Arthur Smith: Late-game situations require confidence and trust

The Falcons have compiled an 18-30 record over the past three seasons, and Arthur Smith has been hired as head coach to correct that.

One of his key tasks will be improving the team’s performance in late-game situations, where Atlanta has developed a unique penchant for blowing leads. In a recent interview with Jeff Schultz of TheAthletic.com, Smith did not directly criticize his predecessors. But the first-year head coach did point out the difference in execution and mindset between his new club and his previous employer.

“For whatever reason, doubt crept in, like they were waiting for something bad to happen,” Smith said. “I’ve been on bad football teams that were not confident. But [with the Titans] when we got into one-score games, we thought we were going to win. We did. That was our mentality. It comes down to guys being confident situationally and trusting each other. It’s just a mentality.”

It’s a critical aspect of the club to fix, because so many games are inherently going to be close.

“Clearly it didn’t work, maybe for multiple reasons,” Smith said. “Maybe something was broken. Maybe there was a lack of confidence late in games. Why is that? I don’t know. But these games are going to come down to the last possession more times than not. In 75 percent of our games, a team is in striking distance in the fourth quarter, which is the way the league wants it.”

The Falcons had two consecutive seasons of 7-9 before bottoming out at 4-12 last season. Smith and new General Manager Terry Fontenot have a lot of work ahead of them to get Atlanta back to the postseason. But blowing fewer late-game leads will clearly be a priority for the new regime.