Q: Is the idea of “bend but not break” the identity of the defense this year?
A: Well, our defense has had the opportunity to create some situations through turnovers and through some critical stops in key situations and get the ball back to our offense and so while we’ve given up quite a few yards we’ve had opportunities to get the ball back to our offense in a number of different ways and that’s the most important thing is just being able to give them the ball back.
Q: Do you like the idea that you control your own destiny with these three final games?
A: Yeah. It’s a much better feeling to know that if we take care of all the business we don’t have to look over our shoulders or worry. We’ll be where we want to be when we started this season, where we set out to be. So we just have to take it one game at a time understanding that we have a three-game season left and the only game that we can do something about it is this coming Sunday in Atlanta.
Q: A lot of your defensive teammates said that you guys can do a lot better. Do you agree with that?
A: I definitely agree with that statement. It wasn’t a signature defensive performance. There were a lot of miscues and things that we have to get cleaned up and corrected, namely the big plays both in the run game and the pass game. We’ve got to find a way to get those issues fixed. But when you have an opportunity to get some key stops in the red zone, keep people from getting in the end zone making them kick field goals and then being able to turn the football over and get the ball back to our offense; that’s going to bode well for us particularly when our offense and our special teams play the way that they did yesterday. That’s why we continue to say just get the ball back to our offense. Just get the ball back to our offense anyway we can, whether it be through key stops on third downs or turn the football over. Whatever we have to do, let’s get them the ball back.
Q: Do you feel that if you guys are going to defend your championship that the defense is going to be a big strength or can this offense carry the team?
A: I’m going to say this. The defense definitely has to be a part of it and it starts up front. The defensive line… We set the tone and that’s one of the things that that we haven’t done consistently in setting the tone for our defense and ultimately for our football team, so that’s something that we as a front want to get back to – stopping the run, playing physical and then being able to rush the passer. It makes everybody’s job on defense easier and it definitely energizes our football team. So we understand that we carry that flag, we carry that banner and we have to pick it up.
Q: Is it playing with fire to be giving up big plays and then having to rely on the turnovers and a stop in the red zone?
A: Well, I think that it’s just a matter of being consistent in our focus. I think that sometimes in the football game yesterday we had some lapses in focus and guys didn’t execute at the sharp level that we’re capable of and as a result you have big plays and so we’ve got to continue to stay sharp and continue to focus on our assignments throughout the football game.
Q: Last year’s signature defensive performance was probably against the Falcons in the playoffs. You figure they’re going to be pretty revved up to see you guys on Sunday?
A: We’re expecting the best of every team that we play. That’s just what comes along with being the defending champs, but it’s a big game. The Falcons have everything to play for, but so do we. We have everything to play for and our season is where we want to be. It’s all in front of us. We have a tremendous opportunity in being able to go down there and take on that challenge, so we’re looking forward to it.
Q: Do you look at this game as a measuring stick of where you guys are this season because they have the best record in the NFC?
A: No, I don’t think anybody looks at it as a measuring stick. I think it’s a tremendous opportunity for us to play a very good football team on the road. It’s definitely going to test us and we’re looking forward to the opportunity to take on that challenge and we understand what it can do for our season. We understand that in order to be where we want to be we have to be at our best this Sunday against the challenge that is the Falcons.
Q: What goes into a signature effort?
A: It’s simple. It’s stop the run, rush the passer and create turnovers. You have to do all of those things and we haven’t put all three of those things together yet in a performance this season so far, so that’s what we have to do.
Q: Some people say you play best when your backs are to the wall. Do you agree with that at all?
A: I agree that you have to be challenged to play your best, but I’m not going to say we play best when our backs are against the wall. Competition brings out the best in everyone. That’s what it is, but I don’t want to say that we have to have our backs up against the wall in order to perform at our best. We just have to make the concerted effort in all three phases, offense, defense and special teams, play together with that purpose and that energy and we’ll put our best performance out there on the field. And the good thing about it is it hasn’t happened yet, so we can look forward to it happening and we need that to be sooner rather than later. But we’re excited about the opportunity to do that.
Q: What are some of the things that wouldn’t show up on the stat sheet that would be indicative of a strong defensive performance?
A: The thing that sticks out in my mind when you ask that question is being able to play good situational football. Yesterday in the red zone we were able to force the Saints into kicking some field goals rather than scoring touchdowns and that’s being able to play situational football. That’s being able to get a stop when you need to and keep them from putting seven points on the board. And then when you couple that with the turnovers and great special teams play that’s something that’s indicative of a good defensive performance.
Q: How would you evaluate the pass rush yesterday?
A: I think that we did some good things. I think there’s room for improvement. We had some hits on him. Osi got a sack there at the end, but there’s definitely room. They have a great scheme. They do a great job and we’ve just got to continue to fight and find ways to get to the quarterback. It’s definitely been tough because we haven’t been stopping the run, so we have to make that our primary focus. But once that happens that will open up more opportunities for guys to get to the quarterback.
Q: Are you guys close to that signature performance?
A: Well, I hope it’s coming sooner than later. I think our football team is starting to make the effort to play together in all three phases, coming together and understanding how we’re tied together and working together in order to accomplish our goals, so I think that’s very important.