Falcons defensive coordinator Mike Nolan was fired by the San Francisco 49ers, the franchise that he and his father coached. He was part of establishing the foundation for the team that the Falcons will face in the NFC Championship Game at the Georgia Dome on Sunday.
Nolan posted a 18-37 record for the 49ers from 2005 to 2008 and served in the role of general manager.
"Mike Nolan was an integral part of the building of that San Francisco team," Falcons coach Mike Smith said. "Mike is very familiar with them and I think that will give us some more insight in terms of what these guys are all about."
In 2005, the 49ers drafted backup Alex Smith and running back Frank Gore. The next season, they picked up tight ends Vernon Davis and Delanie Walker.
In 2007, the drafted linebacker Patrick Willis, tackle Joe Staley and safety Dashon Goldson.
Smith, after guiding the 49ers to the NFC Championship Game last season, was benched midway through this season in favor of Colin Kaepernick, who was drafted by the current administration in 2011.
Nolan doesn't have any information on Kaepernick, who rushed for 181 yards in the divisional round against Green Bay. The mark was a record for a quarterback in any regular season or playoff game in league history.
He's dangerous on the read-option runs that the Falcons were able to contain against Seattle's Russell Wilson and against Washington's Robert Griffin III. Wilson got his 60 rushing yards on scrambles. The Falcons held Griffin III to seven yards on one carry.
However, they struggled against Carolina's Cam Newton and their read-option attack.
Kaepernick presents a different challenge in that he's much faster than the other running quarterbacks.
"There are some similarities in terms of what they do offensively, but there are a lot of things that are a little bit different," Smith said.
Kaepernick picked up yards when the Packers were in man-to-man coverage and the defenders had their backs to the action.
"You've got to have vision on defense," Smith said. "You can't match up and play match coverages or man-to-man because when he gets in the secondary he's a guy that can go the distance. He outran a number of fast players in the ball game on Saturday night."
Kaepernick seems to like to pass to wide receiver Michael Crabtree. When Alex Smith was the quarterback, he leaned heavily on Davis.
"It looks to be over the last four or five games, that he and Kaepernick are on the same page," Smith said. "They are making the throws that you have to make to be successful, in terms of the back-shoulder throws and the timing routes; they've done a very nice job."
Smith was not happy with the pass coverage against Seattle, especially against tight end Zach Miller, who was targeted nine times. He caught eight passes for 142 yards and one touchdown.
The defense will be stressed again by San Francisco tight ends Davis and Walker.
"Vernon Davis is probably the most athletic tight end in all of football," Smith said. "I can remember sitting in Indianapolis watching this guy run a sub 4.5 (seconds in the 40-yard dash) there at the combine. There are a lot of things that we are going to have to address this week."