By sending Michael Turner up the middle for no gain, Smith might have doomed the Falcons to an overtime loss to New Orleans, but the fourth-year coach wasn’t surprised by the public’s response.
“We have passionate football fans here in Atlanta, OK?” Smith said with a smile. “Regardless of what the outcome is, someone has an opinion, and that’s great for your fan base. That’s what you want to have happen, and I’ll just leave it at that.”
Though the move backfired, Smith repeated his postgame stance from Sunday night: that he would do it again given the circumstances and the Falcons’ spotty history of defending Saints quarterback Drew Brees late in a game.
After watching film of the 26-23 defeat, Smith disputed reports that New Orleans guessed correctly on quarterback Matt Ryan’s snap count and thus had no trouble stopping Turner to set up John Kasay’s 26-yard, game-winning field goal four plays later.
“They didn’t jump the snap,” Smith said. “We didn’t execute on that play. I really don’t want to get into any more details than that.”
Smith pointed out that the offense converted a fourth-and-one with a similar power formation call late in the third quarter. Turner ran for 5 yards, and Jason Snelling caught a 21-yard touchdown pass on the next play to give the Falcons a 13-10 lead.
But Atlanta’s inability to consistently control the line of scrimmage throughout the game led to its ninth loss in the past 11 meetings with New Orleans.
A lack of pressure on Brees left the middle of the field open for the Saints to pick apart. The Falcons failed to record a sack and hit Brees only twice.
“The Saints did everything that we’ve seen on film and that we expected them to do,” linebacker Curtis Lofton said. “They just caught some guys out of position and what not.”
Brees, not surprisingly, completed 30 of 43 passes for 322 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions.
Offensively, the problems were equally glaring for the Falcons (5-4). They failed to score a touchdown in three red-zone possessions against a New Orleans defense that ranked last in the NFL inside an opponent’s 20-yard line.