On how he's approaching the final games of the season knowing the Falcons are not playoff contenders: "When you have the tough stretch that we had and they have had, it definitely stings. It hurts and all that, but having division games...right to go battle for and two teams that know each other well and want to get after it, we're approaching it in such a way. As the division, two teams that have a good sense for one another and styles and how they play. That's how we're going with our approach."
On if he's seen anything differently from Cam Newton on tape: "I think, just number one, the overall speed of the team is really effective and I thought him and the run game, for sure, is as difficult and as challenging as ever, so through the years it has been that way. I guess what I've always been impressed by is his speed to deliver the ball, especially in the quick game. He's forever been able to rip slants and in-breaking routes. Then on the deep balls, that's where we've been challenged in the past due to the way our scheme and the way they like to attack. So I wouldn't say when you go through the...when you get ready to play a division team, obviously you go through a whole season and all the cut ups and I think the team has done a good job of featuring guys in different ways and he certainly knows how to deliver the ball to them. I recognize the question regarding different players and styles and all that, but he seems as aggressive and as difficult to defend as always."
On what it'll be like facing the Panthers without Cam behind center: "Well it would certainly be different for sure, and if I went back...For me personally, and competing against Ron and the team and Cam at the helm for so many of those games, from I believe...probably like 2013 on, it's just been some incredible matches. Their team has just a bunch of difficult guys to defend, the style of offense is unique, the style of quarterback is unique. Oftentimes there's zone read, or run pass options, but what adds their level to that, of course they have designed runs by him, the keepers that they can come out and keep. You've seen that on the short-yardage plays or the designed runs especially as they got in the red zone. Some of those plays are as difficult to defend because he runs them like one strong running back can and the yards after the contact. It makes it especially challenging and for us it's been the one offense that has a quarterback that's featured in that way over an extended period of time. Of course, you'll see people that do that some of the time, but for him I think it goes to show how durable, how tough he has been through the years because he certainly ran it his fair share of times and certainly has our respect."
On if it was easier to defend the Panthers when they weren't challenging teams deep: "I'd say...and I'm just kind of speaking defenses in general and certainly going against Carolina's offense through the years, but I would say so often that's where some of these explosive plays can come. It's the shot plays that go down the field, it's not just the shot outside to a receiver on a go ball, but it's the long deep crossing patterns that come off of the play fake and the play action. That's what makes the defenses have to stay back and how the run game and the play pass work together. Our offense is aligned in similar ways although we feature the guys different, but the zone run where the guys step up and try to run play passes behind them. If they stay too far back, you hope you can hand it off and make some yards through the run game. They feature some things in the same way, the play pass, to get the linebackers and the safeties to step up where you can rip the ball down the field outside. That's kind of the genesis of where it comes from, and like I said, through the years that's been a real strength for them."
On if he's seen any difference in the Panthers defense since Ron Rivera began calling the plays: "I don't feel different but I would say at the line of scrimmage the way they feature Eric (Reid) into the group, because they're different a little bit from when we played in the first game. Adding him into the mix, talking about Reid, is like adding another linebacker in some regards based on the physicality and the tackling. For a long time we've been impressed by how the team uses Shaq Thompson. Where some teams would have to go to nickel earlier to match up, they're able to stay in a base defense and that's not the norm. I would say most teams probably play somewhere between 60 and 70 percent of the snaps in nickel and Carolina is able to stay in a base package a little longer than most and that provides some challenges as well.
"I certainly know Ron's background, and his belief and ability in the linebackers. Seeing that group stay on the field together, that provides its own challenges and that's not a knock on Captain and his role at the nickel at all, just a good way to feature the guy. They got a long and deep defensive line and how they rotate the guys and feature them in different ways. The big guys inside, that's usually where it starts with Kawann and Dontari, how aggressive they can penetrate up the field. Both defenses have lines that want to be featured in that way, but that's what makes going against them so difficult."
On his thoughts on the Falcons season as a whole: "Well I'll tell you, number one, you certainly reflect back and you hope that some lessons learned on some of these missed opportunities that you've had and when the wounds are self-inflicted wounds; a missed call, a missed opportunity, a dropped pass, a penalty. When those things could creep up in to your game or in our instance the turnover margin, for us to be at the -1 at this time of year it's hard to play good football. That part, when you're really humming and going, you're in double digits at the turnover margin at this stage. The reason I like using the turnover margin so much, I do believe it's one of the best team stats because the only way that you get in the plus is by creating them. In a few weeks when you look back and try to make the corrections and the evaluations of things that we did well and things that we didn't, yeah it stings for sure to have failed more tests than we've passed this year and I'm hopeful that the team takes the lessons that we've learned and we can apply them moving forward.
"Every team is different from year to year and ours will be different next year as well, but I'm hopeful that the players can learn the lessons and the staff too and apply them in to the next season. I don't think that you carry things over a lot, but I think lessons that you do can push forward for a team and I'm hopeful that's the case with ours. The missed opportunities that you have, you don't ever get them back and so they sting the most."
On how injuries have shaped the Falcons season: "I think the early part of it defensively it did, and offensively it did inside in our run game and our pass protection at guard. You hope that you can overcome some of those injuries because everybody deals with them in different ways. Sometimes it's the players, sometimes it's the leadership that goes along with that position. Sometimes it's the communication that go and I think injury can impact a team at different ways based on the position. It has a factor, but you hope that you've trained the team well enough that you can overcome circumstances that come up because everybody's going to deal with them, but in this case early on we hoped that the byproduct of getting some guys hurt is that we've had some other guys emerge and maybe we can come back a little stronger with even better depth because of some guys playing in extended time.
"A number of the players that have been injured from this year will be back on this team and so that's encouraging. I'm hopeful that the guys that fill that space gained experience and overall our team could be stronger from suffering some of those injuries. As pissed as we are about it, there are some byproducts of guys learning on the run and learning. So that way makes guys coming up through the program even stronger than going out to get somebody, you know, eight games, or six games. We tried as often as we could to bring guys who are from within the program in hopes they would respond the right way and sometimes it works, sometimes it didn't, but that's what you hope to gain from some of the injuries, you do create in a weird way better depth down the line."