Head Coach Mike Martz
Wednesday, January 12, 2005

(Opening comments)
“The only guy that is questionable would be DL Tyoka (Jackson) for this game. We’ve got some bumps, nicks, and bruises, but it’s two short weeks that we had, so to give them an extra day off I thought was important. So we are going to treat this week as a short week, so we will go Wednesday practice, Thursday (practice), and a shorter version of our Friday practice on Friday, and then travel down to play the game. RB Arlen Harris, we may or may not have him. We are not real sure with his hamstring (injury). At this point everybody else should be in pretty good shape for this game. We have the normal annoying injuries that most teams have at this time of year. This is a terrific opportunity for us. We are excited about the opportunity to go down there and play in the divisional playoffs. I think the challenge is obvious with QB Michael Vick and their offense. I said on the conference call a few minutes ago that, playing their offense is a little bit like trying to defend the option. You’ve got RB Warrick Dunn, you can hand that ball off, or you can bootleg, or throw the football. The threat to do all of those things in one play is unique to the National Football League. It really creates problems for us, and then everybody is scrambling to adjust to it. He’s such a terrific player, probably the best athlete in the league today. He is capable of single- handily beating you, as much as anyone I’ve seen in this league since I’ve been in it. He’s a lot of fun to watch. What a terrific player he is. We’ve got our work cut out for us. Defensively, I think their whole defensive line, their defensive front, is very active, and very physical. They are very, very well coached. They did a terrific job of adjusting. They are tenacious. They stay after you the entire time. They are a very well coached football team throughout, that’s one of the reasons why they are in it. They have good people. Their defensive line is one of more impressive groups, overall, that we’ve seen all year.”

(On what has been clicking on offense)
“I think a lot of things. I think that when things calm down on the offensive line, you start to settle in on some personnel. With G Blaine (Saipaia) gaining more experience, and his play goes up every week. Having Tommy Nütten who has played an awful lot of games for us, and Super Bowls, having that calm down has had an enormous effect on our offense, and what we can do. Everything that we do, is predicated on that group up front. As they go, we go. If we can protect the quarterback, obviously, we had problems with New England, for instance. They were getting at us with a four-man rush. That’s tough duty to either run or throw the ball. We’ve come a long way on our offensive line. It’s remarkable if you consider all of the changes that have gone on, and the guys have done a terrific job coaching these guys and getting them ready to play. I think that’s probably the single most point, I think, and also QB Marc (Bulger) being healthy and his level of play has really stepped up. I think he gains more and more confidence each week that he plays. He’s pretty remarkable. He’s just extremely competitive. He memory banks everything that happens to him. He’s a guy that, probably more than any player I’ve been around, does not make the same mistake twice. I think that he has really progressed nicely.”

(On if Bulger is 100 percent healthy)
“I think he is. At this point I would say yes, but you would have to ask Marc that question. Just talking to him, I think he feels as good as he has all year. Again, the initial shoulder problem happened in the opener, we just didn’t know about it. It was noticeable throughout the year. It looked like he just had a fatigued arm, and that’s what I wrote it off to. I didn’t realize that his shoulder was bothering him.”

(On Atlanta’s pass rush)
“They’ve got good people up front. They’re big physical guys who get off the ball quickly. They do a great job of penetrating, bull rushing, and changing things up.”

(On the defenses that G Blaine Saipaia has faced)
“He’s seen some good ones. Obviously, we feel very confident about Blaine’s ability to play out there. He has seen some real good defenses in the last three or four weeks. That experience will help him. If this was his first start, I’d be a little nervous about it. But obviously, we feel good about Blaine.”

(On WR Kevin Curtis)
“The more opportunities a guy like Kevin gets (the better he becomes). He’s very quiet. The more opportunities you give him in a game, and he excels at, then you just go out of your way to get him the ball sometimes. That’s kind of where he is. Both he and ‘Mac’ (WR Shaun McDonald). It’s a nice problem to have right now. They are both playing at a very high level. (They have made) significant progress throughout the year. The other thing about Kevin is that he feels good. Those shin splints for probably half of the season were a real concern. They did affect his speed, and being able to get in and out of cuts. At this point, I think he is completely 100 percent in terms of the legs.”

(On how important confidence is to this offense)
“It matters a lot. Confidence is everything, attitude is everything in this game. It’s a game of attitude. When you have that attitude, that confidence, no matter what happens out there, you are going to deal with it. You want to make plays. You can’t wait to get out of the huddle and to the line of scrimmage. When you get to that point, the game takes on an entirely different dimension for everybody. It’s easier to call plays. There is just a great feeling of energy and enthusiasm that starts to build. We haven’t had that for a while, and it’s coming back in a big surge and it’s exciting. Usually, it goes back to the offensive line. They allow us to do all of those things, and let guys have the opportunities to make plays outside. I feel good about where these guys are. (I’m) excited really. When you go into game plan now, you don’t have any trepidation about some of the things in the passing game, or running game. That’s gone. We haven’t had that feeling in quite some time, so it’s pretty exciting. We were rolling real good in 2001. We had it going last year, but we didn’t have (Shaun McDonald), or Kevin (Curtis), they bring such a different dimension. And, of course, we didn’t have Steven (Jackson), so this is an entirely different team, so that type of feeling is starting to resurface.”

(On what he saw in Curtis)
“You put the tape of Kevin on and the first thing you’d say is, ‘Wow.’ He was running by everybody, and then the run after the catch he was making guys miss. You had to go back and look at stuff again. I’m not sure if I’ve ever seen anyone in college that fast. What we didn’t know, a guy that fast, usually can’t get in and out of cuts as well as some of the other guys, but he does. The shin splints have altered that, but he’s pretty exciting.”

(On Atlanta’s secondary)
“It doesn’t alter anything that we do. It goes back to what we said a few minutes ago, and I don’t mean this in an arrogant sense, but when you put those guys in position, when they get one-on-one, you would expect that they would win on the route.”

(On if he can draw from the first time Atlanta beat the Rams)
“We are a better football team all the way around. How much better? I guess we’ll find out. But we are a much better football team in a lot of ways. I think the experience with the young players, knowledge of what we’re doing on defense, there’s no question about that. Health issues, S Adam (Archuleta) was banged up, the four corners weren’t there, the defensive line, the linebacking crew was out, so there was a lot of things involved. Those are just excuses. They lined up and whipped us, and whipped us good. And not because we didn’t have somebody, they lined up and physically whipped us on both sides of the ball. I think you look at the structure they run on both sides of the ball.”

(On his relationship with Bulger)
“Marc is a pretty private guy. We have a professional relationship, and yet, we are very close in the respect that I look at him like he is one of my kids. I’m very protective of him, worry about him, and all of those things. But he is very independent and very quite. I’d never intrude in his life at all. This has always been kept on a professional level, and I have so much admiration and respect for him. He’s just fun to be around really.”

(On Bulger handling the offense)
“He does need reminders, but they all do. It doesn’t make a difference who it is. But I don’t get on Marc any more. He’s so conscientious and focused, that if there is something that appears in the game that is a mistake to you, when he comes off of the field you’ll know exactly why. And when you look at the tape, he has a very good reason for why that happened that way. Very seldom, is he ever wrong. Like I said, he learns from past mistakes and doesn’t repeat them. He’s a very intelligent guy, and he’s focused. We are past the part of getting on him, but we all need reminders.”

(On Atlanta’s head coach Jim Mora)
“I’ve had a great respect for Jim. I think he is outstanding. I always felt that he would be a fantastic head coach. I think I made that comment a year or two ago. This is his time, he deserves it, and I think he’s done a great job with it. I really don’t know him, other than just saying ‘hi’ to him. He’s not somebody in the league I know very well at all, but I’m excited for him and the success he has had. He certainly deserves it. There is no question that (the Falcons) are a reflection of his personality. They are playing with great energy, great enthusiasm, they are relentless on defense. That’s the way he coaches, and that’s why his teams have always played hard. That does not diminish (defensive coordinator) Ed (Donatell)’s formidable defense. I know Eddie’s a terrific defense, and they are really running that defense. The personality that he has brought to that entire football team is significant.”

(On coaching against Vick)
“It’s distressing. When you are standing on the sideline, and you are watching him, the first thing you say is, ‘Wow.’ He’s amazing. You can’t get the feel for it on television, or from the stands. He’s a pretty impressive drive. He’s great for this league. He brings a whole new dimension to the National Football League, and it’s fun to have him here.”

(On TE Alge Crumpler)
“Alge has had a great year, just a terrific year. The range that he brings, and when you run the ball as well as they do, and the tight end is such a factor in the running game, then all of a sudden he’s down field, with all of the linebackers and safeties in run support, you can’t account for that. They have done a good job of getting him the ball. And of course, RB Warrick (Dunn) with all of the success he’s had, has a great burst of speed. I’ve always had great respect for him when we’ve played him. He’s capable of going the distance at anytime, and we know that. There are very few backs in the league that can really do that. You had the ball off at the 20-yard line, then take it 80 (yards), and you’re not going to catch them. He’s one of those guys.”

(On the importance of team chemistry)
“That’s probably the most important aspect of what I do as a head coach. That’s the goal. That’s our goal. That, ‘hey, look at me,’ attitude in professional sports, that individualism. You’ve seen the sign up in our locker room, ‘Give yourself completely, ask nothing in return, excellence will be yours.’ It’s all about unselfishness. With young kids that come in here, they have to learn that unselfishness. Until they do that completely, that team, that connection that you have is going to diminish, or not be where it should be. I think that part has come together now. We have guys that are playing for each other, and that’s the goal for all of us, is to create that team environment. We work very hard at it, we have an unselfish attitude, and we play for each other. That’s what we talk about every day.”

(On RB Marshall Faulk)
“We are assuming his skills are gone, they’re not. When he’s banged up, he’s not the same Marshall. We’ve been able to keep him in good shape, because we haven’t had to rely on him, and over use him so-to-speak. The blitz pick up, and all of the unusual things that do happen, what he can see, I’m not sure other backs can see. What he’s willing to do to take a defensive tackle coming through, and those kinds of things, to see that and know that he has to pick them up. To only carry the ball ‘x’ amount of times, like the game last week, when we were in that key drive and he pops that run for 13 yards. He’s the guy you want in there when the game is on the line.”

(On S Antuan Edwards)
“He has done a terrific job. You look at the game last week, he’s come up and knocked the ball out, and made some big plays for us since he’s been in there. Antuan has had a terrific year. In term of leadership, whenever you have such a dominate personality like Aeneas (Williams) is, that’s hard. His presence is still there. He’s still at practice, he’s still on the sideline, he’s still in meetings. That part has not been diminished or gone. But in a way, it forces some of these young players to step up, so there is a positive side to it as well. I think that it has happened with LB Pisa (Tinoisamoa). I do think that the corners are a lot more vocal now. They are not looking at that one guy, that father figure so-to-speak. I think in some respects it’s been healthy.”