Falcons Head Coach Mike Smith has yet to face quarterback Peyton Manning during his five-year term in Atlanta. But prior to 2008, Smith has lots of experience going up against the four-time MVP.
As the defensive coordinator of the Jacksonville Jaguars from 2003-07, Smith and his defense faced Manning 10 times. He also saw Manning while he was the defensive line and linebackers coach for the Baltimore Ravens in 2001 and 2002.
“(I’ve) had a lot of games against Peyton,” Smith said in a conference call on Thursday. “Watching him run the no-huddle (on Sunday night) was reminiscent of having to play against him when I was in Jacksonville.”
Against Smith’s defense in Jacksonville, Manning threw for more than 300 yards in five of 10 games. But Smith also experienced some moderate success against No. 18, holding him to a quarterback rating of 81 or less four times.
The Falcons’ head coach also talked about his familiarity with wide receiver Demaryius Thomas, who played his college ball less than two miles from the Georgia Dome.
“(I’m) very familiar with Demaryius from when he was at Georgia Tech,” Smith said. “I’ve known (Georgia Tech) Coach (Paul) Johnson for a long time there at Georgia Tech, so I follow Georgia Tech very closely.”
Smith went on to talk about the challenges of facing a player with Thomas’ skill and size.
“(Thomas) is a big, strong, athletic wide receiver that can create matchup problems,” Smith said. “As a defensive coach, when he gets the ball in his hands, you’ve got to hold your breath, because he can break tackles. He’s got a great stiff-arm, and he’s got outstanding long speed, as evidenced by the way he ran on the quick-screen in the game Sunday night.”
Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan also spoke to Denver media in a conference call on Thursday. Like Smith, Ryan spoke of Manning’s no-huddle offense with great respect.
Ryan entered the league in 2008 and has been the team’s starting quarterback since day one. With Atlanta incorporating more and more of the no-huddle offense, Ryan said he looks at the way Manning runs it as he tries to implement a similar style into his own game.
“I think he set the benchmark for quarterbacks playing in that no huddle system really in the modern era,” Ryan said. “We started doing it my rookie year and I think it’s evolved a lot from where we were then until now. I’ve become more comfortable in it. I think our team has become more comfortable in it because we’ve done a bunch of it.”
Monday night will mark the first time Ryan and Manning have faced one another.