Marquand Manuel has taught Atlanta’s defense how to do a better job of closing out games in his first season as an NFL coordinator.
It took a few weeks for Manuel Nathan Peterman Jersey , a longtime defensive back and assistant coach, to get comfortable calling plays for the Falcons, but the defense has improved noticeably from a year ago.
He got the job in February, promoted from secondary coach after the Falcons blew the biggest lead in Super Bowl history – 25 points – to suffer a humiliating loss to New England.
In replacing Richard Smith, Manuel has essentially the same personnel from a season ago, but he’s helped Atlanta thanks in large part to greatly reducing potent plays.
The Falcons ranked No. 8 in passes allowed of at least 20 yards, up 15 spots from last season. They went from 25th in runs allowed of at least 20 yards to No. 2 this season.
Manuel’s challenge this week is to draw up a game plan that will help Atlanta (11-6) come away with an NFC divisional playoff victory at Philadelphia (13-3).
It won’t be easy, but he credits the years he spent coaching under Pete Carroll in Seattle and under Dan Quinn in Seattle and Atlanta with building the confidence he needs to succeed in pressure situations.
”Understanding the situations, how to call it, how are you going to respond?” Manuel said Tuesday. ”Are you going to be emotional or are you going to keep everyone poised? Again it goes back to getting the players prepared and also having that experience I have to get the coaches prepared.
”So that has been a blessing within itself and it’s been awesome just to watch the guys go out. We understood that to be road warriors you have to do the small details right, day in and day out.”
Quinn knew Manuel was the man for the job and didn’t look outside the building to make the hire. They had worked together for several years in Seattle. Manuel came with Quinn from the Seahawks and spent his first two seasons in Atlanta coaching defensive backs.
”He was waiting patiently for his opportunity at this shot,” Quinn said, ”and he’s certainly taken advantage of it in terms of implementing the style and communication that we like to get across for the defense.”
Manuel is still annoyed with how poorly the Falcons played in a Week 10 loss at Philadelphia last season Dion Dawkins Jersey , giving up 429 yards and allowing the Eagles to hold the ball for 38 minutes in a nine-point loss.
”They hit us in the mouth,” he said. ”So we have to be prepared for that.”
He also vividly remembers how ragged the Falcons looked this season against Jay Ajayi, the only running back to rush for 100 yards against Atlanta until the Rams’ Todd Gurley did the same in last week’s playoff win at Los Angeles.
Manuel sees this week’s NFC divisional matchup at Philadelphia as a chance to right two wrongs.
The Falcons aren’t just looking for payback against the Eagles. They’re also are eager to get another shot at Ajayi, who led Miami to a 20-17 win in Week 5 at Mercedes-Benz Stadium, but was traded in late October after Philadelphia lost Darren Sproles to a season-ending injury.
Philadelphia has a tough 1-2 punch at running back with Ajayi’s speed and LeGarrette Blount’s inside power game.
”We don’t have a (complicated) defense, but we are very detailed,” Manuel said. ”And the detail of expectations of understanding that they have to make our defense come to life, and they’re doing an awesome job at it.”
NOTES: QB Matt Ryan was not at practice because of a personal matter. He’s expected to return on Wednesday. … WR Julio Jones (ankle) was held out. … RB Devonta Freeman (knee) and WR Mohamed Sanu (knee) were limited.
Three years after going undrafted out of Drury College, Trevor Richards has earned his first major league win.
Richards pitched six effective innings to lead the Miami Marlins to a 3-1 victory over the San Francisco Giants on Tuesday night.
”It’s great, it’s good to get that one out of the way,” Richards said. ”It’s been too long so it’s good to get it done.”
Richards (1-3) allowed two hits in his seventh major league start. The 25-year-old right-hander struck out two and walked three.
”He’s been a good story, he’s thrown the ball well,” Marlins manager Don Mattingly said. ”Obviously Pitcher of the Year last year in the minor leagues Eddie Yarbrough Jersey , really good reports on his makeup and how he works, competes, and pays attention so it’s good to see guys like that have success.”
Richards walked the first two batters of the game before settling in.
”I got a little too excited for the game, a little amped up and lost mechanics,” Richards said. ”I was able to settle down and keep going.”
Brandon Crawford’s groundout in the first inning drove in the only run for the Giants, who had just three hits.
”Three hits, that’s not going to work,” manager Bruce Bochy said. ”We had a hard time getting guys on base and just getting something going. That’s the ballgame.”
Kyle Barraclough pitched a perfect ninth for his fourth save in six chances. He has not allowed a run over his last 14 games and a career-best 13 2/3 innings.
JT Riddle had a two-run double for Miami, and Starlin Castro had two hits and knocked in a run.
”Just enough,” Mattingly said.
San Francisco right-hander Chris Stratton (7-4) worked out of a bases-loaded jam in the second inning, but ran into trouble in the third when he again loaded the bases. This time, Castro singled in Derek Dietrich and Riddle followed with a two-run double to right field.
”I let it get away from me there,” Stratton said. ”I thought I made some really good pitches. Give them credit.”
Stratton then retired his final 13 batters. He allowed four hits in seven innings.
RIDDLE’S BIG HIT
Riddle’s two-run double gave him his first multi-RBI game of the season and eighth of his career.
”(Stratton) left me a fastball over the middle of the plate after I had swung through two Star Lotulelei Jersey ,” Riddle said. ”I was a little late on those so I was thinking he might come back with another one, he did, left it over the middle, and I put a pretty good swing on it.”
Giants: 1B Brandon Belt (appendix) is expected to join the team in Los Angeles later this week after making progress from emergency surgery on June 2. ”He soft-tossed in Arizona, threw, did quite a bit of baseball activities,” Bochy said. ”Tomorrow he’ll take regular batting practice so that’s the big step. If he feels fine doing that, then we’re getting close on him.”
Giants: LHP Andrew Suarez (2-4, 5.06 ERA) will start the third game of the series on Wednesday in his hometown for the first time in front of a number of family members and friends.
Marlins: LHP Caleb Smith (5-6, 3.70) is 5-4 with a 2.70 ERA over his last nine starts.