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As if the Lions weren't distracted enough by losing defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh to a one-game suspension Monday, now they must brace for the possibility of losing their defensive coordinator after the season.

The Atlanta Falcons, who fired head coach Mike Smith Monday, have requested permission to interview Teryl Austin for the vacancy, according to multiple reports. Austin is a hot coaching candidate after leading the NFL's No. 2 defense in his first year as a coordinator.

Austin said recently he would "absolutely" take interviews after the season, but he cannot speak with the Falcons or any other team until after the Lions' playoff game against the Dallas Cowboys Sunday.

Atlanta reportedly requested an interview with Arizona Cardinals defensive coordinator Todd Bowles, too.

If Austin does land a head coaching job this year, he'll draw comparisons to Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin, who became a head coach after just one year as defensive coordinator for the Minnesota Vikings. Both coaches have also worked extensively with defensive backs.

jkatzenstein@detroitnews.com

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