Falcons’ defenders preferring Nolan to VanGorder

Mike Nolan's scheme and the way he's coaching it has paid early dividends. (Curtis Compton/AJC)

Mike Nolan's scheme and the way he's coaching it is paying dividends. (Curtis Compton/AJC)

SAN DIEGO — When the Falcons ended last season with another early playoff meltdown, it didn’t matter if anybody else in the organization preached patience and threw daffodils about the franchise’s future, because owner Arthur Blank’s vote would trump them all. Self-made billionaires tend to be results-driven, particularly ones who type emails in a red font. If significant changes weren’t made in personnel, they certainly would be made in scheme and philosophy.

Which is why before you could say, “season-ticket sales,” Mike Mularkey and Brian VanGorder were gone.

It’s true that both coordinators left for other jobs. But both may have beaten the Falcons to the punch. Mularkey filled Jacksonville’s head coaching vacancy, but his exit probably was cemented when the Falcons’ offense shot blanks in the playoff loss to New York. VanGorder’s future was no better than tenuous when he left for Auburn because some defensive players had started to tune him out.

That’s certainly not an issue now. The Falcons won Monday’s game over Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos in large part because of Mike Nolan, their new defensive coordinator. His schemes, heavy on nickel and well-disguised coverages and blitzes, fooled one of  the greatest quarterbacks in NFL history. Most important, the team’s defensive backs have taken to the quieter Nolan after having their ears singed for too many weeks by VanGorder, the screaming sort.

William Moore had an interception and a sack against Peyton Manning. (Jason Getz/AJC)

William Moore had an interception and a sack against Peyton Manning. (Jason Getz/AJC)

To quote safety Thomas DeCoud, who accounted for one of Manning’s interceptions, said: “It just got to the point where we had to pick and choose what to listen to and what not to. You learned to take some things with a grain of salt. Brian was a passionate coach. He wanted his guys to be out there playing tough, strong and perfect football. You can’t fault a man for that. But it was just one of those things where you had to learn how to take your coach for who he was.”

William Moore, who had an interception and a sack of Manning last week, echoed those sentiments, adding: “I was one of the guys he yelled at the most. He also pulled me to the side and would explain things, but he didn’t show that side of him on the field. That’s not a knock on VanGorder. It just the way he coaches. Coach Nolan doesn’t do that. Everybody’s a man. This is just a job. You’ve got a responsibility, and you have a job to do. If you’re not doing it, there’s no reason to yell at you. They’ll just replace you.”

The defense’s performance against Denver (four turnovers, seven points allowed in the first three-plus quarters) would have been impressive even in normal circumstances. But it came against Manning, and after losing cornerback Brent Grimes for the season the week before, and Asante Samuel and Christopher Owens for stretches of the Broncos game. Reserves Robert McClain, inactive in Week 1, and Dominique Franks, both were pressed into full-time duty. McClain had an interception.

DeCoud described Nolan’s scheme as “an offensive approach to defense. Changing the math and making sure the offense is adjusting to us. We’re dictating the pace and tempo, rather than vice versa.”

What’s clear is the confidence they are playing with and how they’ve taken to Nolan. He has them believing in his system, regardless of the circumstances. They also enjoy not being yelled at. VanGorder was revered at Georgia. He didn’t achieve the same level of success as an NFL coordinator, but there hasn’t been an abundance of talent on the Falcons’ defense either, and there also was some question about how much freedom he was given from coach Mike Smith.

Nolan, for what it’s worth, said he used to be more of a screamer.

“I think everybody has to coach in their own style,” he said. “There was a time when I screamed more. I think as we all get older it’s no different than raising your kids and you get frustrated by everything. Then after a while you get … I think when you know how to parent is when you become a grandparent. So, I think coaching is a little bit the same way. As you get older, you say less and let them play more.”

Whatever his methods, they are paying early dividends.

By Jeff Schultz

Earlier posts (no charge, because I’m so generous)

Predictions: Dogs win cage match; Falcons upset Chargers

Goodell is in ‘fantasy’ world if he doesn’t believe product being damaged

Video blog: On Braves’ sweep of Nats and what it means

This Braves’ September isn’t anything like the last one

Georgia Tech shows its upside in win — and it’s impressive

Short takes: 3 thoughts on Georgia Tech’s win over Virginia

A Medlen start, a Braves’ win and finally a positive sign

Predictions: Falcons over 666, Tech wins, Pigs faceplant

Loss of Brent Grimes doesn’t have to derail Falcons’ season

Video blog: On Brent Grimes, Falcons’ offense and some early picks

Falcons finally show an offense worthy of their talent

154 comments Add your comment

JSS

September 22nd, 2012
1:32 pm

OK, going riding for the next 3 hours, don’t have stroke trying to overwhelm the “Columnist’s” blog!

Answer this

September 22nd, 2012
1:32 pm

And yet you now avoid the most important question…..why are you here? Why come to a teams blog that you so hate? Dude please stick to topic…..not about you saying others have multiple names….who cares if they have 50 names? Why are you here to bash a whole organization that you show you have no like for. Makes no sense like all of that rambling you doing…….go smell the flowers and relax man; I feel sorry for anyone who saves post to put on a blog and who actually records the times and dates he post?! What the heck man! Are you serious!? Tell you what JSS I will ignore your post and your untrue facts and all of the sewage you spew and just let you be you…..the Falcins are a good team and so is the organization….I am tired of going back and forth with you (look at Seven Faces post again) it describes you perfectly…..so perfect its scary! Let me say it again, I am a fan have been ao since I was born and will die a fan…..thats what fans do! We dont quit no matter how bad you think it is or was or could get! Fan! Real fan! Go Falcons, on Sunday, next Sunday, 2 years from now on a Sunday and 22 years from now on a Sunday!

Mike Jay

September 22nd, 2012
1:35 pm

PS my stats are all wrong as well, I was testing you.

Answer this

September 22nd, 2012
1:43 pm

Hahahaha funny! My stats are correct…..Falcons 2 and 0!

Falcon Jim

September 22nd, 2012
2:22 pm

What head games………all around………….too funny.

(Aren’t blogs like this supposed to be fun, or, funny? Surely, one has a true problem if you take them seriously…………………like, apparently, some folks do.)

Dr. Warren

September 22nd, 2012
3:02 pm

Damn good article. He let the quotes say everything.

Eric

September 22nd, 2012
4:48 pm

JSS, no reason to troll. We will all find out what kind of coach Nolan is in due time. Meanwhile let the man enjoy some much deserved credit for coaching his butt of in week 2. Nothing you say can take that away….

JSS

September 22nd, 2012
6:25 pm

@ Eric, call the others “trolls.” They spent an entire morning and into the afternoon worrying about assumptions EQ, EI (and 5 factors supposedly accounting for a lack it), narcissism, my relationship and why is not supposedly going to last…

All I gave was a historical perspective, and it is 62 wins – 62 loses and 1 tie over the span of his DC career. Like I side, “Enjoy!”

“You are what your record says you are.” – Bill Parcells

GTT

September 22nd, 2012
9:29 pm

Speaking of defense. Chan Gailey could recruit good defensive players, so how come the current staff cannot?

Answer this

September 22nd, 2012
9:30 pm

And you still did not answer my question Mr. Prespective! Why do you come here! Cant be for the chicken wings! You hate this organization! Why spend your time here?

Answer this

September 22nd, 2012
9:30 pm

And you still did not answer my question Mr. Prespective! Why do you come here! Cant be for the chicken wings! You hate this organization! Why spend your time here?

Answer this

September 22nd, 2012
9:58 pm

Like I thought! Lol.

Getaway

September 22nd, 2012
10:10 pm

Oh is JSS posting again? Has he said who he pulls for? Didn’t think so.
Wake me when he decides to commit. Until then, I don’t care what he has to say.

JSS

September 22nd, 2012
10:26 pm

^^^^^^^^^^^^^^
That was heck of one person conversation the multiple personality user-name stalker had going between 9:30 and 10:10P… However, things started getting very dyslexic like in nature with all of that gibberish… Hope he didn’t blow a gasket again… Stroke therapy is rather expensive…

HUH?????

September 22nd, 2012
10:35 pm

” VanGorder’s future was no better than tenuous when he left for Auburn”

If I’m not mistaken, the Falcons had the 6th best defense in the NFL last year. It’s not his fault Matt Ryan sucks in the post season.

HUH?????

September 22nd, 2012
10:36 pm

By the way Jeff, that BVG defense held LSU to one td. Not bad for a 1-2 Auburn squad against the 2nd ranked team in the country.

HUH?????

September 22nd, 2012
10:38 pm

“LSU 41 Barn 13″

Stick to delivering pizzas, ma’am.

HUH?????

September 22nd, 2012
10:39 pm

What’s the deal with people in GA hating Auburn so much? Is it because UGA hasn’t won anything since Jimmy Carter was in office? Is it because there is only one team in Atlanta sports history that has won a championship?

HUH?????

September 22nd, 2012
10:40 pm

” But it came against Manning”

Yes, and older and slower Manning. A Manning who hasn’t played in the NFL in two years. As I recall, the Falcons barely escaped with a win.

HUH?????

September 22nd, 2012
10:44 pm

“That’s not a knock on VanGorder.”

Nah, you just decided to write a column about how the Falcons prefer the new defensive coordinator over VG. No contradictions there, huh Shultz?

You say you don’t “hate” Auburn yet you make snide remarks about them any chance you get. I guess you’re still upset that they won a national championship and your precious UGA teams can not.

DONNAN OF A NEW ERA

September 22nd, 2012
10:47 pm

” That’s why OC malzone took a pay cut and left last year.”

I love pathetic dawg fans. Their teams can’t win national championships so they have to resort to lying about other teams/coaches. How many times did dawg fans predict the death penalty for Auburn? Countless. UGA can not beat top ranked teams and they will lose to USC and UF.

Matty Bicep

September 23rd, 2012
1:05 am

Even if we play .500 from here on out, I think we will win the south. New Orleans is a mess, Carolina? Bwwahhaha…Just hope Cam has a better financial planner than Vince….Only threat it Tampa Bay, but they have too many holes.

Matty Bicep

September 23rd, 2012
1:08 am

And those who were concerned about Cams superman garbage as flaw were right on….How does an NFL QB do a stupid dance when getting hammered by 30 pts, then cry line a little biotch at the presser 20 minutes later. …. THANK GOD FOR MATTY ICE. He might have his limitations, but at least he does not get his manhood questioned by his own teammates.

Thomas Brown

September 23rd, 2012
3:45 am

The Strength of Schedule of all of our opponents this 2012 regular season was # 54 in the nation before Saturday; however, Georgie tek took another loss to an unranked opponent as neither Miami of Florida nor Virginia Tech are ranked but both beat Georgie tek.

Missouri, our “signature win” on the season, marched on to their obvious 6-Loss or worse season in a 10-31 loss to South Carolina. Recall they lost to us 20-41.

South Carolina, after next week, faces Georgia, LSU and Florida before ending their season against Clemson. Check back with me what South Carolina is ranked after playing those games.

Florida, as well, starts next week against LSU, South Carolina, Georgia, and finishes against Florida State.

Florida nor South Carolina’s ranking today is what it will be after their games coming-up. Check back with me after these games they play.

Right ?

Georgia Southern who lost to lowly Citadel last week, barely squeaked by Elon yesterday 26-23.

Auburn lost again. Unranked Auburn. 1-3 Auburn. But, that was supposed to be our “signature win” last season.

Ole Miss has “wins” over Central Arkansas, UTEP and Tulane colleges. That’s it. They are unranked anyway.

Kentucky has only a win over Kent State.

What a hodge-podge of a “schedule” we play. Still, it was a hot afternoon at Sanford as the boo-birds did not show and we put up quite a performance against a sorry Vandie team who came in the # 68 NCAA Total Offense with a loud-mouth losing record coach, who is 7-10 in his career. It was a beautiful night in Athens as Aaron Murray, again, looked great against inferior opposition, and as our running backs proved once again, that Buck Belue handing the football off is our best offense. Late the game, Mark Richt brought in Parker Welsh at QB.

We emptied the bench and tried to make statements about our walk-ons.

At the very end, Christian LeMay got to run once for 5 yards.

Keith Marshall and Todd Gurley showed they are exactly what everyone expected. More than a bunch of people tried to tell us that Todd Gurley was a bruising man, and he is every bit of that. Keith Marshall added 2 touchdowns on way to his career total of more than 30 touchdowns at Georgia in his 3-year career. He and Todd Gurley will both go in the NFL Draft.

Walk-ons were indifferent yet again last night. I have no idea what Merritt Hall was doing with no Vandie player within 15-yards of him, catching the kick-off and putting his knee to the ground without so much as handing the ball to Todd Gurley standing right there for the hand-off. I mean if you are afraid you might fumble the football, grow a pair.

Opponents on our schedule has a very poor showing last night, while we looked the part of # 5 against yet again, another hapless opponent. How good does the win against Mizzou look now ?

We welcome unranked vols next week. You keep feeling like we are building toward something, and still then you look at your tickets and see who we have next.

vols. A hapless vols’ team. An unranked hapless vols’ team. An unranked hapless vols’ team who have wins over opponents who all season have put up a grand total of 1-win combined by all their “opponents” they have wins over. An unranked hapless vols’ team with dubious wins themselves, who can neither run the football even nor stop the run.

We have such an easy schedule, and South Carolina is going to drop like a ton of bricks in the rankings playing us, Clemson, LSU, and Clemson. Florida, too, drops a lot worse like a ton a bricks in the rankings starting next week against LSU, South Carolina, us and Florida State.

On this night, we got home earlier on a beautiful evening, and complete win as I have resigned myself to such “wins” with no signature game until we play Alabama. The talk will be big, and the X and O we will see will be what it has been all 12 years when we finally do play our 1-game season.

______________
Mark Richt era –

What have SEC done against teams who made AP Poll Top 10 ?
____________________________________________________

11 Wins LSU # 1

11 Wins Auburn # 2

10 Wins Florida # 3

6 Wins Alabama # 4

6 Wins vols # 5

4 Wins Arkansas # 6

3 Wins Texas A & M # 7

3 Wins UGA # 8

We are a BCS-buster with one game at the end of the season against Alabama. That leaves us with a bowl game, as our only hope of doing anything about this, as none of the “opponents” on our schedule will make the AP Poll Top 10 besides our impending date with Alabama.

Eric C.

September 23rd, 2012
4:29 am

Just looking at the teams Nolan coached for…I’m guessing they were not offensive juggernauts. I would speculate that Nolan’s defense picked up a lot of the slack on those teams. Anyone have the stats on this? I don’t feel like looking it up right now. Anyway, Nolan’s scheming against one of the masters of MNF was nothing short of brilliant.

Aside from Nolan and the defense, this team will live and die with Ryan…so as long as the defense gets a few stops and remains opportunistic, not too concerned.

As for the game today, not feeling good about it…but will take 2-1 after two road games and a tough MNF game.

NCBravesFan

September 23rd, 2012
6:19 am

JSS: “And right after the week of the Presidential election, I’ll be back to tell you all to KMBA.”

I LOLd.

dean

September 23rd, 2012
7:40 am

I couldn’t read past the first page. Too much hate.
I am just going to sit back and enjoy watching a competitive team. They won’t win them all but they will be close in all.
Mr. Blank has restored a sense of dignity to the place. And no matter what one particular poster stated on page 1, November 6 is when we begin restoring our national dignity. That poster should stay in MX.

JSS

September 23rd, 2012
7:45 am

JSS
September 23rd, 2012
12:30 am
“I will be safer in Mexico than in the SE US. I know you can take a wrong turn at the wrong time, even here in Georgia. See, I was taking a canoe trip up in the mountains with some of my friends………………………………………………….”

I can see why you idiots think I’m on here 24/7, With all of the great mental disabilities being displayed, multiple user-name stealers, and funny postings littering numerous AJC blogs bearing my moniker, but in no way having been by J _ _ _ _ _ _ S _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ S _ _ _ _ _ _! Therefore, I guess the easily swayed, and calling a “spade a spade” just downright stupid would think so to say the least… (Oh yeah, 3 dots is an ellipse if you’re going to a good fake poster :-) )

JSS

September 23rd, 2012
7:51 am

Dean…
Are you a moron, seriously? That was not a political statement, that was a statement on when I’ll return to blog… Paranoid and making assumption due to your mental limitations is no way to go thru life or to the polls… Enjoy, you are special!

JSS

September 23rd, 2012
8:15 am

Eric C.
September 23rd, 2012
4:29 am
“Just looking at the teams Nolan coached for…I’m guessing they were not offensive juggernauts. I would speculate that Nolan’s defense picked up a lot of the slack on those teams.”

7 teams associated with Nolan during his 15 years as a coordinator have finished in the upper 15 teams in the offensive categories.

When he had a highly efficient and productive offense like the 1999 Redskins 2nd in points scored & in yards, his defense was lowly ranked 24th in points and 30th in yards allowed.

Answer this

September 23rd, 2012
9:32 am

Sad little unhappy man……

dean

September 23rd, 2012
9:32 am

@Jss

I don’t get into the name-calling game, but one thing is for certain: after listening to your condescension of others for too long I’ve come to the conclusion that you need professional help. Have a nice trip.

JSS

September 23rd, 2012
9:51 am

Answer this
September 23rd, 2012
9:32 am
“Sad little unhappy man……”
^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^
Again, self-analysis is a heck of a thing!

Sun is out this morning in my world! Is there a dark storm raging in yours? I’m whistling and getting ready to enjoy a plate of quality NFL games, shoot I might enjoy that game in San Diego!

JSS

September 23rd, 2012
9:56 am

dean
September 23rd, 2012
9:32 am
“@Jss, I don’t get into the name-calling game”

Name-calling would be “You are a moron!” Whereas, I asked “Are you a moron?” Problem is you made an assumption and jump the shark… You can take the professional help from the folks who can explain the difference between “statements and questions” for you…

JSS

September 23rd, 2012
10:00 am

Hey multiple user-name name stealer, we just finished off some delicious waffles and hickory bacon with the godkids, want us to leave the scraps for you on the side of the road?

JSS

September 23rd, 2012
10:02 am

Oops, was that “condescension?”

Matty Bicep

September 23rd, 2012
10:55 am

Well, Nolan is an old pro, and he has a ring, that goes a long way in keeping the players attention. When you compare that to a lifetime college coordinator, it is an upgrade. Especially when you see how Ice has been committed to his craft and worked this offseason to improve the physical part of his game to match is superior mental abilities, you have a formula for success, the #1 rated QB in the NFL and an agressive, attacking D….

7 teams associated with Nolan during his 15 years as a coordinator have finished in the upper 15 teams in the offensive categories.

Sooo, the mean AVERAGE offense was in the lower 15 offensive catagories…..Thanks for doing to researh to prove out Deans theory.

JSS

September 23rd, 2012
11:46 am

Sorry Matty, you can snip but gloss over that does not necessarily mean that his defenses played up to the par of those at the same time… Thanks, pick up your consolation prize on the way out the door… I.E. 1999 in Washington…

I left my heart in San Diego

September 23rd, 2012
12:07 pm

Matty Bicep

September 23rd, 2012
1:29 pm

What Nolan is doing is basically playing the old Buddy Ryan Chicago D. As teams move from the West Coast to more downfield passing Defenses, the 46 will be more effective in that we either will not give the QB time to throw, or we will have time to drop into coverage after showing pressure. It is the short hitting passes that exposes this type of D. So it is a good scheme for todays NFL and shows Nolans old Savvy.

But we don’t have a MLB, and we lost our best CB for the season, so are not going to ride our D to a superbowl like the 2000 Ravens, but if Ryan continues to perform at level he has, an average D is good enough.

JSS

September 23rd, 2012
1:37 pm

There were “gods” and the concepts of god children way before “Christians” ever tried the concept… Don’t let your frustrations with other folk having self-determination get you in a huff on a beautiful Sunday… Are you scared of your melting pot?

JSS

September 23rd, 2012
1:43 pm

Falcon Jim, did you try to clone Charles Foster Dulles? You prefer Gaddafi, Mubarak, and Assad?

JSS

September 23rd, 2012
1:54 pm

Dictator lover, nuff said…

JSS

September 23rd, 2012
1:55 pm

P.P.S. It’s “Arab Spring” :-)

JSS

September 23rd, 2012
2:08 pm

Not for freedom… Hate freedom? Hate Thomas Paine and Ben Franklin too? Or only when it is convenient and not a bit ugly?

JSS

September 23rd, 2012
2:10 pm

Let me be careful, you might try to go all Blogging Black Ops on me…

JSS

September 23rd, 2012
2:46 pm

No, I asked you if you hate freedom… Paine was a “founding father, you bet… Hmmm, great philosopher of the Revolution, such a liberal he went to France when he returned and died and only 6 folks came to his funeral because he had the nerve to question “Christianity…” You paint “liberals” with some silly brush and palette of conjectures… Don’t be a “pot calling the kettle black.” Go enjoy your “game” before you blow a gasket

JSS

September 23rd, 2012
2:50 pm

Ha ha, you going out wrong, “Saints?” Ha ha, I don’t care they win! See, that is what happens when you assume and not listen…. Rather be “AH” than a sheep! Ha ha, hilarious!!!

JSS

September 23rd, 2012
3:07 pm

Does your savior know you talk like that? :-( Whew!!! That is American Taliban like language, so un-Christian like!!!

JSS

September 23rd, 2012
3:14 pm

A certain “saved” person has been hanging some mighty low places! Day of Atonement is on Tuesday, you may need to change faiths!