Keys to the Seahawks-Falcons game
Holding the line
Seattle has allowed 405 yards rushing the past two weeks against the Rams and Buccaneers. In the process, the Seahawks have fallen from sixth in the NFL against the run to 19th. It’s just two games, so it’s hard to call it a trend yet. But if Seattle can’t stop the Falcons on the ground, then it becomes time to really worry. Atlanta is averaging just 64.4 yards per game rushing, worst in the NFL, and has rushed for more than 88 yards in just one game. Seattle should be able to return to its form of the first seven games and hold down the Falcons.
What can no longer be dismissed as just a blip is Seattle’s habit of slow starts. The Seahawks have scored only 29 points in the first quarter this year, including just seven in the past four games. They have scored at least 63 in each of the other three quarters. Those starts helped turn games against teams that were heavy underdogs such as Tennessee, St. Louis and Tampa Bay into surprisingly taut affairs. Seattle did what it needed to win each of those games. But at some point the slow starts could catch up to the Seahawks, especially on the road.
Putting Matty on ice
Atlanta has a subpar defense and a nonexistent running game. What makes the Falcons a team that still inspires fear, though, is quarterback Matt Ryan and a passing game that when it is whole is among the best in the league. The absence of receiver Julio Jones means the Falcons won’t be at full strength, and especially so if Roddy White doesn’t make it back. Trying to carry the load himself has led to Ryan throwing seven interceptions the past two weeks. Still, if White returns, he would team with tight end Tony Gonzalez and receiver Harry Douglas to form a corps that could cause Seattle problems, especially if the Seahawks can’t get a good pass rush. Watch for Richard Sherman’s matchups on White (the two have a well-documented rivalry) and safety Kam Chancellor on Gonzalez.