Mike Nolan got a different view of his defense Sunday.
Nolan left his perch in the press box to coach from the sidelines for the first time since becoming Falcons defensive coordinator in 2012. He got to see up close how his aggressive game plan worked in Atlanta’s a 31-23 victory over Tampa Bay at the Georgia Dome.
Falcons coordinators are not made available to media after games. Coach Mike Smith would not elaborate on the decision to move Nolan, saying only that “we weren’t playing as efficiently and as good as we would have liked to” with Nolan upstairs.
It is most likely the Falcons wanted Nolan on the sidelines to improve the speed of communication. In a loss to the Jets on Oct. 7, the defense struggled to make calls and substitutions against New York’s fast-paced offense.
“He made sure we were in tune to the game and that we were on top of every situation,” Falcons defensive tackle Jonathan Babineaux said. “Before we went out on the field, he made sure that we knew what we were doing. That made the game a little easier for us.”
It didn’t take long for Nolan to see one of his blitz packages pay dividends.
The Buccaneers faced a third-and-10 on their first possession when safety William Moore hit quarterback Mike Glennon on a blitz. Falcons safety Thomas DeCoud scooped up the ball and ran 30 yards for a score to give Atlanta a 7-0 lead.
Both Moore and DeCoud rushed Glennon on the play. It was part of Nolan’s plan to send extra pass rushers at Glennon, a rookie, after the Falcons failed to rattle two other young quarterbacks they faced this season — the Dolphins’ Ryan Tannehill and the Jets’ Geno Smith.
“We felt like in the past when we played rookie quarterbacks, we really haven’t moved them off the spot like we wanted to and pressure him and make him uncomfortable,” DeCoud said. “I think we did that today.”
The Falcons sacked Glennon three times and hit him more five times, according to official game statistics.
Nolan has had to change strategies because of several injuries to key players. He has said using more inexperienced players forced him to make his schemes more basic.
Nolan was able to be more hands-on with his young players Sunday. Coaching from the sidelines allowed him direct access to them instead of relying on telephones or headsets.
“He got to see some things you really can’t see from upstairs,” Moore said. “He got the calls in faster and he could see the personnel they are bringing in and out.”