Falcons defensive coordinator Mike Nolan today said that he thought Colin Kaepernick was more like Carolina's Cam Newton than the quarterback Atlanta faced - and struggled with - on Sunday, Seattle's Russell Wilson.
"He's got great open-field speed," Nolan said of the 49ers quarterback during a session with Atlanta-area reporters today. "He's probably as fast as any of those guys in the open field. He's elusive like the other guys. But he's a bigger target. I think that Greg Norman (sic), the offensive coordinator, does an outstanding job of utilizing the players' strengths. It's the same thing he did in college - I'm talking about the quarterback - it's what he did."
Continued Nolan: "I actually think it's been two years running where they've probably been doing those same things in practice with him, so that when he got the opportunity to play he would be using those (skills). ... He's a game-wrecker as we would call him. He's a good player."
Nolan and 49ers coordinator Greg Roman presumably are competing for head-coaching jobs this season. To be fair, Nolan got Roman's name right later in the session, so we can chalk his mistake up to a slip of the tongue, not disrespect.
Of course, Nolan's Falcons had just as hard a time against Newton and the Panthers this year as they did against Wilson. The teams split the season series - it was one of just three Atlanta losses - and Newton rushed for 202 yards in the two games.
Nolan said he wasn't concerned as much with the 49ers' read-option package as he was with an elusive, scrambling quarterback like Kaepernick. After all, he said, even the best defensive schemes are useless when a play breaks down and a quarterback takes off on foot. "When the play gets into five, six, seven, eight seconds long, all that math that looked nice on the board is kind of gone," he said.
Nolan noted that he was familiar with -- and remains friendly with -- a number of 49ers players, but he said that familiarity won't matter on Sunday. Ten 49ers starters - including seven on defense - joined the 49ers when Nolan was their head coach from 2005-2008. "All those guys are very good players," he said. "Looking back on it now, if we would have had a lot of bad ones, maybe that would have been the way to go (laughter). But we didn't."
Said Nolan of his time in San Francisco: "I just wish it would have worked out a little better at the end. Because there was a lot of work to be done. And they're reaping the benefits now. And that's great. As I said, I enjoy watching those guys."
- Matt Barrows