ATLANTA — The second game of the 2012 season might already be considered a signature win for the Atlanta Falcons. Now leading the pack in the NFC South, the Falcons were ready for Peyton Manning when he came to town on Monday night.
Defensive coordinator Mike Nolan has been around the NFL since 1987, and his expertise in strategy implementation for opponents certainly shined through against the Denver Broncos. The Falcons picked off three passes on three straight drives from Manning in the first quarter, ultimately paving the way to a 27-21 victory.
“It came down to disguises, and our looks. We came up with a great game plan. Coach (Mike) Nolan did an excellent job of game planning this week,” said William Moore on what made the Falcons secondary so successful against Manning. Moore was a key comp0nent on defense, tallying up eight total tackles, two pass deflections and an interception.
Moore credits his pick to the man calling the shots from the booth. “On that particular play I was just roaming the field, and we were in zone coverage and I looked Peyton off a little bit. It was a great call by Coach Nolan,” said Moore.
Getting out to a strong start was crucial to Nolan’s game plan. Allowing Manning to find a rhythm from the get-go would only spell disaster. “We felt that if we could rattle him early, we could dictate the flow of the game. The main focus was to confuse him all game,” said Thomas DeCoud, who also picked off Manning within the opening minutes of their matchup.
And dictate they did, as Atlanta never trailed throughout the entire contest.
What does Nolan mean to the Falcons in 2012?
“It’s huge, he’s brought a different kind of swagger to this defense,” said Decoud. “It’s more of an offensive-minded defense. We’re gonna make plays on our terms, in the backfield, wherever that may be.”
An offensive-minded defense, something the Falcons haven’t possessed in ages, might be just what this team needs. Aggression was not a term familiar to Brian VanGorder’s era in Atlanta.
Dunta Robinson, one of the veterans in the secondary, seems excited about how the defense is operating, almost touching on the aggressive style of play this year. “Coach Nolan always talks about being offensive as a defense, which means taking the football away,” said Robinson. “Making the offense play on our terms. If the ball’s in the air, we feel like it’s ours.”
Nolan prepared this team well in the offseason, but it’s also his knack for knowing his players that gives him an edge. “He’s playing to our strengths, and that’s what we like. We’re just going on there having fun playing football,” said Robinson.
He’s not just a coach who knows the X’s and O’s. Nolan knows his players, and it seems like he’s won them over only two weeks into the season. Nolan is making the most of his tenure with Atlanta so far in 2012.