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Coach-turned-analyst Mike Nolan: Falcons' Matt Ryan in his element


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Vaughn McClureESPN Staff Writer

Mike Nolan was there the last time Matt Ryan won a playoff game (2012), and the former Atlanta Falcons defensive coordinator and current television/radio analyst has never doubted Ryan's ability.

Not even last season, when Ryan and the Falcons jumped out to a 5-0 start, then struggled in a turnover-filled 8-8 season.

“When people were on him last year, I said, 'I know Matt is a **** good quarterback,’ and I’ll never fudge on that because I know he is,” Nolan said. “He’s a great at-the-line-of-scrimmage quarterback. And when I talk about at-the-line guys, I’m talking about [Tom] Brady. I’m talking about [Aaron] Rodgers[Drew] BreesBen Roethlisberger[Andrew] Luck. All of the really good ones, they get to go to the line of scrimmage and look it over and utilize their brain and put you in the best play.

“That, I think, is one of the biggest adjustments the Falcons did from a year ago. That’s his element. That’s what makes him such a good player. And this year, that’s exactly what he was doing.”

Ryan goes into Saturday's home divisional playoff matchup against the Seattle Seahawks as the likely lead MVP candidate after being named first-team All-Pro. He finished the season with 4,944 yards and 38 touchdowns -- both franchise records -- while completing 69.9 percent of his passes and averaging an astounding 9.3 yards per completion. He had just seven interceptions, and none in the Falcons' last four games.

“Statistically, without going into details, he’s got the best stats to go with it,” Nolan said. “And this is obviously a 16-week schedule. This isn’t just one game and, 'Wow, you did a great job.’ He’s got probably five Hall of Famers that are following him in Brady, Brees, Rodgers, Roethlisberger and Luck. All those guys don’t measure up to him. You know, he gets my MVP vote, although I don't have a vote.”

The Falcons' coaches did a great job with Matt Ryan this season of putting him in situations in which he flourishes, said former defensive coordinator Mike Nolan. Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

In analyzing the Falcons' play throughout the season, Nolan certainly believes offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan deserves much credit.

“I will say this: Kyle Shanahan and that staff adjusted from a year ago as well as anyone in the league -- and that’s just my opinion – from a standpoint of how they used Matt and what they allowed him to do,” Nolan said. “Matt was playing the whole year within in his element, which was outstanding.

"I saw that there was less of him moving out of the pocket, for one. There was less using his legs. There was some, but I thought there was less of it. I also saw, at the line of scrimmage, he was pretty much able to run the offense, like he’s so capable of doing.”

Ryan always has had the ability to make changes at the line of scrimmage, if needed. The addition of Pro Bowl center Alex Mack certainly helped things run much smoother up front.

“Look, it's still the same offense; don’t get me wrong. They just put it in Matt’s hands,” Nolan said. “Some of that may well be Matt better understanding it, too. But I saw a lot more stuff where Matt got to do what Matt does best.

“I’m all for moving the pocket from time to time. You do it because the other teams have a great pass rush on your quarterback and you want to move the pocket so he’s not sitting in the same place all day. But if the other team has a s--- pass rush, you don’t need to move the pocket.”

One performance by Ryan and the Falcons caught Nolan's eye in particular. It was the 23-16 win over Super Bowl MVP Von Miller and the Denver Broncos in Week 5.“The way that they spread the field, that was a great example of really good game planning by Shanahan,” Nolan said. “They spread the field on the Broncos and forced those linebackers into those one-on-one situations. Wade Phillips’ defense is very predictable and [the Falcons] took full advantage of it. With as explosive a defense as Denver has, they game planned well enough to kind of minimize the opportunity for Denver to take advantage of them and maximize what they do best.”

In dissecting whether Ryan can guide his team to the Super Bowl, Nolan spoke favorably about the Falcons' chances.

“To me, they have the best chance currently to match up against the Dallas Cowboys because both teams are very similar,” Nolan said. “In the NFC, I think the Falcons, Packers and Cowboys are all three teams with really good offenses and, when they are at their best, they’re opportunistic on defense. But none of them are really very good [defensively], but they’re good at what counts and that’s they can take the ball away.

“If the Falcons get there, they’ve obviously earned it. I can’t name a team in the playoffs right now that’s a balanced, strong team on both sides. Seattle typically is, but is not. Their defense is faltering a little bit and is not what it was without Earl Thomas.”

http://www.espn.com/blog/atlanta-falcons/post/_/id/24727/coach-turned-analyst-mike-nolan-matt-ryan-in-his-element

 

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interesting comments by Nolan, basically outlining the two main criticisms TATF had about Shanahan last season: let Ryan control the playcalling at the LOS pre-snap and quit rolling him out so much. Honestly, i haven't noticed that Ryan has been rolling out less this year. I think Mack et al have just given him a better pocket from which to throw.

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10 minutes ago, Jesus said:

I cant believe they pay that guy to do anything. I'd have him wash my car but he'd find a way to F it up.

"I got this new wax compound for your car, it washes and waxes at the same time, although the wax is dull and the wash is useless but it's multiple, you understand?"

 

I like Nolan for his work outside of Atlanta but holy **** was it a **** show with us

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17 minutes ago, Jesus said:

I cant believe they pay that guy to do anything. I'd have him wash my car but he'd find a way to F it up.

I think Smith was more an issue than Nolan. Hired Nolan to implement Smith's 4-3, panicked, decided to go with Nolan's 3-4. They lobbied for big Tackles like Soliai, instead of getting an outside pass rusher. 

 

Just like we saw with our offense last year after a scheme change, you had a bad year adjusting.

 

It was too late.

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