Head Coach Sean McVay – Media Availability – January 1, 2018 **
(On how he keeps his team even keeled throughout the next five days)
"We take our same process and our same approach. We certainly don't shy away from what a great opportunity it is to be able to play on Saturday night, primetime. I think it's something that our guys will be excited about, going against the defending NFC Champs. It's a great opportunity, but I think it's just about playing our style of football, playing to the best of our ability and just keeping that same mindset and focus and concentration with our week of preparation, with our approach. Hopefully, that will lead to that good performance that we've seen for a handful of times this year."
(On if there is any update on CB Troy Hill, DB Blake Countess or LB Mark Barron)
"Yeah. With Troy, fortunately he didn't have a concussion. He was good after the game, so he should be in good shape. With Blake, he went into the (concussion) protocol, but he came in today, he was feeling good, he'll get with the doctors and go through those tests and things like that. But (Director of Sports Medicine/Performance) Reggie (Scott) seemed to feel optimistic about the symptoms and the way that he was feeling today after he came in. Then as far as Mark Barron is concerned, really he would be the only guy that you're talking about. He feels good and I think his mindset and mentality is he's getting ready to play for a playoff game on Saturday night. I think this week will serve him well, giving him that time off and then he'll get a couple extra days and then we'll see how he feels on Wednesday and try to ramp it up. That will give us a really good gauge of if we can expect him to play, but things are looking good for him."* *
(On if the youth of his team and minimal playoff experience is a real obstacle that they will have to overcome)
"I certainly think that if there's anything that I've learned, just specifically for myself, there is a lot of value in experience. This is a very humbling business, you try to learn from the experiences that you do have and not try to repeat the same things, repeat the same mistakes twice. I think when you look at what our team has done a nice job of – certainly playoff football is a great opportunity, great challenge for us and the game ramps up. But just looking at all the obstacles that our team has faced, especially being a younger team, whether it be traveling more miles than anybody else in the league, having to overcome different injuries, different obstacles, I think our guys have responded the right way. You look at the way we've bounced back from losses this season. So I think for a younger team, we've demonstrated a maturity and I think our approach and our preparation – we try to be consistent with that. You hear us talk about that process over and over again and I think our guys have bought into that. We're still playing a football game against an excellent team this week, but we know that the stakes are a little bit higher because if you win you continue playing and if not then your season is over. But as far as how we get ready, how we go play a football game, we'll remain the same in terms of that focus, that concentration. I think our players have responded the right way being that we are a youthful team, but I think we've demonstrated good maturity throughout the course of the year."
(On if he thinks there is a tangible difference between a tough regular season game as opposed to an elimination-type playoff game and if there is a different mindset you need)
"I don't know if there is a different mindset. I think every player and coach probably has a different way of kind of preparing themselves mentally to get ready for a game. I think what you just know is kind of what you mentioned. That it's if you don't take care of business then your season ends and if you do then you continue on. Now when you get into these elimination games, that's really where the stakes change for you. Certainly, it's exciting for us. It's one that our players are excited about the opportunity to go against a great team and be able to do it in front of our home crowd is really exciting, especially on a Saturday night, so it's going to be fun."
(On if missing the one day when playing on a Saturday affects him)
"It does because you're typically accustomed to having kind of a seven-day work week and everything gets bumped up. I think fortunately for us, and a lot of situations with some of our players with the way that we dealt with last week, it'll be a little bit more seamless for us to go tomorrow and treat it like a normal Wednesday. So as far as for our preparation, we just bump everything up one day. I'll probably be here, we'll be here a little bit later as a coaching staff today, so I'll probably have a little bit more heavy eyes tomorrow, but it's an exciting thing. I think Atlanta is doing a similar deal where I had seen that they are traveling on Thursday night, but they'll move everything up a day with their normal, kind of standard operating procedures with how they handle a normal work week and a game week and that's exactly what we'll do."
(On if he has faced a team this year that has the explosiveness of Falcons WRs Julio Jones and Mohammed Sanu)
"I think when you look at it, certainly these guys are excellent receivers. I think we've played some good offenses this year. But in terms of what Julio does, what he's done year-in and year-out and then I think Mohammed Sanu is one of the more underrated receivers in this league that he's got the ability to do a lot of different things. He can create after the catch, he's wired to separate on some of those options and those choice routes, great aggressive hands. So, those two guys are a nightmare to deal with. Then you talk about their two (running) backs, (Falcons TE Austin) Hooper is a good tight end that can make a lot of plays. So you see why this is one of the best offenses in the league and the weapons they have and they have the quarterback that has a great command and understanding and he can distribute the ball to all of their playmakers.
(On if he gets a sense of what Offensive Coordinator Matt LaFleur is feeling on getting to go up against his old team)
"Oh, yeah. He's excited. I think he has so much respect and admiration for (Falcons Head) Coach (Dan) Quinn and really what that organization did for him and his experiences there. (Falcons Assistant Head Coach) Raheem Morris is a great coach on their staff as well that Matt and I are both very close with and we've worked with him previously. But no, for Matt I think he's excited about the opportunity to compete against these guys and he has nothing but great experiences from his time there. A lot of the things that we've kind of implemented into our schedule, or our weekly or our daily rhythm, is from some of the things that Coach Quinn did based on Matt's recommendations and how good he thought that experience was."
(On how close he grew up to the Georgia Dome)
"I would say about 30 minutes. It's closer to where my parents live now, kind of in that Buckhead area, but it's close. I was there a lot when I was growing up and I know the new stadium is right next door."
(On if he ever adopted the Falcons as his team because of the hometown ties)
"I think you were familiar with what was going on. To say you ever really rooted for them when you kind of had somebody in the family that was involved with a team earlier. When I was younger they were in the same division and then just kind of growing up I had a lot of respect for watching the way that those guys competed and they were playing really well. When you had (Falcons QB Michael) Vick and (Falcons RBs Warrick) Dunn and (T.J) Duckett and those guys. I've always just been a fan of football and we would go down to the games a bunch. My dad was the general manager for WSB (WSB-TV Atlanta) and they had a nice box that we would go over to from time-to-time and it was something that we enjoyed, but I wouldn't say that I was a specific fan of the Falcons, I just enjoyed being able to go watch good, competitive games."
(On if he feels like this is going to be a different type of game for him and if he will take in the moment)
"Oh yeah, I think so. You certainly want to enjoy this. I think this is a great goal – one of the goals is to be able to play in a game like this that our team sets out at the beginning of the year and you certainly want to enjoy it. You think about some of the atmospheres that we've been able to play in this year at home, and then the Seattle atmosphere a couple weeks back. Those are special things and things you want to take in and enjoy. Those kind of atmospheres and environments gets you ramped up and excited. It's one of the things you love so much about this game. But I do think in terms of just having an inexperienced approach being in this role – these are great opportunities to be able to rely on a (Defensive Coordinator) Wade Phillips, who's been through things like this before. And guys on your staff that have had more playoff experience than you've had and that's where you feel good, because any time that you go into a challenge like this – we're all going in it and we're all striving for the same things. We've got a bunch of great people in this building that I can really rely on and feel comfort in that."
(On if he learned anything from his two postseason games with the Redskins)
"Unfortunately, both of those, we lost Seattle and we lost to Green Bay. Both of them were at home playoff games. I think being able to do that were very exciting times for us. You always learn from different things. I think especially just being a playcaller – some of the calls or some of the things that you want to try to make sure that you don't repeat those mistakes. There was a handful of things in that Green Bay game that I can think of – to be able to name right now then you try to handle in a different manner when we played them the next year. We played the Falcons two years ago and it was a back-and-fourth battle. Great system that they have. They're fundamentally sound. (Falcons Head) Coach (Dan) Quinn does a great job and (Falcons S) Marquand Manuel has been excellent this year. You see they're basically top 10 in every major category. It's going to be a great challenge. But, I think in terms of just whether it be a playoff game or any game – you try to learn, look at yourself critically, figure out what you can do. But, I think this season, especially just being in this role provides a great opportunity to reflect on the mistakes that I've made for myself and how you can try to avoid those going into a big game like this."
(On what he sees in the Falcons defense that he will scheme against)
"Well, I don't know if I'm going to tell you exactly how we're scheming them (laughs). I see a fundamentally sound defense. You see great speed. You look at them upfront – (Falcons DT) Grady Jarrett shows up all over the place. Obviously, (Falcons OLB) Vic Beasley's a great rusher, (Falcons DE Adrian) Clayborn's had a great year. But then when you look at the inside linebacker position specifically with (Falcons LB Deion) Jones and (Falcons LB De'Vondre) Campbell – two of the fastest linebackers. They pursue sideline to sideline. (Falcons S) Keanu Neal is one of the more physical safeties. You draft him kind of with the vision to be like a (Seahawks S) Kam Chancellor and that's what he is certainly playing like. I say that as a huge complement because of how much respect I have for Kam. And then (Falcons S Ricardo) Allen does a nice job playing in the safety and I think as far as the corners go with (Falcons CB Desmond) Trufant and (Falcons CB Robert) Alford, they're two of the more competitive corners. It's a great duo. You see a lot of the same principles that you see in some of those Seattle defenses, some of the Jacksonville where it kind of comes from the school of thought, but everybody puts their own twist on it and they do a good job of mixing things up situationally. They make you earn every single yard. You hear us say that consistently, but that is a staple of a really good defense in this league – where you can see they've got great adjustments, they know exactly the fundamentals and techniques, they play with great effort, they tackle well and you can see they violently attack the football. They take advantage of some of those tips, those overthrows and they turn them into turnovers. Coach Quinn is a guy that's preached, 'It's all about the ball.' And he's had a lot of success doing that and their defense is certainly playing at a high level. You look at the way they were able to play – specifically yesterday in a got to have a game, against a great offense in the Carolina Panthers. It was impressive tape to watch. Then you continue to watch how they played throughout the course of the regular season and you see why they are a top unit."
(On if he has any concern at all with the players who didn't play getting back into rhythm)
"I don't think so. I think they did a good job kind of trying to stay in a rhythm. The best example that we can kind of draw on just this year in particular is the Bye Week and even in the Bye Week those guys are away. I thought they came back the right way when you look at just the way that we were able to prepare for the Giants game. Guys seemed like they were pretty fresh and we try to keep some of the rhythm and timing offensively, I think our guys specifically those skill guys got some good work in. they even got some work in before the game yesterday, so for a lot of guys I think that will serve us well. Being a little bit fresher, especially the guys that were banged up. But for the skill players and some of those things where that timing and rhythm is at a premium, we feel good about them being able to kind of stay on track with where we left off."* *
(On what ways he thinks the Falcons are different than they were last year)
"I think it's hard to say. I think just when you look at it, they're still an excellent football team. I didn't actually go through the actual amount of preparation that you would right now, where we didn't play them last year, it's hard to say. I think you just look at it still dynamic offense, lot of play makers, guys getting involved in a variety of ways. They change up the personnel groupings and then I think defensively when you look at just when you kind of come into a place and you start to see that identity show up and they get more comfortable playing and having that identity within the framework of the system. I think they're a year more comfortable with how they want to operate and I think (Falcons Head) Coach (Dan) Quinn and (Falcons Defensive Coordinator) Coach (Marquand) Manuel have done an excellent job. (Falcons Linebackers Coach) Jeff Ulbrich's one of the best coaches in this league as well, getting those linebackers in alignment. They've got a bunch of guys who are playing comfortable in the system that look like it. I think that's what you see show up. Those teams that have that continuity, you look at Seattle how they've been able to play at such a high level for so many years. Well there's a comfort level and being able to have an identity. Get comfortable in the system and the scheme. We talked about that as we're transitioning our guys to (Defensive Coordinator) Wade's (Phillips) system. I think hopefully we'll see that improvement from (year) one to (year) two like we saw as the season progressed and the same thing with our offense. I think that's what you're seeing in Coach Quinn's third year with them defensively."
(On if a matchup against Former Raiders and Buccaneers Head Coach Jon Gruden is something that he would like to see in the future and if he has any comment on the reports that the Raiders are interested in Gruden)
"No. If you get a chance to coach against one of your mentors and a guy that taught you almost kind of the foundation of what you know about this game. I think it would be a fun, humbling opportunity. But, if that's what he wants to do – I think he's certainly earned the right and he's more than capable. He's one of the rare people that I think has been away from the game, but he's been as involved in the game as anybody where he's kind of getting exposure, the ins and outs. He's a great communicator, if that's the case then Oakland will be getting a great head coach. Somebody that's been instrumental in helping me personally out and I can't say enough about Jon (Gruden) and what he's done and what he's been able to teach me and kind of the way he put his arm around me and taught me this game."
(On the Falcons emphasizing the idea of attacking the ball)
"You could see it's a point of emphasis for them. They attack at it – when guys are stood up, they're rake-hammer, they're punching at the football, they're finding ways to create turnovers. Guys are trying to get their hands on the a ball to create some of those tips, those overthrows. I think when you've got guys that play with that type of fanatical effort that you see on tape snap-in and snap-out, you're going to be about capitalize when the ball's on the ground whether it's recovering a fumble or whether it's taking advantage of some of those tips and over throws. You look at yesterday, there was a couple interceptions that they were able to make from those specific plays, because guys just are contesting throws, making you earn it. It's tight window throws and if you're just a tick off, then they hit it up and here's the post-safety ready to make a play or here's guys in position because they distribute the field evenly, but they're matching everything as well. It's a great defense. They're tough to go against and you're watching this tape and you're thinking this is going to be a great challenge for us."