"When you look at the tape, you do definitely see the incredible field position created basically by our special teams, but also by virtue of the turnovers. After kickoff return, we took the ball over at the average of the 48-yard line, which was outstanding. When you compare the games where you don’t have that kind of field position, I don’t know that I’ve ever benefitted from that as much as we had last night. So kickoff return was blocked well, the speed, the energy, the maneuverability… All those things were there. I thought kickoff coverage did a good job. We mixed in a few directional kicks and mortar kicks and we did a nice job with that as well. We had a 9.5-yard average on our punt returns with Domenik Hixon and that was a plus and that helped and we did a good job of pinning them back and we did have to punt it and fortunately we didn’t have to punt it very much. Our defense… We gave up some run yardage and we certainly gave up the big ball down the middle of the field, but we did the things we had to do basically when we had to them.
A big objective of ours was to try to win the time of possession to do a good job with first downs, which we didn’t always do. But to do a good job with first downs to try to put us in better position for third down, to be able to keep the outstanding high scoring offense of the New Orleans Saints on the sideline while we had the ball and we did that to a certain extent. We came out about even in time of possession. They got a little bit more than we did, but we had 45 percent on third down, which meant we kept the ball along those lines and because of theDavid Wilson runs towards the end we did get our rushing game back close to where we thought it would be. Quite frankly it was somewhat disappointing until that point. We thought we would do a better job initially right away with rushing the ball, but we went plus-two in the turnover column, which puts us now at plus-16, which is very good, and we needed that. We were four for five, 80 percent, touchdowns in the green zone. Three for three in the tight green and, of course, our defense held them to two for four. They were 50 percent in the red zone and they had been at 70 percent prior to our game.
We did have some penalties. We had six penalties officially, seven actually, and basically the offensive team is a team that’s being penalized right now and some of it is very, very difficult for me to understand, to be honest with you, but they had 10 penalties and we had six penalties. We did have two interceptions, which gave them one score and actually prevented us again from mounting a drive and doing something with the ball at a key time in the game. So that takes a little something away, but we did have the four turnovers to create the plus-two.Stevie Brown came up with some great plays. We got the ball knocked out a couple of times. Antrel got a ball out. We got a ball out in the middle of the field on a pass play and that really gave us a spark and Stevie Brown’s second interception came at a great time and so we obviously went into this game with the idea that we had to amend some of the errors that we had made the week before and didn’t come away with a win and so it was very important for us to play well, to have all three teams support one another. As I said last night we wanted to play with great passion and purpose and we thought that would be our way of showing gratitude to the fans and hopefully we accomplished that."
Q: How much do you like the idea that you control your own destiny? Does that put the pressure on the other teams or does it put pressure on your team?
A: You don’t look over your shoulder at the scoreboard because you have to take care of your own business. The thing about it is that we determine our own fate. Destiny is a matter of choice for us and we do know the odds. We do know what’s at stake. We do know that both Washington and Dallas won yesterday, so nothing has changed in terms of the division standings and we do know that we are preparing to play a very, very good Atlanta team and a team that’s only lost twice the entire season and really has done an outstanding job of adding to a good football team with some new parts and people playing very good football. So we do understand all of that and I think it just sharpens your focus and keeps your concentration at an extremely high level and hopefully we can build from the win. We certainly do have things that need to be addressed and cleaned up and done better. We’ve got to go ahead and analyze the Atlanta team and notice how we match up and see what our personnel situations are and what theirs are, where are strengths and weaknesses with both teams and so that will be what we’ll do over the next couple of days. But knowing the circumstances, making it very plain and obvious for our team exactly what the situation is, that’s definitely a part of our approach and at this point in time, the facts are the facts and if you are going to accomplish what you set out to, you’ve got to take care of your own business.
Q: Would you describe the defense’s mentality as a bend and don’t break type of mentality?
A: Well, hopefully we’re better than that. We certainly gave up a lot of yards last night, but in reality we gave up 20 points and the week before we gave up 16 points and so we’ve done a pretty good job of tightening up in the red zone and we’ve given up some yardage but then we found ways to kind of level that off, whether it be through the turnovers or stops. So we’re constantly trying to improve that area or we’re constantly trying to maneuver our personnel around to match up. Jacquian Williams came into the game last night having not played for quite some time and was able to play pretty well and we were pleased that he was able to go in there and do a very good job with regard to how he matched up against their people.
Q: Did David Wilson surprise you with how ready he was to take on a bigger role?
A: No. Didn’t surprise me at all. He’s been growing and building towards this opportunity. If you watched last night and looked real close, he did a nice job picking up a weak side safety blitz. So he did prove again that he understood the particular protection we were in and how he was to react with his responsibility and did it well and so he’s gained some valuable experience in the time that he has played and of course he gained valuable experience last night as well.
Q: What did you like from Hixon in the punt return game? Will you have Hixon there moving forward?
A: Well, we have to have more than one person ready for that job, but we did like what Domenik did last night. He’s been in that role before. He’s played very well for us in that role. He gave us a 9.5 average last night, so I’m inclined to think that we would continue, but you have to have more than one person ready.
Q: Was there a reason why Rueben Randle’s role was reduced on kickoff return and offense last night?
A: No. We had prepared Jernigan to play back there as the off returner and JJ obviously did an outstanding job with his own return, so that worked out pretty well.
Q: Do you agree with Chris Canty’s statement that the defense doesn’t have a signature performance yet this year?
A: I don’t know what he’s referring to in terms of.. We’ve certainly been tested. We’ve had our back to the wall. We’ve had to come through in certain circumstances in order to have a chance to win. I think San Francisco certainly is a good defensive football game. I think Carolina was a good defensive football game, so I think we’ve had some good games. I think Green Bay you’d have to say with that offensive team that 10 points was a pretty good defensive performance and so I think we’ve had some good performances and I like what I hear if you’re telling me that the defensive players don’t think they’ve accomplished what they set out to and that they think their best games are in front of them. I would encourage that.
Q: How much does it say to you that you’re able to win eight games for seven years in a row and have been able to maintain that level of consistency in what is an up and down league?
A: The only thing I can tell you with regard to that is each year, as an organization, we establish a goal and that goal is to win the Super Bowl and we do everything in our power to put the personnel people and Jerry Reese and his staff do everything that they possibly can to bring the talent to our organization and put people in positions that they can make plays. The coaches have the same goals in mind in terms of developing these players and putting them in the best possible positions for them to perform to the best of their abilities, so we carry through with these goals. We’ve been able to do this with some degree of consistency. I don’t think to the extent that we would like to be. So for me to comment now, it’s kind of like the questions that were asked about ‘back to the wall.’ Well, you know what? Lets see what’s going to happen here. We’ve got three games to go before we decide what type of consistency we have and how we respond to the kinds of situations that we put ourselves in, first and foremost, seemingly on a yearly basis. It’s an exciting time for us all and we’re looking forward to this stretch run albeit against some very, very good football teams.
Q: How is Bradshaw feeling today and would the knee be anything that could keep him out of a game?
A: Well, he’s being examined even as we speak and we’ll know more about that when these medical examinations are completed.
Q: Is there the feeling that it wasn’t a serious thing after the game?
A: No. I don’t know what to… Anytime you are talking about a knee and you are going through a series of tests and you’re better off to wait and see what the results are. I wouldn’t speculate on anything right now.
Q: Is he having an MRI?
A: Yeah. All the tests. All those types of things.
Q: It must be convenient to have a guy as fresh as David Wilson be a contributor to the offense.
A: Yes. I agree. The timing is great for David to come to the front and he’ll hopefully provide us with that spark we need right now to go along with the rest of our players to give us an added playmaker that people are going to have to flat-out defend.
Q: Is Hakeem feeling all right?
A: I don’t know what ‘all right’ means. He’s sore. He’s still… the issues with the knee and so on and so forth. So he’s going to continue in the same capacity that he’s been in. I wish that he would have an opportunity to play after no longer having any issues, but that’s not going to be the case this year. So I think he’s continuously monitored throughout the course of the season pretty much on a weekly basis. So there’s nothing unusual about that and hopefully… I thought he had some plays in the game last night that showed real quickness very similar to what we’re used to. Now it’s not there all the time and so he does have these issues that are going to be with him throughout the course of the year.
Q: You said it looked like Hakeem wore down a little bit towards the end of the game. Is that a result of those issues he’s working through?
A: If you’re asking me if the accumulation of the first three quarters had an effect on how he felt late in the game, I would say yes and I would think there’s nothing really unusual about that.
Q: How is Victor Cruz’s shoulder?
A: I think he’ll be fine.
Q: Prince’s hamstring?
A: He did strain the hamstring and we’re going to have to see where he’s at. He’s been treated and he will continue to be treated and we’ll just have to see the severity of it as we go along this week.