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What We Learned From Thursday's Media Availability

Co-Offensive Coordinator Matt Nagy, Defensive Coordinator Bob Sutton, Special Teams Coordinator Dave Toub and Kicker Cairo Santos spoke with the media on Thursday

Co-Offensive Coordinator Matt Nagy

Q: Is Alex Smith better the more hectic a game gets?

NAGY: "I wouldn't say that. At the end of the game there, he played pretty well. You could obviously see that, but I wouldn't say it's a reason why he does or doesn't play better."

Q: Do you ever consider going to the no-huddle earlier or more often in the game?

NAGY: "The obvious answer to that is yes. But you don't [want to] get away from where your identity is as a team. Right now, offensively, we're not where we want to be. We are moving the ball and scoring points in the two-minute drill, but you've got to remember, the defenses play a little different when they're in a two-minute mode as well."

Q: What was the difference between the early and late stages of the game? The field seemed to open up more later in the game.

NAGY: "It was just the way the game was going. We knew going into the game, it was going to be a physical game where field position was important and not turning the ball over was going to be important. It wasn't going to be a game where we were all going up and down the field and chucking the ball all over and scoring a bunch of points. It was not going to be that. We wanted to protect the football, move the chains and if that didn't happen, we would stay patient and not get frustrated. I thought Coach [Reid] did a nice job with that."

Q: Is it easier with this team to move the ball using the middle of the field as opposed to using the sidelines? 

NAGY: "It all depends on the defense. Sometimes the corners play soft and off - the horizontal throws are there - other times they may play more bump and run and the middle of the field is open." 

Q: What does Anthony Sherman bring to this offense? It seemed that he got a few more snaps in the second half.

NAGY: "That was sort of the plan going into it -- to use Sherman a little more with some different packages that we have. He's an excellent blocker and he can also do different things in the passing game. That's the way it just happened to be. In the situation of the game, playing the field position and staying true to the run, we had packages that Sherman was in so it was almost more of a coincidence than anything else."

Q: When calling a deep throw, does the added bonus of possibly drawing a penalty factor into it? 

NAGY: "For sure. Absolutely. That's an important part of the game to be able to stretch the defense. What that does is keeps them honest. We've had some games where that hasn't happened, but we've also had some games where we have gone downfield and have tried to stretch the defense. There's that balance there but I definitely agree with you in the fact that you do see a lot of teams try that. For instance, a few weeks ago versus Denver, [Oakland] had a few calls where a bunch of pass interferences went on against them in Oakland. It's out there and we're aware of that."

Q: Chris Conley's involvement seems to happen late in games. Do you try to get him more involved earlier?

NAGY: "No. Again, it's more wherever it falls. With our offense, we have plays designed for positions and not certain players."

Q: Tyreek mentioned he's picking up more and more plays each week. How much of it has he grasped?

NAGY: "A lot of it. I've been saying that from day one. I was a little concerned with how much of it a rookie can come in and handle. And he hasn't showed any signs of slowing down. We just need to be conscious as coaches of not putting too much on his plate."

Q: How are the guys coming off that win on Sunday? 

NAGY: "There was a lot of excitement in the locker room after the game. Then once you enjoy that excitment and get to the following day you realize what our goal is, and right now it's to be able to focus on the Atlanta Falcons. We have one goal and the only way to get to that goal is to take it game by game. It was an excting feeling, it was a heck of a game to be a part of and lots of fun. But in the end we're focused on Atlanta." 

Q: How does Jeremy Maclin look and how nice is it to have him back in the fold? 

NAGY: "He looks good. It's just good to see him out on the field. For us, with some of the injuries we've had this year, other guys have come in and stepped up and done a good job. So whenever Jeremy is healthy to come back out, we'll be ready to go with him."

Q: Andy Reid mentioned that Alex Smith is very underrated. How is he underappreciated?

NAGY: "Probably because of some of the questions earlier about the downfield throws and the numbers in the stat book, but one thing that he does do is he wins, and that's the simple fact. He wins games, he doesn't turn the football over and he plays smart."  

Defensive Coordinator Bob Sutton

Q: What's Phillip Gaines situation? Is he healthy?

SUTTON: "Yeah, I think he's fine. He, obviously, had a couple tough plays the other night and that can happen to you when you play out on that fast lane there – things go quickly and you get exposed quickly if you make a mistake. So, I think he's going to be fine. I think, you can ask him, but I think he's healthy. I think he's okay. I think he's getting stronger and better. He just has to bounce back and play like he's played. We've seen him play the other way. He had a couple bad plays, which I'm sure he knows about. You just got to get back in. One of those things when you play out there – you hear it all the time – you can't get shaken if you give one up or you can't play out there. You're going to give one up eventually, okay? You have to learn from, go on and kind of what Coach [Andy] Reid tells our guys all the time, 'Hey, you play this play with everything that you got. If it didn't work out your way, it doesn't have anything to do with your next play.' I think that's great advice."

Q: Is he tough enough mentally to do that?

SUTTON: "Oh yeah, I think he is. Yeah, I think he'll be fine. He's going to have a big challenge this week. He's got some really good receivers again."

Q: Assuming you'll have Steven Nelson on Sunday, you'll have all three of those guys [Marcus Peters, Phillip Gaines and Steven Nelson] for the first time in a while. What does that do for you?

SUTTON: "Like I always say, we'd love to have everybody all the time. That's not the way this thing works, and then, the other part of it is when you're away, you lose some reps, and you lose some cohesiveness and all that. I think we'll be fine. These guys have played quite a bit. Hopefully, it'll allow for a little tighter cohesion and that type of thing. The one thing that you have to do in our league, whoever has to go,has to go. You can't blink, and you can't really worry about it. You just have to do your doggone best out there. As coaches, we just have to coach them the best we can and go forward."

Q: If the Tampa By game was knocking the rust off for Justin Houston, then what would you call what he did last Sunday?

SUTTON: "Well, I thought he did a great job, obviously. I thought he played with a really great level of intensity. Kind of what we were talking about a week ago. I think he was quicker. Again, I don't think this has anything to do with his injury if he's back from his injury. I just think it's from lack of playing, you know. He got a chance to play. Obviously, he did an outstanding job – not just on the sacks, but the other pressures in the game. Obviously, it gives us a guy that you have to deal with all the time. So, we're excited to have him back. We're excited to see him getting back to Justin Houston. Like I said last week, he's just going to get better and better the more reps he's out there."

Q: Speaking of the next man up – your interior defensive line played a lot of the second half – what did you see from that group?

SUTTON: "I loved what they did. They just went in there, and they played hard, and tough and played with some energy – just what you're driving at. You have to just really appreciate these guys. They weren't even here a couple of weeks ago. They just went in. Kind of what I was just saying, they didn't even blink an eye. They didn't think about it. We didn't think about it. They did, to me, a really nice job. They're highly competitive, and you couldn't ask more for those guys. They played a lot plays because of the way the game went and that type of thing. Just really happy at what they did. I think Britt [Reid] did a good job getting them ready. That kind of effort is going to help you anytime."

Q: How do you stop Julio Jones?

SUTTON: "I don't know if you can. We just have to slow him down. He's a dynamic guy. He has all the physical tools: he has height, he has size where he can body you, he has great speed and jumping ability and he's a great competitor. That makes for a big task for every defense in our league. He's just a really good football player and one of the things I appreciate about him is from what I've read and hearing him talk is all he wants to do is win. He doesn't care about touches and this and that. Obviously, he's had those games where has 300 yards or whatever it was, so he could get the ball every play. But one of the strengths of their offense is they have a lot of weapons and they use them all. They're not afraid to shy away. But they know where #11 is and if they have to get something, he usually delivers."

Q: What does it do for the defense if you have Justin Houston, Chris Jones and Dee Ford all pressuring the ball on the Sunday?

SUTTON: "Well, I think that's obviously a huge advantage because that allows you to do different things in the back end from a coverage standpoint – it helps that. Just to be able to do that and be able to mix in your own pressures – hopefully causes the offense some problems. Anytime you can just win with your four guys, it gives you a huge, huge advantage because those wins are happening on non-passing downs – that's important too – where you say, 'They could run or pass.' That's what I mean by that. They're not all third downs. All those guys, like you've said, have done a really good job this year. I think Chris [Jones] is really starting to come along and be a force. He's a doing a great job of pushing the pocket – that's huge. Some of those don't go as sacks, but when you put a guard right back into the quarterback, then, hopefully that effects them a little bit."

Q: What do you think about Taylor Gabriel? 

SUTTON:He's very fast and very explosive. I think he's really coming on as a player for them. He's a guy that can catch something short and turn it into something big, he's a guy that can run by you and he's a guy that can get it on the reverses and all that. So he's a really dynamic player that you really have to be aware of and know where he's at. He's got outstanding skill, speed and quickness. Some guys are fast and don't have quickness but he's got it all. So he's a legit guy for us. I think he's really starting to come on for them.  

Special Teams Coordinator Dave Toub 

Q: How many times have you watched a kicker 'boink' one off of the uprights?

TOUB: "In practice or in a game?"

Q: In a game.

TOUB: "It's happened a few times, but most of the time they miss. When you hit the upright it's not a good thing. Fortunately it hit the right side of the upright and it goes in."

Q: He [Cairo Santos] was talking about going left kind of intentionally, he went a little too far left, was that maybe because of things you've seen on film from Denver's special teams?

TOUB: "Well the rush is coming from the right I'm sure that's part of it. He's not going to play it too much because it wasn't that windy of a day."

Q: What did you think of the high five?

TOUB: "I loved it because the guys were having fun. I think that's a great thing. Coach Reid always talks about playing with personality and they certainly were doing that there. It wasn't a choreographed deal, it was an impromptu deal that happened and guys were having fun."

Q: What's their relationship?

TOUB: "They're close, our whole team is close. They get along great. They're all on the field together so they all want success. Him scoring a touchdown in that situation was huge for us."

Q: On D.J. Alexander's performance

TOUB: "He had his best game of the year by far last game. The three tackles and then what he did – throw a penalty on punt return and then made them punt again, those things are huge. Anytime a team has to cover two kicks in a row the advantage is in the return team. That happened for us and he is what we expected him to be, he's our special teams ace and he showed up in that game."

Q: You talked about using Knile Davis more in kick returns, you use him in the free kick, you go to Tyreek Hill in the free kick in a bigger game, do you use him differently in a bigger moment?

TOUB: "In a free kick it was a punt. Tyreek [Hill] is a punt returner."

Q: Could you see yourself in a big game using Tyreek as a kick returner? 

TOUB: "Sure. No question. If we get in a situation where we have to have it, you'll see #10 back there. Maybe this week. He's a threat every time. We want to try and get him the ball as much as we can without burning him out. There's a fine line." 

Q: This doesn't happen with every great returner, but a lot of times when somebody starts contributing offensively for a team they get taken off of special teams, do you ever worry about that with Tyreek Hill?

TOUB: "I'm not worried about it. Coach Reid knows that he's a weapon. If we can score on punt return and we can create field position just by having him lined up there, guys are kicking out of bounds now because they don't want to kick it to him, that's an advantage for us. That just makes those better, field position is key. I don't think there will be a field position where we'd want to take him out."

Q: On Atlanta's special teams 

TOUB: "The number one thing that pops into my mind is Eric Weems. I had Eric in Chicago and I know what kind of guy he is. He's their punt returner, their kick returner and he's their best cover guy on kickoffs and punts. So we have our hands full with him. He has great courage As a returner, he hits it north and south and is hard to tackle. As a punt returner he'll field balls on the ground and try to steal them. As far as coverage, we'll have to wrap him up and get to him. We have to block him, he's around the ball every time. He's the number one guy. Then obviously their kicker and punter are really good. 

Q: Dustin [Colquitt] had a pretty good day on Sunday, how critical were the angle and the spin on those two kicks?

TOUB: "Huge, because that's something that's kind of gone unnoticed. Dustin had nine punts, 47 yards plus gross and a 44 yard net, those were huge in that game, field position that we created there. He really had a great game."

Q: Did the kicks contribute to the drops that they had there? 

TOUB: "Yeah. He's a left-footed punter, so those balls are different. 

Q: On Demarcus Robinson

TOUB: "He's in that position because he's the sixth receiver, and if you're the sixth receiver you have to be a four-phase special teams player. He knows that in order to help us on Sunday, he has to be up and has to be that guy that's helping us.

Q:What did it mean for you to see James Winchester play so well on Sunday?

TOUB:"I was happy for him. He had a good game the first game coming off of what had happened and then the second game, to put two back-to-back the way he did. He's around the ball all the time. He snaps it and then he's down the field, he's right there to be able to make the tackle. He's fast. Him being around the ball, once De'Anthony [Thomas] created the turnover, by him being right in this guy's face he was Johnny on the spot to be able to fall on it. I was really happy for him."  

Q:Cairo [Santos] came to you as an undrafted free agent a few years ago, is this was you envisioned with him? 

TOUB: "Yeah, I mean obviously this is the epitome of what we envisioned. Special Teams Player of the Month, I mean that's a great honor. The fact that he's made 11 out of 11 kicks this last month and two game-winners, he's more than exceeded what we expected." 

Q:Are game-winning kicks kind of a right of passage as a kicker? 

TOUB:"It's confidence. He's been there and done that. The next time won't be his first. All of those things are experience." 

Q:He had a bit of a rough start to his career. 

TOUB:"It's all building his character and what he is now. All of those things that happened in his past and things that happened this year where he had to bounce back. He had some games where he missed one then came back and made the last three to help us win games. He's really come along, he's doing well in practice and we have a lot of confidence in him right now." 

Q:Do you talk to him and work with him on calming down before those big kicks in game? 

TOUB:To be completely honest, I'm more of a manager with these guys. I'm not a psychologist. I try to manage their kicks. 

Q: "Was he nervous about bigger kicks earlier in his career?"

TOUB: "Sure, because he had never done it. When you've never done something, you're always nervous about it. Once you've done it and you've done it in big games like that, it just helps you going forward." 

Cairo Santos

Q:What's your reaction to the AFC Special Teams Player of the Month Award?* *

SANTOS:"It's awesome. It makes me really proud of our whole special teams unit, Coach [Dave] Toub and Coach [Brock] Olivo included. We work countless hours throughout the whole season to be able to come up big in wins like the ones we got in the month of November. So, this award, I think, goes to the whole team, the whole special teams unit as well."

Q:The two game winning kicks you've had this month were the first two of your career, what does that do for your confidence?

SANTOS: "I think every week that I get to play in the NFL I know that the confidence rises. When you see games and situations come up like that, a kick is so important in the first quarter or in overtime that you have to have that confidence that you put into the practice field and translate that to games. There's no time to really have doubts. It can be a brutal game, so you've got to attack it with a strong mind and with trust in the process."

Q:How do you prepare with the mindset that every kick is the same and no kick is 'bigger or more important' than another kick?

SANTOS: "It's routine. I learned that after my rookie year. The kicks I was missing, I was feeling like a blur and not really remembering the moment. I was rushing it. After talking with the coaches and other players, I started paying more attention to the play clock and using the play clock to my advantage when I ran on the field. I feel the wind, check out the grass, talk to Dustin [Colquitt] and we talk about how we're going to lean the ball. I created a routine that I practice every day here. When we get into a game, it feels like practice because I'm slowing down the moment. The moment isn't getting better for me just because it's in a game."

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