(Do you have an idea of where you are at with Atari Bigby?)
We'll release the injury report tomorrow on everybody.
(Can you talk about how confident your team is after winning three must-win games to keep playing?)
Winning breeds confidence, no doubt about it. We are very confident in the way we are built as a football team, and really more importantly how we have been shaped throughout the season, especially the stretch run here, particularly the last three games. We are very excited about the opportunity to play in Atlanta. I am very impressed with their football team, what they have been able to accomplish. I appreciate how well they are coached. I appreciate the discipline statistics, where they are ranked in those particular areas. It will be an excellent challenge playing in the Georgia Dome with the crowd noise and obviously being inside. I am very confident in our abilities and we are fully preparing and expect to win the football game.
(You have had the bye before. What is the advantage in having that week to look at a team and do you feel like you have overcome that since you played the Falcons already?)
We have no choice. We just played in a game on Sunday. The advantage is rest. You have an opportunity to rest your football team and you have the opportunity to spend more time on your opponent. We were very fortunate in the fact that we knew with the win in Philadelphia that we would be playing Atlanta so we only had one team to play for in advance. That in itself was a benefit. I have been in circumstances where if you won in the first round you may be playing one of three teams, so that is a lot bigger challenge for your quality-control department and your support staff. So with that we were fortunate that we knew we would be playing Atlanta so we were able to start working on Atlanta Thursday night, Friday afternoon after the players left, and a number of coaches were working on Atlanta all the way up until Sunday morning. That has helped us from a preparation standpoint.
(After Starks made his regular-season debut, he disappeared for a few weeks. What is realistic to expect from him?)
James Starks is just like everybody else on our football team. We had a positive experience in Philadelphia, we won the football game. There are obviously components in that game where we were very positive in the area of production and there are areas we need to make sure that we improve on before we line up and play again. James needs to focus on Atlanta. He'll have opportunities in Atlanta. How many, the game will dictate that. He has earned that opportunity based off his performance this past week.
(You have talked about not allowing polluted thoughts to enter in. What do you have to guard against this week?)
It's the same as last week, don't believe the hype. You get a lot of attention when you win this time of year. It's important for us to stay focused on our brand of football, the approach to this particular game. We are in the final four of the NFC. They are the No. 1 seed. They have earned the No. 1 seed throughout the regular season, so we are going to have to down there and play our best football.
(Speaking of the hype, some people have referred to you guys as the most dangerous No. 6 seed in NFL history…?)
I agree (smiling).
(Is it something you would embrace?)
Trust me, when I walk away from this microphone I will never even think about that again. It's irrelevant, it doesn't help me get a first down, it doesn't help us any way, and that's what I am referring to about pollution. We have a lot of work to do, like you do every week. There is more responsibility when your team is in the playoffs, there are more demands, but more importantly we need to get more rest, we need to watch more film, and we've got to make sure our preparation is the best it can possibly be because the obvious is we are on a six-day working period here.
(Moving things up, do you find the practices are less effective and do you have to stay on top of that?)
That's the product of staying on top of your football team, staying on top of the pulse of your football team. That's why we practiced the way we did today. It was important to find a happy medium of letting the players get their body back. It's really a normal Tuesday on their body clock, but also it was important for us to do the installation of normal down-and-distance and third down. We feel we accomplished that today.
(When you talk about discipline stats, is that penalties and turnover ratio?)
If you break down the overall summary of statistics, definitely penalties. They don't allow big-play opportunities, and really the penalty impression really in all three phases. It's just not one phase or two phases. They are a football team that really stays on schedule as far as what they try to do and how they do it. They are very fundamentally sound. I really appreciate the way they have been coached because it shows up on film.
(Do you have a number you try to get to as far as total number of plays with them being such an effective team at limiting your possessions?)
When we are 70-plus plays we are dangerous as an offense because of our ability to sustain long drives, but also make the big play. We have the ability to do both and that's what you want as an offense because there is not just one certain way we need to play to win a game. I think that says a lot about our system of offense, it says a lot about our players. But on the other side of the fence is Atlanta. We had, what was it nine possessions in the first game but really two of them were a kneel-down and the last play of the game. So we really only had seven possessions in that game. That's something that we're focused on. They do a great job of sustaining drives. Their time of possession is definitely something that is a positive for their offense. Their defense, once again, doesn't give up the big play. They make you go the long distance. It's important for us to take advantage of every possession and get points out of these possessions.
(Given how few possessions there might be, how important is it to execute in the red zone?)
The situation battles that go on in every game are important, but the urgency and the efficiency of every situation is heightened, and it's no different for Atlanta. They're outstanding on short-yardage, both on the offensive and defensive side of the ball, so they're a very good situation team for the most part, and it's important for us to score touchdowns in the red zone and don't kick field goals. We just need to look at the last game we played against them to learn from that.
(Is there a percentage of how much you'll practice compared to a normal week?)
Are we talking about reps or time on the field? We won't be on the field the same amount of time as a normal week. I'd say we'll probably be on the field about 75 to 80 percent if you're looking for a time frame.
(Do you have a historical appreciation of the handful of teams that have run the table on the road in the playoffs?)
Definitely, it's significant. I'm aware of it. I can't recite it here right now. I don't apologize for it, but those are reflection questions to me. I'm not disrespecting your question, but I don't think that way. I don't spend a whole lot of time reflecting on Sunday's victory when we have the biggest game of the year six days in front of us. I think those are questions I can probably better answer when the season is over.
(Charles said the Atlanta game was probably the worst tackling game. Do you agree with that?)
It was clearly one of our worst, no doubt about it. Fundamentally, that was not our best game, and there was one giveaway in the game. Obviously we had the one, we did not take the football away, we didn't tackle very well, they ran the ball extremely well with their big people on the field. That's something we need to do a better job of. But it was a well-played game on both sides of the ball. There was a lot of efficiency for both teams, and we anticipate the same type of game Saturday night.
(How efficient were your no-huddle and your spread offense?)
I think it was very productive. The statistics speak for themselves. The wins and losses were definitely in our favor. I'm sure they'll have a plan for that. Just watching the normal down-and-distance tapes yesterday and going through them again today with our offense, it was something we were productive in, and I'm sure it's something they're preparing for.
(Have the special teams become more consistent as the personnel groups have become more consistent without as many injuries?)
I think it's a big part of it. To line up with just the same punt team three weeks in a row has been huge for us. It's something we haven't had all season long. Our consistency is definitely there. We're really focusing on the fundamentals and the finish. This is a different game. Anytime you go into a dome game, instead of holding your block in the return game four seconds, you have to hold it five seconds. The punts are longer, the ball is in the air longer, the kickoffs are longer. The time clock definitely increases in the special teams phase, and that's something that we really need to focus on.
(What are Zombo's chances this week?)
I give him a chance. Tomorrow will probably be a very big day for him. I don't have any information today for you.
(What makes Turner so tough to defend? Is it his size, or that they put the extra tight end on the field and block with so many big guys?)
I would classify Michael Turner as he has a power running style. I think he fools you. He has more speed than most people think he does. If you go back to his early years in San Diego, he was an exceptional kickoff returner. Just the way he's built, his low pad level. His probably, what, a 275-pound man from the waist down. Very strong legs, hard to tackle. His running style, Mike Mularkey does an excellent job with the run schemes and trying to break down your force in who's tackling him and how they block the force defender and so forth. It's an excellent mix of running style and scheme. They do an excellent job.
(How does Matt Ryan's skill set compare to Aaron's?)
I think Matt does an outstanding job running their offense. They're extremely efficient. Like I've stated, they play on schedule, very on time, very in rhythm. They're playing with favorable down and distance. They commit to the run. Their boots and keeps and their action game, they do a good job patterning that, fitting it to their run game. And they do an excellent job on third down. You can see that their statistics are very high versus pressure. He gets the ball out of his hands very well. They don't give up very many sacks. You can attribute that to their protection and his ability to get the ball out of his hands. I think he does an excellent job.
(He only had four incompletions in that first game. What do you have to do differently to make sure he's not so efficient this time?)
Well, just get him off the spot, get him off schedule. When an offense is playing in rhythm, playing to their time clock, the advantage definitely goes to the offense, especially in a dome environment where you have no other elements that factor into the game. You just definitely want to change the time clock and the tempo of the game.
(Why has your quarterback been so good in domes?)
Our biggest strength playing on the road is, I think we're exceptional with the communication. That's something we spend a lot of time at as an offense. I think Aaron and Scott Wells deserve a ton of credit for that. We've been able to handle the noise very well, and that will be one of the top factors in the outcome of our offensive production going into this game. Communication is going to be key, that we're able to stay in favorable play selections at the line of scrimmage, even on the road, and he's a talented passer. We have a talented perimeter group, and our pass protection unit is very good, so when you're playing in a dome you're able to take advantage of that environment.