina, they came down and played the way you need to play in these types of situations. They executed at a high level and we did not, across the board. When you do that, you are going to lose games.”

On if the pregame reports on Coach Mike Smith were distracting before the game:

“No, I don’t think there were any distractions today. I thought, all things considered with the holidays and things going on, we had a great week of preparation. From a player’s standpoint, we just did not play well today.

On what the mood in the locker room was like:

“I think everyone was very disappointed. Obviously, you come into this game knowing what the consequences are, positive and negative. As a player and as an athlete, you never allow yourself to think about it going in the wrong direction. You always have to have a positive mindset going in. I think these guys did all week. Then, when it doesn’t happen, it’s disappointing. That’s part of the deal when you don’t play well.”

On how surprised you were on the loss:

“Everyone’s confidence coming into the game was very high. We played our best football in the second half of the season. Today is one of those things; sure no one really expected to play the way we did today. From that standpoint, it’s very disappointing.”

On running the ball ineffectively today:

“When you go against a defense that has as good as a front seven as Carolina, it’s important to do two things. Play ahead in the chains and play ahead in the game, so that you can keep them off balance. One of the reasons we can’t run the ball as much as we like is because we got behind. Also, we need to do better than we were. We were still early in the game, so it’s disappointing. It felt like we had a good plan coming in and we just didn’t get the job done.”

On if this was one of his toughest games as a quarterback because of the lack of protection:

“You never know how it’s going to be. There are times like today that you’re forced out of the pocket for whatever reason. You try to make the best of those situations. Across the board I just don’t think offensively we did a good enough job.”

 

On what happened with the two interceptions:

“Obviously, you never want to do those. The first one, it happens. That’s not a good decision on my part. Trying to squeeze that into coverage, it is what it is. You try to make plays, sometimes in traffic; you got to live with that. The second one, I had the opportunity to throw it, I just got to put it in a better position. I need to be wider and a little bit more firm on the throw.”

On what Coach Smith has meant to you:

“I don’t like to speculate. Mike has done a great job. The seven years I have been here, he has been first class. He shows up every day. He works really hard, he is incredibly consistent. You know where you stand with him as a player and I think guys respect that. I have nothing but a lot of respect for Mike.”

WIDE RECEIVER RODDY WHITE

On playing for Coach Mike Smith:

“It has been really good, man.  Coach Smith has been a great head coach to us for seven years.  He has done a lot of good things.  We have been to the playoffs a bunch of times, won a lot of games, and it has been a very, very, very good time.  I love that guy to death.  I just do not know what is going to happen at this point.  Hopefully, he is our coach next year, but you never know.  You never know in the NFL.  It is a year-to-year thing.”

On the slow start today:

“I do not think that we came out flat.  I think they had some things going early on when they mixed up a bunch of coverages and then played a lot of man coverage.  You know, they just dropped back, dropped eight, dropped seven, and they rallied to the ball.  They did a good job of that.  It kind of confused us early on in the game.  They played some coverages that we were not prepared for.  We made some adjustments at halftime, but they did a good job.  They got off to a good start and made us turn the ball over on offense and get scores off of them.”

 

WIDE RECEIVER/RETURNER DEVIN HESTER

On Coach Mike Smith’s future:

“I do not know what is going to happen.  I feel the guy did a great job, put us in the right position, and gave us a chance to get into the playoffs.  We just came up short today.”

Is the criticism for Coach Mike Smith unfair:

“I think so.  At the end of the day, it is not my decision.  I am only a player, and I will do what I am asked to do.  I am going to try and make plays.”

RUNNING BACK JACQUIZZ RODGERS

Thoughts on the Panthers defense and how it impacted the Falcons offensive production:

“I think they just had a good scheme against us. At the same time, I think our offense as a whole did not play to our full capability and potential. We also have to score more than three points to beat any team in the NFL. We weren’t able to sustain offensive drives which led to too many three and outs. We also have too many turnovers. Overall, today was not our best performance and it’s simple as that.”

 

Can you put this loss into perspective:

“It is a tough loss especially knowing everything that was on the line. In a sense, we controlled our destiny heading into this match up against the Panthers. But at the end of the day, if you put up a performance like we did today, a loss is guaranteed to follow.”

RUNNING BACK DEVONTA FREEMAN

Thoughts on the loss:

“In my opinion, this game came down to whichever team made the most plays and played the most consistent. You have to give the Carolina Panthers a lot of credit because they took care of business in this category. For whatever reason, we could not find an answer on all sides of the ball.”

 

Was there a point in the game where you were surprised by how Carolina dominated the game:

“It was one of those things where it felt like the Panthers could do no wrong. They just kept scoring and the next thing you know it they’re up 21-3. It was tough to get back in the game because it seemed like they would never let off the gas pedal and allow us back in the game.”

GUARD JUSTIN BLALOCK

Issues with the offensive line today:

“it was a lot of things. We threw ourselves in the hole pretty early. We were unable to save ourselves. We did everything we could; clawing, digging, scratching, but it did not work whatsoever. We kept shooting ourselves in the foot.”

 

Solutions to getting the offensive line going:

“Without sitting here looking at a stat sheet, I can tell you it wasn’t good. We didn’t do great on any downs today. With an offense like this, we didn’t handle ball control really well. We’ve got to stay on the field and help the defense out and come away with some kind of points, but we didn’t do that. We did a poor job all around today.”

DEFENSIVE TACKLE JONATHAN BABINEAUX

On the game:

“It was a sad ending to a long season. We came out flat today. No excuses for what happened on the field and they (Carolina) were the better team today.”

On the future:

“You’ve just got to take it one day at a time because we don’t know what’s going to happen tomorrow and so forth. As an individual player, I’ve got to wait for whoever’s in charge to make a decision. I have no control or authority over that. All I can do is go to work, if I’m still here and try to do my job.”

On how the season ended:

“It’s very disappointing. Coming into the game, of course we wanted to win, especially coming off a great win last week. We came in with a lot of confidence and just came out flat today.”

CORNERBACK DESMOND TRUFANT

What happened today:

“The turnovers were the key stat. Whoever wins the turnover battle usually wins the game. Even if we give the ball away, we, as a defense, need to get them back and we didn’t do that. That’s hard to overcome.”

 

On Carolina’s run success early in the game:

“We knew they were going to run the ball. They’ve been averaging like 200 yards rushing the past four games, so we knew they were going to run the ball. They had some success. We made some plays, we were in some bad field position spots and things like that, but it just wasn’t a good game. It’s hard to go out like this because we didn’t show up and that’s hard to swallow.”

On the future:

“I believe in the coaching staff. They believed in me. They brought me here. They put me out there and helped me develop mentally and physically. I definitely believe in the staff. I don’t want to talk about it too much because I have no bearing on what’s going to happen in the future.”

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