Originally written November 14, 2011 on Fox Sports South:
FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- Atlanta Falcons head coach Mike Smith was in no mood to rehash his decision to go for it on fourth-and-inches from his own 29-yard line in overtime a move that failed and cost the Falcons a key 26-23 NFC South Division game on Sunday to New Orleans. Smith maintains a 24-hour rule for everyone associated with the team on the day after games in which win or lose the Falcons stop talking and thinking about the previous week's game. On Monday, Smith said time seemed to drag. "It can't get here quick enough," Smith said. "The quicker that 24-hour threshold gets here, the better. And it's going to be happening here real soon." Smith's decision was perhaps the most discussed move of the weekend and the so-called Monday Morning Quarterbacks had plenty of time to dissect it, but even with the benefit of hindsight Smith said he was still OK with his decision. "Yes, I am," Smith said. "I don't really want to rehash it. I think I did a pretty good job last night talking about the reasonsings behind it, but what I can tell you guys is the decisions we make on Sunday, they're not made haphazardly. We put a lot of effort and time into all the different situations that occur. They stopped the play we called and unfortunately we didn't execute it the way we wanted to and didn't get the job done." Originally, Smith had sent out the punt team, but then he called timeout with 10:52 left in the session and decided to go for it. His rationale was that he feared the Saints' high-powered attack and wanted to strike before giving them a chance to get the ball back. After the timeout, the Falcons sent 2010 Pro-Bowl right tackle Tyson Clabo in motion to line up as the tight end on the left side. Then the Saints called timeout and the Falcons changed their play. The reasoning for changing the play remained murky. "Honestly, I couldn't tell you," said left guard Justin Blalock. "Probably just a hunch from the guys upstairs. We had something different on before the timeout and just came back and thought better of it." Smith was reluctant to go into detail about the decision-making process. "I don't want to get too much in depth about it simply because it could be a competitive advantage to opponents down the road," he said. "Obviously, we were up at the line of scrimmage and there was a defense presented and we saw the defense that was presented. Had an opportunity to talk about what we wanted to do based on the defense that was presented before they called timeout." Translation: They changed the play. Michael Turner, who carried the ball on the play, described the eventual call as a "regular power play" and that he had his choice of his holes he could hit if they were there. "But they just came with the all-out blitz," he said. "Guys shot the gap and things like that, so it really wasn't nowhere to go." Another reason why the attempt failed was that it seemed as if the Saints timed the snap count. "It's very possible," Blalock said. "If that's what happened, then it paid off very well for them." Turner agreed with that assessment. Both Turner and Blalock said that the situation was an opportune time for a defense to gamble on guessing the snap count especially since even if the defense went offside then the Falcons would still have to drive 30 yards to get within field goal range. "One guy came in there so fast," Turner said. "It seemed like they knew the snap count or they were anticipating the snap count, whatever." Refusing to make excuses, Smith did not think the Saints knew the snap count. "I don't think they jumped the snap," he said. "We did not execute on that play. We had a similar situation earlier in the game -- a fourth-down-and-1 and we were able to convert it for a 5-yard gain. We just did not execute the play properly on that play and won't really want to get in any more details than that." Smith was asked whether right guard Joe Hawley was attempting to pull and was not able to get over in time to make his block. The coach stuck to his guns. "We did not execute on that play," he said. "I know that the replays have been shown over and over and over again. And it was poor execution at the point of attack." No arguing that.
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