Atlanta Coach Mike Smith Press Conference, 01.04.12

Q: Are you concerned about playing outdoors and how it may affect Matt Ryan?
A: No, I am not. Matt is from up there in the Northeast and has played a lot of games in the pros and in college in the outdoors even though we play our games indoors. I don't think that is going to be a concern, I think most of our guys are accustomed to playing outside. I would say that we are a mudder team and we are an indoor team.

Q: What have you seen from the Giants pass rush?
A: It is a very efficient pass rush that is based on rotation and moving guys around in different spots. I think coach Coughlin and his staff, specifically coach Fewell, do a very good job of moving guys around. They do a good job of not having guys in the same place so it is going to be very important for us to have a good understanding of what they are trying to do. Some of the stuff that they do is going to be a little exotic. For example, Pierre-Paul can line up at defensive end on the right side or left side, DT or nose tackle or in a standup position. There are some things that you are not accustomed to seeing a lot of times so it is going to be very important for us to do a good job of identifying and not having free rushers.

Q: What is the challenge with dealing with their four-man rush?
A: The challenge is to try to eliminate the pressure on the quarterback, it is not just the sacks. They have done a good job of creating sacks but it also has to do with the number of hits, the ability to move the quarterback off the spot and they do have good numbers with sacks. They do a good job of creating pressure and I think it is really based on their talent and they have some great players upfront. I think that they do an outstanding job with their rotation. You want to try to get as many receivers out into the route that you possibly can so you can have an advantage in the secondary so the big challenge is to find the balance in protection to get guys out in routes.

Q: How has your offensive line improved throughout the course of the season?
A: I think we really put an emphasis on some of the things that we were doing in the first three games and found out that we needed to make some adjustments. That is what coaching is all about. It really wasn't a change in personnel, we did not have Todd McClure in the first three games at the center position. He missed the first three games, he did come back and play the entire season so that would probably be the biggest change in terms of the personnel. You have to look at what you are doing schematically and look at what you are asking your guys to do. I think we have done a much better job and obviously the numbers say that through the last three quarters of the season.

Q: What is toughness?
A: I think that toughness is very evident when you watch film, you just want to see consistency with pad level, you want to see consistency with guys sustaining blocks and consistency when guys are tackling. I think that is what you see when you see a tough football team and I think the Giants are that. I believe we are as well. I think that coach Coughlin and his staff does a very good job of preparing his guys and they are very resilient, they bounce back throughout the game and it is obvious with the success that the quarterback has had in the fourth quarter. It shows that not only do they have mental toughness but physical toughness as well.

Q: How good of a tandem is Victor Cruz and Hakeem Nicks?
A: They are playing great football and when you look at the number, almost 1,600 yards for Cruz and for Nicks almost 1,200 yards. That is 2, 800 yards between those two and you would be hard-pressed to find another tandem that has those types of numbers. They do create matchup issues for you and Eli does a very good job of reading the defense and getting the ball distributed to those guys. They are very explosive and that is the thing that is evident if you look at the plays. They have had 71 plays of 20 yards or more this season so they are a top 10 team in terms of creating those plays.

Q: When you have two guys like that is it impossible to roll a safety to one side?
A: It creates issues and there is no doubt about that. In terms of how you are going to defend those guys, I don't know if you can give it a steady diet of one type of defense. You have to be able to adjust it and try to play the game with the quarterback and receivers in terms of breaking out routes and who is getting rolled to. When you play seven-man fronts, it opens up the running game and that is something that has improved the last four games. The Giants are running the ball extremely well the last four games of the season.

Q: What happened to Michael Boley in Atlanta?
A: Michael Boley has had a very good career and he is a very athletic linebacker. In terms of us building our roster, you have to make decisions based on the offensive and defensive sides of the football. We made a decision and Michael has done a very good job up there in New York. I have enjoyed watching Michael play, he is the same guy that we had down here. He is very athletic three-down linebacker.

Q: Do you see Tony Gonzalez as the Godfather of tight ends?
A: That may be the best way to describe him. Without a doubt, he is one of the greatest tight ends to play the game. He is probably one of the first guys to change the position in terms of his athleticism; he was a basketball player in college. He was probably the first one of basketball type players and there have been a handful of followers that have had the success but Tony's work ethic is unbelievable. It is amazing the three years that we have had him here and how he has mentored guys without saying a word to them. When you see a guy who is going to be a first ballot Hall of Famer come out on the field 20-30 minutes before to catch balls and work on his route running and the top or stem of his route, it rubs off on everybody and not just the wide receivers and the other guys that catch the football. We have defensive linemen now that are out early working on the skills and traits that they need to improve on. He has had a big influence without having to say a whole lot. It is just his work ethic is unbelievable. Our guys took note of it and have followed right along with him.

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