In recent years you've heard about the wild cat offense but it was more a flash in the pan than a revolution. However, the Atlanta Falcons developed a defense that could be revolutionary.
The credit for the "wild dog" should go to more than just defensive coordinator Mike Nolan, although he deserves a lot of the credit. More on Nolan in a minute.
Falcons General Manager Thomas Dimitrof and Head Coach Mike Smith also deserve loads of credit. They have stayed with players longer than usual to allow them to develop.
Brent Grimes, Thomas DeCoud and William Moore are all great examples. Grimes was unusually athletic but too small to be effective. It took time for him to develop into an excellent corner. Most teams would never have given him a chance.
DeCoud took a long time to play fast and smart but this year he is one of the best safety's I have ever seen. Moore was injured and started slow, however, he showed the most promise up front of the three.
This player acquisition and subsequent development is what make Dimitrof and Smith so special. You have to be sure of your convictions and be strong enough to stick with them.
As for Mike Nolan, he has taken things that have been done before and pushed them to the limit.
Movement of players, milling around like a pack of dogs, appears to be without a plan but they are actually on a very elaborate and precisely orchestrated hunt.
The first game against Kansas City only showed what was necessary to give a quarterback like Matt Cassel fits. The second game against Peyton Manning and the Denver Bronco's required the fully camouflaged chaos package and it worked.
The third game evolved into another hybrid package and it had poor Phillip Rivers just throwing up the ball without a clear plan or target.
Movement along the defensive line was fun to watch. It seemed like Falcons were hopping around and bunched at the line without committing to anything. Then, at the right time, scrambled to coverage or blitz without much trouble.
This chaos takes great precision and great speed. Nolan has the Falcon Defense looking like the best thing in the NFL.
With the shift away from the run and more emphasis on passing, the trend is lining up with Atlanta's personnel. Timing is everything and Dimitrof, Smith and Nolan are prepared at the right place and the right time.
All great defenses emerge from many factors coalescing. The "wild dog" has certainly come at the perfect time for a playoff run.
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