FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. – Last year's playoff disappointment hit so hard that Atlanta Falcons coach Mike Smith needed to change his staff from the top.
It seems Smith made the right decisions when he hired Mike Nolan as defensive coordinator and Dirk Koetter to run his offense.
Atlanta earned the NFC's No. 1 playoff seed for the second time in three years after Koetter helped quarterback Matt Ryan enjoy a career-best season and Nolan put his players in position to earn 31 takeaways.
Nolan and Koetter both caution that the Falcons (13-3) will face their toughest opponent this season when Seattle (12-5) visits the Georgia Dome for a divisional playoff game Sunday.
Atlanta had a bye last week, while the Seahawks beat the Redskins with a dominating second half in a wild-card game at Washington.