Falcons head coach Mike Smith continued to stand by his decision to call a running play up the middle on 4th-and-inches from Atlanta's 29-yard line in overtime vs. the Saints at his press conference Monday.
Saints DE Will Smith and DT Shaun Rogers stopped RB Michael Turner for no gain on the play and the Saints took over on downs. PK John Kasay kicked a game-winning, 26-yard field goal four plays later, and the merits of Smith's decision have been debated by league observers ever since.
Reporters offered him a chance on Monday to further explain the decision and offer his theory on why the Falcons failed to pick up the first down — did the Saints jump the snap? Was ORG Joe Hawley not in proper position before the snap?
Smith, who has taken full responsibility for the call, didn't show any interest in making excuses.
"They didn't jump the snap," Smith said. "We did not execute on that play. We had a similar situation earlier in the game, a fourth down and one, and we were able to convert it for a five-yard gain. We just did not execute the play properly on that play and I don't really want to get into any more details than that."
The PFW Spin
Smith spoke at length about the decision after the game Sunday and addressed it again Monday, although he did tell reporters that he didn't really want to rehash it early on in the press conference.
It was a painful loss for the Falcons. Atlanta had rallied from a 10-point deficit in the final five minutes to tie the game and send it into overtime with a chance to beat the first-place team in its division.
Instead, the Falcons had their winning streak snapped at three, but a manageable string of games lies ahead. The Falcons play at home in each of the next two weeks. They'll host the Titans and Vikings before going on the road to face the Texans, who reportedly will be without QB Matt Schaub (Lisfranc fracture) for the rest of the season. They play the Panthers and Jaguars after that before a rematch against the Saints at the Superdome on Dec. 26.
The Falcons are only a game behind the Saints in the loss column at the moment, and Sunday's loss, while significant, did not eliminate them from the conversation in the NFC South, and they're certainly very much alive in the wild-card race, although still looking up at the Bears and Lions for one of the NFC's two slots.
Atlanta can recover from Sunday's loss, but the team has to play with the same urgency it showed late in the game against New Orleans from here on out.
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