Coordinators Nolan, Koetter giving Falcons balance

    2013-01-08 21:14

(Eds: Updates. With AP Photos.)
Associated Press

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. (AP) - Last year's playoff disappointment hit so hard that Atlanta Falcons coach Mike Smith needed to change his staff from the top.

It seems Smith made the right decisions when he hired Mike Nolan as defensive coordinator and Dirk Koetter to run the offense.

``In my mind we have the best coaching staff in the NFL,'' Smith said.

How long he can keep it together is unclear.

The Falcons' success this season helped Koetter earn a head coaching interview last week with Kansas City. Nolan, the former head coach in San Francisco, interviewed for the same job with Philadelphia.

And Keith Armstrong, the Falcons' special teams coordinator since Smith put his first Atlanta staff together in 2008, interviewed for head coaching vacancies with Kansas City, Philadelphia and Chicago.

Koetter withdrew his name from consideration after signing a new contract with the Falcons through 2014. Nolan and Armstrong both sidestepped on Tuesday night whether they hope to meet again with other teams after Atlanta's season ends.

They could be available to do so as early as next week if the Falcons (13-3) lose Sunday at home to Seattle (12-5) in the second round of the playoffs.

``Hopefully we're still playing,'' Nolan said.

Though it's not Smith's style to say so publicly, the Falcons were considered a team that had gone soft and predictable offensively and defensively after last year's 24-2 playoff loss at the New York Giants.

So perhaps Jacksonville did Smith a favor when it hired Koetter's predecessor, Mike Mularkey, as head coach. Auburn did the same by hiring Brian VanGorder as defensive coordinator.

Atlanta earned the NFC's No. 1 playoff seed for the second time in three years, thanks in part to Koetter helping quarterback Matt Ryan enjoy a career-best season, and Nolan putting his players in position to earn 31 takeaways.

But Nolan and Koetter both caution that the Falcons will face their toughest opponent this season when Seattle visits the Georgia Dome.

While the Seahawks are coming off a dominant victory at Washington last week in a wild-card game, Nolan hopes to disguise coverages well enough to force rookie quarterback Russell Wilson into making mistakes.

That has hardly been the case this year for Wilson, who is ranked No. 4 in NFL passer rating and is the Seahawks' second-leading rusher behind star running back Marshawn Lynch.

Nolan considers the elusive Wilson a dangerous scrambler because he usually doesn't extend plays to run for yardage as much as he keeps his eyes downfield to find an open receiver.

``You have to keep covering guys for a long time on the back end,'' Nolan said. ``That's hard to do. That's one of the tougher things about him because when he's running around, you'd better stay with your man.''

Koetter's job will be to design a game plan that improves the pass protection of Ryan and helps Roddy White, Julio Jones and Tony Gonzalez create separation from the defense.

The Falcons caught a break after defensive end Chris Clemons, Seattle's leader with 11.5 sacks, was lost for the season at Washington because of a knee injury. But the Seahawks didn't rank No. 1 in scoring defense this year because they relied solely on one player.

In the regular season, Richard Sherman had eight interceptions, and Bruce Irvin had eight sacks for a defense that ranked fourth overall and tied Atlanta with 31 takeaways.

But the Falcons were seventh in scoring, sixth in passing, second in third-down efficiency and seventh in scoring.

Koetter likes how Atlanta matches up against Seattle in the red zone.

``I might be in the minority, but I look at it as strength on strength,'' Koetter said. ``Heck, let's go. They've got a good defense, and we have a good offense. I know their team is running hot right now, and I know our guys are looking forward to the challenge.''


Follow George Henry at http://www.twitter.com/georgehenryAP


Online: http://pro32.ap.org/poll and http://twitter.com/AP-NFL

Fantasy Football Player Notes RSS FeedPLAYER NOTES

Doug BaldwinNov 25 07:43p

Seattle Seahawks WR Doug Baldwin (ankle) did not take part in practice Wednesday, Nov. 25.

Tyrod TaylorNov 25 07:23p

Updating a previous report, Buffalo Bills QB Tyrod Taylor (shoulder) said he will play in Week 12 against the Kansas City Chiefs.

Malcom FloydNov 25 06:53p

San Diego Chargers TE Antonio Gates (hip) and WR Malcom Floyd (shoulder) were limited in practice Wednesday, Nov. 25.

Case KeenumNov 25 06:43p

St. Louis Rams QB Case Keenum (concussion) was limited in practice Wednesday, Nov. 25.

Dexter McClusterNov 25 06:33p

Tennessee Titans RB Dexter McCluster (knee) did not take part in practice Wednesday, Nov. 25.

Kendall WrightNov 25 06:33p

Tennessee Titans WR Kendall Wright (knee) was limited in practice Wednesday, Nov. 25.

Mark IngramNov 25 06:23p

New Orleans Saints RB Mark Ingram's (shoulder) injury isn't expected to be a major concern after resting last week during the bye. It's unclear, however, if his shoulder injury [ More ]

Andrew LuckNov 25 06:23p

Indianapolis Colts QB Andrew Luck (abdomen, kidney) is confident that he will play again this year, but a timetable for his return at this point is tough to gauge. [ More ]

Leonard HankersonNov 25 06:13p

Atlanta Falcons WR Leonard Hankerson (hamstring) is still bothered by a hamstring strain, and the Falcons may continue to take their time with his injury. Hankerson previously missed two [ More ]

A. Seferian-JenkinsNov 25 06:03p

Tampa Bay Buccaneers TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins (shoulder) was limited in practice Wednesday, Nov. 25.

Stedman BaileyNov 25 05:53p

St. Louis Rams WR Stedman Bailey (head) is out of surgery and will be in an intensive care unit for 3-5 days. Doctors are hopeful he will make a successful recovery.

Danny AmendolaNov 25 04:43p

New England Patriots WRs Julian Edelman (foot), Danny Amendola (knee) and Aaron Dobson (ankle) did not practice Wednesday, Nov. 25.

Glenn DorseyNov 25 04:33p

San Francisco 49ers DT Glenn Dorsey (knee) was placed on the Reserve/Injured list Wednesday, Nov. 25, after suffering a torn anterior cruciate ligament in Week 11.

Marshawn LynchNov 25 03:53p

Updating a previous report, Seattle Seahawks RB Marshawn Lynch (hernia) will return in three to four weeks after undergoing sports hernia surgery Wednesday, Nov. 25, but he could be [ More ]

Matt ForteNov 25 03:33p

Chicago Bears RB Matt Forte (knee) and WR Alshon Jeffery (groin, shoulder) are both listed as questionable for Week 12 against the Green Bay Packers Thursday, Nov. 26.

John BrownNov 25 03:13p

Arizona Cardinals WR John Brown (hamstring) did not practice Wednesday, Nov. 25.

Martellus BennettNov 25 02:53p

Chicago Bears TE Martellus Bennett (ribs) has been ruled out for Week 12 Thursday, Nov. 26.

Michael FloydNov 25 02:33p

Arizona Cardinals WR Michael Floyd (hamstring) is practicing Wednesday, Nov. 25.

Emmanuel SandersNov 25 02:23p

Denver Broncos WR Emmanuel Sanders (ankle) is practicing Wednesday, Nov. 25.

Charcandrick WestNov 25 02:03p

Kansas City Chiefs RB Charcandrick West (hamstring) is out of practice Wednesday, Nov. 25.

Johnny ManzielNov 25 01:33p

Cleveland Browns QB Johnny Manziel's tenure with the Browns may not be over, according to head coach Mike Pettine. 'I certainly hope not,' Pettine said, when asked if Manziel [ More ]

Marshawn LynchNov 25 01:23p

Seattle Seahawks RB Marshawn Lynch (hernia) underwent successful sports hernia surgery Wednesday, Nov. 25, according to a source. The hope is that Lynch can return in late December.

Christian PonderNov 25 01:03p

Updating a previous item, free-agent QB Christian Ponder (Raiders) signed with the Denver Broncos Wednesday, Nov. 25, according to a source. Ponder will start out as the team's No. [ More ]

Zach ErtzNov 25 12:53p

Philadelphia Eagles TE Zach Ertz (concussion) is officially out for Week 12 Thursday, Nov. 26.

Ryan MathewsNov 25 12:53p

Philadelphia Eagles RB Ryan Mathews (concussion) is officially out for Week 12 Thursday, Nov. 26.

Sam BradfordNov 25 12:53p

Philadelphia Eagles QB Sam Bradford (concussion, shoulder) is a long shot to play Thursday, Nov. 26, against the Detroit Lions. He practiced fully Wednesday, Nov. 25, and is questionable for Week 12.

Tyrod TaylorNov 25 12:43p

Buffalo Bills QB Tyrod Taylor (shoulder) is feeling better and likely to play in Week 12, according to head coach Rex Ryan. 'I think Tyrod is going to play,' [ More ]

Devonta FreemanNov 25 12:33p

Atlanta Falcons RB Devonta Freeman (concussion) is still in the first phase of the concussion protocol and won't practice Wednesday, Nov. 25, according to head coach Dan Quinn.

Marcus ThigpenNov 25 12:23p

Buffalo Bills RB Dan Herron and WR Denarius Moore were cut Wednesday, Nov. 25. WR Marcus Thigpen was re-signed by the Bills.

Christian PonderNov 25 12:23p

Free-agent QB Christian Ponder (Raiders) will sign with the Denver Broncos, according to a source. He'll be the No. 3 quarterback.

Frank GoreNov 25 11:43a

Indianapolis Colts RB Frank Gore (knee) is out of practice Wednesday, Nov. 25.

Joseph RandleNov 25 10:43a

Free-agent RB Joseph Randle (Cowboys) was arrested Tuesday, Nov. 24, in a Kansas casino on charges including felony criminal threats, misdemeanor assault of a law enforcement officer, interference with [ More ]

RSS Feeds

NFL News:
Player Notes:
Forum Posts:

© 2015 RealTime Fantasy Sports, Inc.
Email Us  ·  Call Us 636.447.1170  ·  Lost Password
Advertising represented by USA Today Sports Media Group