Dan Quinn, former SEC players must step up in NFL divisional playoffs

Atlanta Falcons Dan Quinn
Isaiah J. Downing/USA TODAY Sports

Atlanta Falcons coach Dan Quinn is hoping for a bit of redemption on Sunday. His Falcons will play host to the Seattle Seahawks in the divisional round of the NFC playoffs in a rematch of a regular-season game won 26-24 by Seattle.

Once it was announced the Seahawks would travel to the Georgia Dome, Quinn began reliving that game and its outcome. He especially remembers the controversial ending to the contest, when Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman looked to have held Julio Jones, but nothing was called.

“That’s the hard part of sleeping on Sunday nights, when you go back and you rehash the game,” Quinn, a former Seahawks assistant, told ESPN.com. “Maybe not nailing it quite like you want at Seattle. We played terrible in the first half. And then to come back and battle back and take the lead and not finish like we wanted to, those are scars that mean something now. But when you go through them, they’re painful to say, ‘Shoot, we could have nailed that one and we didn’t.’ “

Quinn’s path to the NFL went through Gainesville, Fla. He joined the Seahawks on January 12, 2009, then served as the defensive coordinator for Florida under Will Muschamp during the 2011 and ’12 seasons. He returned to the Seahawks as defensive coordinator on January 17, 2013, to replace Gus Bradley, who became the Jacksonville Jaguars’ coach. While at UF, Quinn was a 2012 finalist for the Broyles Award, given annually to the nation’s top assistant coach.

Quinn became coach with the Falcons after Super Bowl XLIX, where the Seahawks beat the Denver Broncos 43-8.

Will Quinn become the most important former SEC player or coach this weekend when Atlanta attempts to reach the NFC Championship Game? Here is a look at former SEC players who need a big showing to help their team stay alive.

Seattle: G Germain Ifedi, Texas A&M. Last week, Ifedi and the Seattle offensive line sprung Thomas Rawls for 161 yards against Detroit. This week, the offensive line must contain Vic Beasley and the Falcons’ pass rush. If there is a weak link to the Seahawks’ line, it might be Ifedi.

Atlanta: WR Julio Jones, Alabama. Jones vs. Seahawks defensive backs Sherman and Kam Chancellor — these are the types of matchups that make the playoffs special. We all know how upset Atlanta was with the outcome of the game in Week 6. Can Jones have a great game and get the best of Sherman and Chancellor?

Green Bay: WR Randall Cobb, Kentucky: Cobb had five catches last week against the New York Giants, and three went for touchdowns. Let’s see how he does against Dallas in the same situation. Cobb’s ability to get separation will be key. If Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers is on fire early, expect it to be because Cobb is open.

Dallas: QB Dak Prescott, Mississippi State. Can the rookie keep the Green Bay pass rush at bay and can he find his receivers in coverage?

Houston: CB Johnathan Joseph, South Carolina. Fellow South Carolina alum Jadeveon Clowney had a huge game last week in the Texans’ win over Oakland, but this week, the onus is on the Texans’ secondary to stymie the Patriots’ wide receivers. If Joseph can help limit big plays by Tom Brady, Houston has a chance.

New England: WR Malcolm Mitchell, Georgia. Mitchell has had a solid rookie season and remains a major weapon in the New England offense. Brady tends to rely on his veterans in the playoffs, which means Julian Edelman still will be the top target. But don’t discount Mitchell as a key receiver in this game.

Pittsburgh: OLB Bud Dupree, Kentucky. Dupree has been a key part of Pittsburgh’s eight-game winning streak. His pass rush bears watching against the Chiefs. If Dupree and Lawrence Timmons can apply consistent pressure, it will be a long day for Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith.

Kansas City Chiefs: OLB Justin Houston, Georgia. Houston has been bothered by a knee injury this season, but he and former Auburn star Dee Ford could create major issues for Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.

RELATED: Final 2016 SEC Power Rankings

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