49ers-Falcons key matchup No. 3: Roman vs. Nolan

49ers-Falcons key matchup No. 3: Roman vs. Nolan
January 16, 2013, 4:15 pm
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The 49ers' offense averaged 24.8 points per game in the regular season, while the Falcons' defense allowed 18.7 points per game. (USA TODAY IMAGES)

This is the third part in a series that spotlights five 49ers-Falcons matchups to watch Sunday, noon, at the Georgia Dome in the NFC Championship Game.

Matchup No. 5: Justin Smith vs. Justin Blalock
Matchup No. 4: Patrick Willis vs. Tony Gonzalez

49ers off. coordinator Greg Roman vs. Falcons def. coordinator Mike Nolan

Tale of the tape
Roman: Second season with 49ers, 15th NFL season
Nolan: First season with Falcons, 26th NFL season

Mike Nolan, the former 49ers head coach, will have a difficult chore Sunday as Atlanta Falcons defensive coordinator.

The Falcons, who feature a bend-but-don't-break style of defense, will be up against a 49ers offense that can offer a lot of different challenges behind a power running game and the unique multi-dimensional threat of quarterback Colin Kaepernick.

"Greg Roman does an outstanding job and is very much a game-plan coach," Nolan said. "Their offense is their offense but at the same time it's not going to look the same to us when it comes out.

"He'll try and do different things to give us problems naturally with formations and with personnel, which is what everyone does. I'd like to think that defensively we attempt to do the same thing, because they're watching film of what you do every week and game-planning."

The Falcons have one of the best bottom-line defenses in the league. Despite ranking 24th in the NFL in total yards allowed, the Falcons were fifth-best in points allowed. Nolan's unit does not pile up many sacks, but Atlanta ranked fourth during the regular season in interceptions.

Nolan is rebuilding his stock to the point that he is again on the radar for head-coaching jobs. Nolan, who coached the 49ers to an 18-37 record in 3 1/2 seasons as 49ers coach, interviewed for the Philadelphia Eagles vacancy two weeks ago. The Eagles hired Chip Kelly as head coach on Wednesday.

Meanwhile, Roman is considered a strong candidate for the Jacksonville Jaguars head-coaching vacancy. The Jaguars recently hired David Caldwell as general manager to conduct the coaching search. Roman and Caldwell were football teammates and roommates at John Carroll University in Ohio.

Roman's reputation is at an all-time high after devising a game plan against the Green Bay Packers last week that featured a heavy dose of the "pistol" offense.

Kaepernick rushed for 181 yards and two touchdowns, while also throwing for 263 yards and two touchdowns. Frank Gore added 119 yards rushing for a 49ers offense that ranked 11th in the NFL. Kaepernick said it is fun every week to see what new twists Roman comes up with for the game plan.

"It's always exciting," Kaepernick said. "They're always coming up with something new, something different, something that's going to help this offense."

UPDATE: The Jaguars on Thursday morning announced the hiring of former Seattle Seahawks defensive coordinator Gus Bradley as head coach.

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