Smith reflects on important win over Saints

Jimmy Cribb

One would think that following a 4-12 season and an opening game win over a hated rival, the mood in Flowery Branch would be that of huge elation. When head coach Mike Smith spoke this afternoon, it was more of glad the team won and also showed great things on the field.

“That was a very hard fought game yesterday,” Smith said. “Two very good football teams and we were fortunate enough to make enough plays throughout the game to stay in it, to make some critical plays at critical times.”

Yes the offensive line played well, defense caused timely turnovers, and they got great play out of Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan. It was a record setting afternoon inside the Georgia Dome for the veteran signal caller. The day after the win, his performance still looked good to Smith.

“I think that Matt’s performance was just as impressive on the film and through the film review,” Smith said. “Obviously the number speak for themselves, setting an Atlanta Falcons record for number of yards. I thought he was on point, distributed the ball, was able to make plays after the play broke down, and he got it into our playmakers hands. It was a very good performance by our quarterback.”

The Falcons also had to play the entire second half without having rookie left tackle Jake Matthews on the field with an ankle injury. Smith says that Matthews was examined today and didn’t have an update on his status. He says that will come on Wednesday.

Since Matthews went down just before the half, the Falcons were forced to move veteran offensive lineman Gabe Carimi over to the left tackle position for the final 30-plus minutes. Smith really liked what he got out of Carimi.

“I thought Gabe Carimi went in and did an outstanding job,” Smith said. “For not really taking any snaps over there on the left side. He was called to duty there in the second half and did a very good job for us.”

Smith also points to the cross-training of positions on the offensive line and competition for playing time that took place during training camp for the improved play on the offensive line.

Another player that stood out for the Falcons in their overtime win against the Saints, was veteran wide receiver/return man Devin Hester. He joined the Falcons after not catching one single pass, much less having one thrown to him last season with the Chicago Bears. In fact, Hester had only caught a combined 49 passes from 2011 through 2012. Prior to that season he caught 40 passes in 2010.

Needless to say, Hester wanted to prove that he could play wide receiver this season and Mike Smith says he wanted him to be a receiver as well. He even told him as much during the offseason when Hester came to town for his free agent visit.

“I had a very frank conversation with him about what our thoughts were and what he could bring to the table,” Smith said. “He was in complete agreement that he’s not just a return man, he is a wide receiver and can help us. He was going to come here and compete for playing time in our wide receiver group. I think he’s shown in the preseason and he’s shown in the first game that he’s got outstanding skills as a wide receiver.”

Hester finished yesterday afternoon with 99 yards on five catches.

Now, the attention has turned to the Cincinnati Bengals on the road this Sunday. Smith says there’s no longer time to enjoy the overtime win.

“I can assure you this we’ve already met,” Smith said. “We met early with the players today and put this game to rest. We’re on to the Cincinnati Bengals, because they had a really impressive win on the road against the Baltimore Ravens.”

Tuesday is the scheduled off day for the players and they’ll get back to work on Wednesday.


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