FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- Atlanta Falcons coach Mike Smith expressed full confidence in defensive coordinator Mike Nolan despite the defensive woes that continue to plague the team.
The Falcons enter Sunday's game against the New York Giants ranked last in passing yards allowed per play (8.37), second-to-last in total yards allowed per game (429.9), second to last in sacks per pass attempt (2.27 percent), and 29th out of the 32 teams in points allowed per game (28.3).
The Falcons surrendered a season-high 558 yards in a 41-28 loss this past Sunday to the undermanned Minnesota Vikings, who were playing without Adrian Peterson and with rookie quarterback Teddy Bridgewater.
Regardless, Smith believes in Nolan's scheme as the Falcons (2-2) continue to preach being a multiple defense.
"Mike Nolan is a guy who has all types of experience in many different situations -- being a position coach, being a special-teams coach, being a head coach," Smith said. "And when he was the head coach, he basically was the general manager as well. So he brings a wealth of knowledge. And I think on your staff, you have to have as many people that have knowledge to help you in all your decision-making. And I think Mike has a brilliant mind on defense.
"Right now, we're not playing consistently. You could say in the first quarter of the season we played one game very efficiently, one game we made enough plays to win it, and two games, we have not played nearly as well as we needed to."
Nolan has even more of a challenge on his hands now with strong safety William Moore placed on short-term injured reserve with a shoulder injury. Unproven Kemal Ishmael will take his place. He is one of the better tacklers on the team and also has an interception return for a touchdown.
The Falcons invested in the defensive line this offseason by bringing in more bulk with veterans Paul Soliai and Tyson Jackson, as well as rookie Ra'Shede Hageman. The goal was to free up the linebackers to make more plays, but that hasn't necessarily happened. Players being out of position have led to multiple breakdowns.
Nolan was able to be creative with his scheme in a 56-14 win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, as the Falcons grabbed an early lead and stopped the run from the start. He conceded being a bit conservative with his pressures against the New Orleans Saints in the season opener because he was up against an elite quarterback in Drew Brees. Pressure was nonexistent against the Cincinnati Bengals and the Vikings, and the defense had trouble stopping the run from the outset.
Smith, who was the Jacksonville Jaguars' defensive coordinator from 2003 to '07 before taking over as the Falcons' coach, said he has not considered assuming more control of the defensive play calling.
"Ultimately, I have control because I'm held responsible for it," Smith said. "[But] I have all the confidence in the world in Coach Nolan, the defensive staff, our offensive staff, and our special-teams staff as well."
Sunday's game will pose yet another tough challenge for Nolan and the defense. The Giants boast the league's third-leading rusher in Rashad Jennings. New York is typically known for its physical style, and the Falcons are coming off a game in which the defense was physically dominated, particularly in goal-line situations.
Giants quarterback Eli Manning has been sacked only six times this season while attempting 139 passes.
Smith was asked whether the Falcons need to blitz more to generate pressure on opposing quarterbacks.
"It depends on how we match up," Smith said. "Each week, we have a different set of circumstances in terms of how people are going to try to attack us and in terms of what they're doing.
"I think the biggest thing across the board is that we've been inconsistent as a football team. And we have to improve on our consistency across the board to get to the place that we need to be."