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Notes from the Locker Room: 9/15 and 9/16

The Falcons are in the midst of a short week of preparing to take on the Buccaneers this Thursday. What's on players' minds as game day approaches?

Andy Lyons

Sunday's painful loss to the Cincinnati Bengals is a distant memory as the Falcons sharpen their focus for a division matchup against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Thursday night. What's on players' minds as they prepare for the Bucs?

On the benefit of a quick turnaround after a loss:

Gabe Carimi likes the idea of being able to get the bad taste of Sunday's loss out of their mouths quickly.

If anything, I like it better, because it's an easier way to get the taste out of my mouth-with a win. So if you turn around and win, you don't have to wait a full Sunday to Sunday to get a win. So obviously, I like going into-getting the next game in, get a win, go in, get the atmosphere turned around in here.

Joe Hawley agrees.

I'm actually excited about it because you get that bad taste out of your mouth really fairly quickly. I mean, we had to come and we didn't even really get to watch the film from last week-we had to start game planning for this week. So hopefully we'll come in and get the corrections made, get it right, have a better week, and just forget about that last week.

Devin Hester is happy to be looking toward the Bucs.

I'm just glad today is preparing for a new team. We didn't even really watch film on [the Bengals]. Certain games you lose, it's tough in the NFL to go undefeated. So certain games you lose, and you don't like the way you lost. You just throw that one, sweep it up under the rug, and look forward to the next game. Unfortunately this is a short week for us. We've got our hands full with Tampa. This is a must-win game for us. It's a division game, so we can't look in the past. What happened is in the past. You can't change the past. And right now we've just got to focus on Tampa.

Matt Ryan is looking forward to putting the Bengals game behind him.

Yeah, I think it's a positive. Regardless, you're going to have to play what's on the schedule. You've got to be ready to go on Thursday night. So I think everybody had to put that one behind us quickly, which might have been a good thing, and we've moved on to this next one. And I think the focus all week has to be on playing the kind of football that we're capable of. And if we can do that, that's going to be our best recipe for success.

Desmond Trufant is ready to move on from the loss.

We're moving on. We know we can play better than what we did, and we're looking forward to this game coming up. So it's great. It's perfect timing.

On the challenges of a short week:

Matt Ryan said that Atlanta has their work cut out for them with Tampa's defense.

Yeah, obviously a short week. I think everybody's done a good job of putting last week behind us. We learned some things from it and have used that moving forward, but we've got a good opponent--division games are always tough-very good front four with Tampa Bay coming in, so we've got our work cut out for us. Anytime you play in the division, we talk about it counts one-plus. So we've got some work to do before Thursday night, but we've got to get ready to play the way that we're capable of.

Devin Hester said that the limited time is a factor.

Just you don't have as much time to prepare for it, especially with a Thursday game. You really can't really practice like how you want to. Then we got one day of practice to prepare for this team, and that's the most important thing right now when it comes to a quick turnaround game from this Sunday game to a Thursday game is that you've got to try and squeeze everything in within those two days. You've got to pretty much squeeze as much as you can in and hopefully it works.

Jonathan Babineaux said the challenges are primarily mental.

It's all mental right now. Taking away a lot of the physical-not being able to practice that much this week, so we've got to get on film study this week and be able to get them down in the next three days and be ready to go on Thursday.

Jake Matthews is focused on being physically and mentally ready to play.

My biggest thing is just obviously you've got to be mentally ready, whatever game plan we're going to have. But one of my biggest things is just being able to be confident and go in there and play with however the ankle's feeling, being confident that I'm going to be able to go in there and get the job done.

Gabe Carimi said that because he's played for Lovie Smith in Chicago and spent last season in Tampa Bay, his familiarity makes preparing for the Bucs a little easier.

Well, Lovie Smith is the coach there, and I played for Chicago for a while, so I'm kind of familiar with how they like to run the defense over there a little bit. And I was at Tampa last year so I got to know the personnel pretty well, so for me, at least, it's a comfortable turnaround.

On the importance of a division win on Thursday:

Gabe Carimi said it's extremely important to get a win on Thursday.

Obviously division wins are always the-you want to win every game, but those wins are obviously really important.

Paul Worrilow said that a win Thursday will put the team in a great position.

Being a division game, it's a good opportunity to put ourselves in a good position early on. So it's definitely an important game.

Desmond Trufant said a win will put the team right back where they want to be.

You can't win every game. You'd like to, but it's a very competitive league. Everybody's good. And if we get this win we'll be feeling right back how we want to feel. So we've just got to prepare tomorrow, get our mental reps, and we'll be ready.

On what the starting lineup along the offensive line may look like on Sunday:

Jake Matthews believes he will play.

I'm expecting to play. I know I'm presuming I'll be able to play, but we'll see how the week of practice goes and what Coach has to say.

Gabe Carimi says he'll be ready to go if the coaches decide he'll be starting.

I'm not in charge of any situations like that. All I can do is know every situation, every play, and being with Mike Tice previously I know I'm comfortable with the playbook just as far as run game. Usually that's where the biggest adjustments week to week are, in the run game. In the passing game you're going to-it's basically the same. You know your protection, you have to work on technique and the hand placement in the pass game, but run game is where you actually change up where you're going to plant or adjust to what people are giving you.

Matt Ryan has confidence that Lamar Holmes can bounce back from a rough game Sunday.

It happens. It happens to everybody. Week to week, sometimes you don't play your best. But in this league it's all about moving forward and trying to be better than you were last week. So you can't dwell on it. This league is humbling week to week, and you're going against the very best football players in the world. And sometimes they're going to get you, but part of being a professional is being able to move past that, staying confident, and trusting in your abilities. And I think Lamar will do that.

On the offensive performance Sunday:

Matt Ryan says that he's got to play better.

I think as a quarterback, you can't make those kinds of mistakes, regardless of why they happen. In order to win football games against good teams, you can't turn the football over. So you look at them, look at the reasons why they happened, you try and make adjustments from that. But any way you slice it, you can't do that and expect to win. And I've got to be better than that.

Ryan also said that the refs disrupt the tempo of the game at times, and it's something they can't control, but they have to perform better on third downs.

Obviously, with the rules the way they are, when you change personnel groupings they've got the referees in positions to where you can't snap the ball, but that's just part of the deal. I think the key for us to continuing that tempo is being able to convert on third downs. We did not do a good enough job of that last week.

On the pass rush:

Jonathan Babineaux emphasized the importance of working together as a unit.

We're just doing our job out there. Most of the calls we have are third downs--the ball's coming out quick. The last few games we've been getting a few hits, but we're not able to get a lot of sacks. We've just got to keep on continuing to plug and continuing to work together as a unit.

Paul Soliai said that stopping the run and giving pass rushers third and long to work with would help.

It starts with me. We've got to get them in more third down and long, not just do it short...we've just got to stop the run and let our rushers rush and have more of an advantage not rushing on a third and two, third and three-you know, that's not a good down to rush on. But we've just got to stop the run and let our rushers rush.

Paul Worrilow agreed that stopping the run is key.

I think--well, we always talk about stopping the run, setting up a good third down, putting ourselves in a good position to really attack the quarterback on third down.

Worrilow also said that they're not happy with zero sacks through two games.

It's still early, but yeah, that's something we want to do is we've got to get after the quarterback. I don't know how many hits we have or how many disruptive plays we have, but sacks, it's a big thing that we need and it can get us off the field.

Desmond Trufant said that there's always pressure on the secondary to make plays, and that his unit can help the pass rush as well.

It's always pressure-that's why we get paid to do what we do in the secondary. It's hard position. We help the d-line, the d-line helps us, vice versa. So if we cover better, they can get to the quarterback better.

On Tampa Bay's defensive injuries:

Matt Ryan says the team is preparing for Tampa Bay under the assumption that the starters will play.

Well, we're going to prepare for those guys to play. I think that's the way that we've done it around here, and then adjust on Thursday night if something happens differently. To me, I think their signature is their front four. I think they've got a really good front four. Gerald McCoy is one of the better d-tackles in the league. He's been extremely disruptive when we've played them in the past, and I think he's capable of being a game changer. The addition of Michael Johnson during the offseason I think adds a dynamic pass rusher, and certainly we'll be prepared for him to be ready to go.

Lamar Holmes said that preparing for their starters is the best approach.

You prepare for their best. Like you said, we're going out there and preparing like we're going to get that best shot, their best punch every play. So even if some guys are down, if we prepare like we're going against their best every time, you'll be ready no matter what comes your way.

Holmes also said that it can be difficult to prepare for Tampa Bay's backups because they don't have a lot of film to work with.

No, it doesn't help you not to have a lot of film, you know what I mean? The film you've got you've just got to go over it multiple times and actually see if you can catch a tendency or a technique to see exactly what they do.

Joe Hawley said that the backups can pose a problem because they are highly motivated to have an impact on the field to earn more playing time.

A few of them played last week so you get a little bit of film, but those guys are kind of the dangerous guys because they're trying to prove themselves every week and they have great energy when they go out there, and like you said, you don't really get the chance to scout them. So those are the dangerous ones you've got to worry about.

Hawley singled out Gerald McCoy as a player they need to be prepared to face regardless of his injury situation.

I mean, I'm worried about Gerald McCoy. He's--I know we're expecting him to play. I don't know what it looks like. But he's a great player, and we have to prepare for guys like that. They've got a good defense, good defensive scheme, and you have to prepare like the starters are playing.

On the need for consistency on offense:

Matt Ryan is pleased with the way the Falcons are running the ball, but says the team needs more consistency in the passing game.

I think on the positive note, I think there are some things that we've done well,  more so in week one than week two. But I think the run game has been pretty efficient up until this point. We need to continue to be efficient in the run game. And then in terms of the pass game, I think that's an area we just need to be more consistent. One of the things that we've seen is that one week we're capable of making a bunch of explosives, the following week we're not. We've got to get to a point where week in and week out we show up and play the way that we're capable of.

Devin Hester on facing Lovie Smith:

It's going to be weird. I don't know-I never really imagined this, you know? I always imagined myself being in Chicago and retiring in Chicago. But it is what it is. He's with a new team down in Tampa, and it will be my first time playing against him. So I hope the best for him, but at the same time, I hope we win.