Falcons head coach Dan Quinn
On trying to win the NFC South Saturday:"You know, honestly just as we are getting to this game, we know that it is going to be hard fought game, and we expect nothing else. Just for years on my own behalf of competing against Ron (Rivera) and his team – it's a battle. And that's what you look for in a division game, that's what makes them so much fun – the toughness, the hardness that comes with it. So for us, honestly all that we are looking to is this game. We don't let our thoughts go too much past that. I think you miss the cool moments that go into the process of getting ready to play a really good game. So we really don't go much further than right here and kind of dealing with the present moment of getting ready and that's where our thoughts stay."
On last year's one-sided loss in regards to this year:"Not much to be honest with you. Each year, teams are different and our team is a lot different than last year. We just, we are. And so, for last year's season, that's something that we'll look at the tape for sure. To call it one-sided, in the first game last year was an understatement, how bad it was for us and it definitely left some permanent scars, there's no question about that, but each year is different and that's why this season is so much different. We've got a lot of new players, they do too. So we kind of just focus on the game at hand, as opposed to looking too far back and that's really where it lies."
On watching the Carolina vs. Washington game:"We did, yep. And so we were here working but certainly had it on as well. And I thought, great demonstration, plus three-turnover margin, they ran it well, and it really showed a physical style. So I was not surprised coming into the game that they would play well and they certainly did."
His thoughts on Jonathan Stewart:"For years we just thought he was tough as can be, running. His ability to break tackles has been one of the things that make him so difficult. We talk a lot about strike zones, in the way that we hit and trying to hit through a target. What makes Jonathan so unique is he can get his pads way down low to make his strike zone really low. I think he has terrific balance at running back. If you try to hit him high and the power he has in his legs, often times you will see him spin off or kind of bounce off and have yards after contact. So for us, we know that a tackling plan had better be in order for a number of guys. We were very impressed by the different guys that can kind of set it off for Carolina, at quarterback, running back, tight ends and wide receivers. There are a lot of weapons and they got a big playbook, so got our work cut out for us but honestly it's a challenge that we are looking forward to."
On the improvement of the Panthers' secondary since last meeting:"Yeah, that was kind of a flukey game on the first one. Some big plays happened and often times, some stats can look out of whack, crazy, but they totally do. And I know Sean (McDermott) well, I know their defense, what they stand for. There's a number of guys on that unit that just battle and that's one of the reasons why I respect their team so much it's the competitive, so I have sensed that the difference between how they play, the communication you can tell is on point in terms of how they go. But as it gets down to this weekend, you get through the week and all the focus and all the stuff goes right back to the game."
On ranking the offensive performance in first meeting with Panthers:"I don't know. Each week is different. And one of the terms that we use is, "Can a guy set it off?" And have a good performance that can help the team. One of the reasons we've played well on offense is we have a number of different guys that can set it off. So last week, our run game was the factor and that came down to (Devonta) Freeman and his ability to do it. We played well out at Denver. It wasn't a big scoring game but Tevin Coleman was somebody in that game that had set it off and did well and in the New Orleans game, which he played well. We've had other games that the tight ends were involved. That I think is what makes us unique, where different guys can get involved in the action. And that's when we are at our best. It might be a run game, or the tight ends, or Matt (Ryan) and his completions – so that's what makes us unique when they have to defend the whole field."
On seeing growth in Carolina rookie cornerbacks James Bradberry and Daryl Worley:"I have. And what I think is kind of cool about our division is there are some good young defensive players. We've got a few that we're excited about. I was excited when I watched their corners. They are certainly guys we studied hard coming into the draft and in the preparation, and I thought they totally stood up. And now that those guys have played a lot, just like our guys, they kind of found their rhythm and found their groove and understand what NFL style of play is like and the attention to detail that goes in. And so I think for years to come in the secondary as well, both teams have some promising up and coming guys defensively. Us, maybe at linebacker and the corners there, so it's kind of cool to see."
His thoughts on Bradberry and Worley going into the draft:"Probably Bradberry more. I just liked the size that he played with. Coming out, you are trying to see who you could match up against with, and often times at corner you'll take out plays that he was targeted you know. Sometimes it'll be hard to evaluate all the plays in the game, so you say, 'Okay, let's go back and look at all the plays where he was targeted. And I thought that his ability for a big guy to change direction and drop his hips totally jumped out to me. If I'm not mistaken, you are catching me on the fly, but which all-star game did he play in? Because I can remember watching the video of that as well. Was he Senior Bowl or East-West? It was one of them I think, and I remember looking at him there as well. I think you are right I do remember seeing him and I mean coming from a smaller school at times, these all-star games can look as some would say, 'Alright, let's look at them battle here against a different level of competition,' and that's why I think the Senior Bowl or All-Star game can totally benefit the guy from the smaller school. I'll tell you another one was Carson Wentz that jumped out to me at the Senior Bowl. Came from a small school, and was looking like he was just ripping it there. So I thought James was that way as well."
On the growth of linebacker Vic Beasley:"I'm sure it's a question for you guys and Ron to discuss too, but it's one of the parts of our game that we enjoy as coaches, helping develop the younger guy. When you get a guy – like the two rookies you were talking about – when you get a guy into your program as a rookie, he really doesn't know any other way. So you get a chance to hopefully have a positive impact on the style that he can play. No surprises. It takes a little while at some positions, some longer than others, to really find your rhythm and find your groove. For him, knowing different tackles will pass at different ways. What I did on this tackle may be a little bit different on the next guy. Dwight Freeney's had a nice impact on him, finding a level of preparation he can take his game to and then working with practice habits and technique improving – he's had a terrific year, he really has. We feel like he's still on the way up and has a lot of room for growth. It starts, for him, with his quickness off the ball. As a pass rusher, you're always looking to see can you beat a guy to the punch. By his get-off, often times he can do that."
Update on wide receiver Julio Jones' game status:"I'd be glad to. He'll participate for us today. For the last couple of weeks, he's been close but not quite ready to explode like he does. As a competitor, he's a really unique guy and totally wanted to go. So we had to make a decision for him if he wasn't able to full-speed plant and change direction like he does. Although he's got the long speed, what people don't think about him is all the change of direction stuff that we do even though he's a big guy. So that's where we wanted to make sure he was good. Honestly, just getting a full week of practice and a full game plan so he can be at his best. So we're really glad. Today for us, and for you guys too, is kind of like a Wednesday. So he was able to participate today and we're about to head back out shortly and it's good to have him back out there."
On if he agrees with Rivera saying, 'If I was the defender, I would've done the same thing,' in regards to the hit quarterback Cam Newton sustained a concussion from in the Week Four matchup:"I did and I'm glad you brought it up because I do agree with playing very physical but hitting people in the strike zone. For us, that's the shoulders down to the knees, just like in baseball. How hard you can hit somebody in the strike zone, that's an important one for us. We never intend to hit a guy in the head, we do talk about the strike zone quite a bit. Not only is it safe for our own team, and who we're playing against. That part's significant. We know how hard these guys battle physically to stay on the field. I would agree with him in that regard where you're really battling and sometimes it still happens when you're trying to play the technique correctly and I think that was a byproduct of that. It was certainly trying to become a clean hit and you could tell the competitor Cam was – I can clearly remember it as we're talking about it – where he stumbled back and still fell forward in the end. But in no way were we trying to do anything other than absolutely hit him in the strike zone as hard as we could."
On if there is an advantage playing Carolina after they just played on Monday Night Football:"Not really because once you get to the game, it's all about that format. The nice part – we get the preparation right. For both teams, we've all kind of got accustomed to different scheduling – Thursday games, Monday games, Saturday games, west coast trips. There are so many different areas and time zones and different spots that we play, I know our team's accustomed to it and I'm sure theirs' is as well. You just go and battle for it. As opposed to looking past that, you just kind of look to get ready and I'm sure that's how they're approaching it as well."
On Carolina's defensive success versus Washington:"Well we don't look to anybody else to garner our confidence or motion to get ready to play. It totally comes back to our standard. What I can say for that is we know first-hand, how good Washington is and the weapons they have at tight end, at running back and at receiver. I came away very impressed by their performance last night and then each game is different. Each week is unique and different. I think we'd all be remised if we didn't say it was a really good defensive performance by them last night."
On Rivera's success in late season games:"I've respected him for a long time. I don't know this off-hand, but I know the December and January record of the team is terrific over the last few years. That really comes from a lot of his leadership and having their belief, their intensity right, and their mind-set ready to play. Having that December football attitude, records are out and you throw it all in to each and every week. It really comes crystal clear in December that you're able to do that. At that point, you throw the records out and you just go play. In December, you get to do that. In October and sometimes in November, a team will looks at you and says, 'Ah, yeah.' But in this case, I think they totally live that and embody that."
Falcons linebacker Vic Beasley
On the biggest difference between last year and this year:"Just taking the material that the coaches present each and every week, going out there and executing. With the help of Dwight (Freeney) – he's been a great addition to our team and he's a great leader for us up front."
On learning from Freeney:"He's been a great help. He presents great material each and every week and it's a great game plan. Like I said, we just try to go out there and work on it at practice, stay in the film room and try to pick up on every tip we can. He presents a great presentation for us every week."
On modeling his game after any specific player:"I really just try to create my own path. Coming out of college, I idolized Von (Miller). Just watching his game a lot, we have a lot of similarities and try to get off the ball as fast as we can."
On if playing in Carolina means more to him than other road games after playing collegiately at Clemson:"Yeah, it definitely does. I know you don't have the ACC Championship game there this year, but they have it in I think Tampa this year. It's a great feeling to be coming back up there. Not necessarily playing in Death Valley, but just getting that feeling of being back in the Carolinas is a good feel."
On if he expected to record the stats that he has put up this year:"I definitely saw it coming. Just hard work in the offseason. I knew what I was capable of. I just had to continue to work hard. With the help of the other guys, it definitely helped me out along the way."
On building off of his stats from this year:"I just take it one game at a time. I focus on the now and the present. Just go from there. Next season will have different requirements, different things thrown at me. But I'm focused on the now right now."