Atlanta Falcons Post London Game Press Conference

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Atlanta Falcons Head Coach Arthur Smith

ARTHUR SMITH: Really want to take a minute to thank the NFL and the NFL UK and everybody involved putting on these London games. Our team really enjoyed coming over here. It’s been first class the entire time. I know there’s a lot of people involved in that. I would like to thank everybody involved in the NFL and NFL UK.

With that I’ll open it up for questions.

Can you talk about Kyle Pitts’ game today?

ARTHUR SMITH: Kyle stepped up. Him and Patterson both. Like I said, we’ll continue to evolve offensively. It was good. He won one-on-one matchups, he made some big-time plays for us. Like I said, it’s a long game for us. Everybody wants the hot pick after week one. You have to see continual improvement. That’s why Kyle is here. He’ll continue to improve.

In the 39 yarder, they got close. Do you think Matt made the right choice?

ARTHUR SMITH: Made the right decision. We’re not going to sit here and play in our fears. I was pissed at myself from last week. The worst thing, I’ll probably make plenty of mistakes, but I’ll try not to make the same mistake twice.

We’re not going to live on our fears. We’ll be aggressive when we need to be. Had good blocking up front. Didn’t give up any sacks today against a really good front. I want guys to have initiative. It was a big-time play. We needed some momentum. We weren’t going to sit back two yards in a cloud of dust.

We’ll continue to improve. Plenty of things to improve on: the kicking game, turnovers. Really pleased with our team and team efforts.

Did the defence play well today do you think?

ARTHUR SMITH: I have to look at the tape. Thought our defence played pretty well. We knocked them back in the run game, made the plays they needed to. Late stats, check-down and stuff, that’s what you got to do. That’s a four-minute defence. You can pad the stats there. I thought our defence played very well.

How impressed were you with the stadium and atmosphere?

ARTHUR SMITH: Big-time stadium and atmosphere. Like I said, we love coming over here. It’s spectacular. The whole environment since we’ve been here, we got treated so well. Our operations team along with everybody that worked together over here. Unbelievable stadium and great atmosphere. We were happy to be part of it.

Cordarrelle had a pretty good game today when he picked up on the fourth-and-one. That was key.

ARTHUR SMITH: Yeah, you got your Tennessee hat on for CP?

CP, he continues to help us move the ball in a number of ways. Like I said, I thought today he stepped up big, made a number of plays running the ball, receiving. Good player. Continue to hopefully help us improve on offense.

Coming for today’s game, you couldn’t come with Calvin Ridley. Did your game plan evolve into involving more of the tight ends before coming over?

ARTHUR SMITH: Twofold. You’re going to deal with injuries during the NFL season and that ball is going to get kicked off on Sunday whether we’re playing London, Barcelona, Frankfurt, Atlanta. Doesn’t matter. New Orleans. We’ll be there, be ready to go. We expect the next guys to come up.

Unfortunately the same thing happened to Isaiah Oliver. Midweek injury to Avery Williams. Next guy step up. I thought Darren Hall and Richie Grant did a heck of a job today playing different roles. We just got to find a way. That’s what we want our ethos to be, stand up in tough times, continue to evolve and improve.

Matt Ryan made a lot of big completions today but how good has he been over the last few weeks?

ARTHUR SMITH: I love working with Matt Ryan. You don’t get many opportunities to work with players like that. You throw for five thousand completions in this league, I believe he’s one of seven guys to do that. Pretty damn special. He’s the leader of this football team. I can’t say enough good things about Matt.

What do you think about the progress of the rookies?

ARTHUR SMITH: All those guys. Yeah, they continue to improve. We’ve got some really good veteran leadership. A guy that got here, new to this team. It’s a great mix of guys. You got some really good leaders in the back end with Erik Harris, Terron and Brady. Continue to help those young guys.

That’s what you want to see. You want your leaders to be teachers, too. Our guys do that. Lee Smith, Jake Matthews. It helps. Those young guys get confidence.

Jalen Mayfield, he continues to improve. You play every snap when you’re an offensive lineman. It’s an underrated position. Maybe I have a little bias towards. Happy with him. Obviously Kyle, Richie, Hall, Avery. Keep naming them. Dorian Etheridge, special teams. Feleipe.

Richie Grant got called up this week, how has he played?

ARTHUR SMITH: We have a plan for Richie. As he was evolving, happened to be his number got called this week. We got a lot of confidence in him. He’s a good football player. It was naturally going to happen. It got expedited because of the injuries. He stepped up. He’s another fearless guy that we like, a young guy to build around.

What happened with Fabian Moreau’s neck injury?

ARTHUR SMITH: Yeah, he just got evaluated. Till we get back to Atlanta, doctors evaluate all our guys, it’s hard to comment on the injuries. Fagan played a heck of a game. Another veteran, quiet professional. Enjoy working with Fabian.

Thank you all.

Atlanta Falcons Quarterback Matt Ryan

Matt, take me through the last drive there

MATT RYAN: Yeah, I thought a great play call by Art to start that drive. You got some quarters-type coverage where guys were getting down low to stop some of our intermediate play-action pass game.

To slip Kyle back there was a really good call. Great play by Kyle. It really was the jump-start for us on the last drive, got us going. Wasn’t perfect on that last drive, but we made the plays we needed to make. Great to get Mike in the end zone at the end of the game.

Did you say anything to TE Kyle Pitts after his first-career 100-yard game and touchdown?

MATT RYAN: I just told him right before I came in here I’m proud of him. I think there’s going to be a lot of those in the future for him. He’s done a great job of focusing on growth and development day in and day out, just trying to get better.

There’s a lot of noise both positive and negative that can distract you from that. He’s been as good of a young guy of being able to just focus in on working hard every day and getting better, and I think he’s done that for the five games we’ve had.

I expect him to continue that. I think it’s showing that he is really a talented player and can be a great player in this league.

Was it a conscious thing to lean on the tight ends? They were highly productive in the first half.

MATT RYAN: Absolutely. I think coming into the game we felt like we wanted to get those guys going. You never know how it’s going to shake out. Coverage can take you to different spots. But we got some man-to-man coverage looks and our guys won.

I thought Hayden played really well for us today. I thought Kyle did an excellent job. Lee Smith, the big fella was out there making some plays for us during the passing game.

As a group, I thought their entire group played well.

Is that a career-high for TE Lee Smith?

MATT RYAN: I don’t know if it’s a career-high. He might be on pace for a season-high. He seems like he’s getting a catch or two every week.

Another milestone for you today, five thousand completions. That’s a lot. Any thoughts on that?

MATT RYAN: Yeah, I’m proud of that. I’ve completed the ball to a lot of great players in those five thousand completions. I certainly wouldn’t still be in this position if I wasn’t surrounded by an incredible supporting cast.

I’m very proud to still be doing it and feel like I’m doing it at a high level. I certainly have had a lot of help along the way, so I’m appreciative of that.

Passed Eli Manning. Up next Dan Marino. Think you’re getting old?

MATT RYAN: I feel pretty good. I feel pretty good.

It’s one of those things, you don’t think about it as a player. You focus every week on trying to get yourself ready to play the best you possibly can that week. I think having tried to stay in that mindset for the duration of my career has allowed me to kind of stack some of those accomplishments.

I won’t change. I’m proud of what I’ve accomplished, but I’m focused on trying to help this team win as we move forward.

You played in a lot of epic stadiums. What was it like today?

MATT RYAN: It was incredible. This stadium is beautiful. It’s amazing. The atmosphere was really cool. Probably one of the best flyovers I’ve ever seen. Those planes were tight to the stadium. That got my juices going before the game.

I’ve done this twice. I’ve been able to come over here and play here twice. It’s always a special event. A huge thank you to everybody over here in the UK who makes it such a special event for us.

How does it compare to Wembley seven years ago?

MATT RYAN: It feels better, we left here with a win this time (laughter). I’m a fan of this stadium.

But even Wembley, the history of that stadium, what it means to this country and the games that have been played, the magnitude of those games. It’s not lost on us coming over here to play in Wembley as well.

I’ve really enjoyed both of my experiences over here.

A few minutes ago Mike Davis was in here and described the journey to London as a long-ass flight. How difficult is it for you and your teammates to make the journey to London and also adjusting to the time difference?

MATT RYAN: It is a long-ass flight, there’s no question about that. We got a long-ass flight going home tonight, too.

I thought our support staff and coaching staff did a great job of getting us ready to play this week, whether that was preparing early in the morning back in Atlanta before we came over Thursday night, to everything our operations department had planned for us while we were here. We didn’t want for anything.

We were given great advice on how to get ourselves and our bodies and minds adjusted. I thought guys did a good job of being professional about it and getting themselves ready to go.

Even though it’s seven years since you last played in England, have you seen an evolution here? Or is London is just another game, hard to look back and look at the differences?

MATT RYAN: I mean, it is another game on the schedule, but it’s definitely different. I mean, the routine of the week is much different when you play back in the States. It’s shorter flights, easier travel.

I think you got to embrace the different week, the different routine, try to do it as well as you can. I don’t think it’s just another game. I think it definitely feels different. It’s got a different feel to it.

But I thought for the most part we did a great job of embracing that difference all week. We’re happy to come away with a win today.

Potentially next week or the week after the NFL will announce maybe going to Germany, expand the series even further. Something that excites you? Where would you like to see the game go?

MATT RYAN: Yeah, I think it’s great to expose pretty much an American game to different places. You see that you get great support. There are fans over here. You can feel that.

I’m sure with what NFL Europe did during its time here, from guys that I played with at the beginning a long time ago, some of those guys played over here. They mentioned the atmospheres in Germany were incredible.

I don’t know anything about it, of what they’re going to do. If it takes five other seven more years for the Falcons to play over here, hope I’m still playing, come back and enjoy that experience as well.

Is the bye week coming at the wrong time or after the long-ass flight…

MATT RYAN: It’s coming at the right time. No doubt about it.

A little bit of my message to the team afterwards is that we’re building as a team, we’re getting better. We need to approach this bye week with the right mindset to get ourselves mentally fresh, our bodies fresh so that we can come back in the next stretch of five or six games before we play on a Thursday night, then have an extended period off, we can get ourselves back in the mix.

That’s got to be the mindset for us.

Did fatigue play a factor with the number of substitutions with wide receivers?

MATT RYAN: I don’t know if fatigue was or not. I had a lot of confidence in our guys coming in, that they would get the job done. I was pleasantly surprised with some of the separation. I just tried to give them opportunities to make plays.

I really thought it was an opportunity for a number of our wide receivers to step up and make plays, to have more playing time than they normally have.

I thought Olamide Zacchaeus, to Tajae Sharp, Christian Blake, I thought those three guys did an amazing job for us today.

How good was the protection for you today?

MATT RYAN: I thought the O-line did a great job. I understand that the Jets are 1-4, but their defensive line is very strong. A very good group. I thought our offensive line did a great job today of stepping up to that challenge. They fight. They really do. They fight hard. I appreciate that. They give it everything they’ve got. I thought they did a pretty good job today.

How RB Cordarrelle Patterson’s versatility helps the offence as a whole.

MATT RYAN: I think he’s an incredibly versatile player. You mentioned he runs the ball. Physical, hard. Has the ability to come out the back end at any time. Then was drafted as a wide receiver in this league. You can put him out there and he can go do what wide receivers do. Not many people on this planet have that versatility. He certainly has been tough for defences to adjust to where he’s going to be in the first five weeks of the season for us.

We need to continue to try and get him touches and find ways to get him the ball because he’s a playmaker.

On the long pass to Kyle on the final drive, was that a gamble throw?

MATT RYAN: Yeah, corners-type coverage, which we talk about, low safety. I thought it was a great call by Arthur Smith. At a time they were coming down, trying to be aggressive, our offensive line did a good job of holding the line off to throw down the field.

Kyle got behind the defence. He has incredible speed for a tight end player. That’s not a thing most guys can do. I thought that was a great play by Kyle and a really good call by Arthur Smith.

Atlanta Falcons Safety Jaylinn Hawkins

Can you discuss the overall play of the defence. How do you feel the unit played today with so many guys stepping up?

JAYLINN HAWKINS: Man, it felt awesome just being out there with the guys, man. I felt we handled our 1-11. Started early this week in practice. Everybody went out there and executed practice hard.

Details was a big thing. Coach put heavy emphasis on details this week. We all just listened. Having the older guys, even though Erik [Harris] is out, Erik is still a great leader, help us out on the back end. Having Duron [Harmon] out there, he’s a great leader as well. We all just held each other accountable. The outcome is the outcome.

What happened on his interception?

JAYLINN HAWKINS: Man, just a great collective effort. Good rush for one. I got to thank the guys upfront because they do their stuff.

Then A.J. had a great re-route on a receiver, which was nice. Helped me out. Looked at the quarterback. Just trusted my instincts and did my job.

Richie Grant and Darren Hall, both guys are rookies, now they have to play a lot.

JAYLINN HAWKINS: They stepped up, good. Put some good things on tape. I trust them. They my dogs, man. They work hard. Like I said, it all started in practice. They had a good week of practice as well. Very detailed. They pushed themselves.

How the win will help make the flight back a good one?

JAYLINN HAWKINS: It will be a great flight back, man. That’s a long-ass flight. Take the W (laughter).

It’s good coming home with a dub. Still have work to do. Enjoy today, Monday come back and watch the film, make some corrections and off to the next.

Nice to see you wear your Tottenham jersey. How was the stadium?

JAYLINN HAWKINS: 15 out of 10. The stadium was crazy. I walked in, I was like, Whoa. Didn’t even expect it to be that big, that many fans, man. The crowd was just great. The opening ceremony was great. Everything was just like very dope. Probably one of the best stadiums I played in besides the home stadium, our crib, the Falcons stadium.

It was an awesome stadium, great experience, great experience.

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