Late-night phone calls from desperate head coaches? Mike Johnson knows the drill.
He fielded one seven years ago after Wade Phillips had taken over a wobbly Atlanta Falcons team that had only three wins in 13 games and had just fired Dan Reeves. Following a 38-7 loss to Indianapolis, Phillips, the Falcons' interim coach, dialed Johnson's number.
"He asked me to call the plays for the last two weeks," Johnson recalled Thursday. "I had to go in there on Monday and come together with the staff and put together a game plan and then go into Tampa and play a very good defense."
The result: Atlanta won as Johnson's offense scored 30 points against a Buccaneers defense that finished fifth overall that season. The following week, the Falcons returned home and won the season finale against Jacksonville.
"He's just a competitor," said Falcons wide receiver Brian Finneran, who played under Johnson in Atlanta and who caught a 13-yard touchdown pass in that 2003 game at Tampa Bay. "He installed our third-down and maybe red-zone (packages) for us when he was here. He did a great job with it."
Here's hoping he doesn't have quite the same success this time around. The 49ers are 31st in scoring offense averaging only 12.7 points per game. They have scored only four touchdowns this season, with three coming in one game. The Falcons have the sixth-best scoring defense allowing just 15.3 points per game. This is a recipe for a 30-13 Falcons win as long as they haven't been reading their own press.