I would like to be the first to welcome back the Seattle Seahawks that had been lost for the past couple of weeks. After I (stupidly) speculated and predicted that the Seahawks would fall into a trap and lose, the Seahawks played what I believe to be our most impressive win as we easily beat the Atlanta Falcons 33-10. The Seahawks improve to 9-1 on the season and with the results of other games around the league this week it may be time to start talking about playoff scenarios. The Falcons continue to sink further and further into a hole as they fall to 2-7. There are tons of positive things I have to touch on after a game like we played today. Here is what I saw.
Offensive Line Rotation Experiment Is a Success: When Michael Bowie was struggling through the Rams game two weeks ago I wondered why not substitute Alvin Bailey in at right tackle to try to shake things up. Today the Seahawks did that and then some. The Seahawks debuted a consistently interchanging offensive line lineup in today’s game and it worked very well, especially in the passing game. Russell Wilson’s confidence in the pocket grew as the game went on and the throws that he made were a reflection of that confidence as the Seahawks had 8 plays that went for 20 yards or more. Alvin Bailey saw playing time at left tackle, right guard, and right tackle while James Carpenter also saw time at both guard positions this week. The offensive line helped pave the way for Marshawn Lynch’s most productive game of the season on the ground (145 rushing yards and one touchdown) and only allowed one sack of quarterback Russell Wilson. The Seahawks are expected to have at least two of their injured starting offensive linemen back next week (more information in “Flash Forward”) but if we run into health problems on the offensive line in our upcoming games there is now a much better idea of what needs to happen in order to achieve maximum productivity from both our offensive line and our offense as a whole.
Bag of Tricks: The Seahawks opened up the playbook a little bit on Sunday with a gadget play that resulted in a second quarter touchdown. With 5:33 left in the second quarter Russell Wilson tossed the ball to Marshawn Lynch who appeared to run. Lynch then turned around and threw backwards to Wilson who then fired downfield and hit wide receiver Jermaine Kearse for a 43-yard touchdown catch to give the Seahawks 13-3 lead. This play really seemed to change the course of the entire game. The Seahawks had dominated the game on both sides of the ball up to this point in the game but the scoreboard did not reflect it. This play gave the Seahawks a double digit lead for good and the Falcons did not seem to play with any intensity after this touchdown. Although it may not be entirely necessary in the weeks ahead, if the Seahawks offense seems to get stuck, this flea flicker showed what one play can do for an entire team.
Defense Dials up the Pressure, Stays off the Field: With a 6-3 lead the Seahawks forced a Falcons punt with 6:30 left in the first half. My feeling was that if we could take five minutes off of the clock, score a touchdown, and go to halftime with a 10 point lead we would be in great shape for the second half. We scored a touchdown but it only took us 57 seconds to do so. The Lynch-Wilson-Kearse flea flicker gave the Seahawks a 13-3 lead. Then after forcing an Atlanta punt the Seahawks drove another 2:01 and kicked a 44-yard field goal. 16-3 Seahawks. The Seahawks once again forced a Falcons punt and got the ball with 1:03 left in the first half and with one second left Russell Wilson threw a 6-yard touchdown pass to Golden Tate to give the Seahawks a 23-3 halftime lead. The hope of a five minute drive resulting in a touchdown going to halftime turned into 17 points on 3 separate scoring drives in under 6 minutes going into halftime. By the time halftime finally arrived, the Seahawks had a 20 point lead, complete control of the game, and all of the momentum heading into the second half.
You can thank the defense for giving the offense these opportunities. The Seahawks defense played one of their best games of the season in all phases against the Falcons. They held Atlanta to 4/12 on 3rd down conversions, they sacked quarterback Matt Ryan twice, Walter Thurmond recovered a fumble late in the game, and what is most impressive to me; after allowing 200+ rushing yards in each of their last two games the Seahawks defense held Atlanta to 64 total rushing yards on Sunday. Bobby Wagner led all defenders with 9 tackles and Thurmond stepped in for an injured Brandon Browner and recorded 7 tackles of his own as well as two tackles for loss. Falcons receiver Roddy White had only one catch for 20 yards and on that play he was not covered by Richard Sherman. Although Sherman did not do anything super flashy, he was very successful in covering and limiting separation of the Atlanta receivers. Sherman may have had his best game of the season from a pass coverage perspective. A defense performance like the one we had on Sunday could carry serious confidence into our next two games which happen to be at home.
Fast Forward: The Seahawks were able to dominate the Falcons without 5 starters. Max Unger and Red Bryant were inactive dealing with concussions and I expect them to be ready for next week. Breno Giacomini and Russell Okung are both eligible to play next week and both practiced with the team last week and will continue to do so this week. It is very possible that we will have our opening day offensive line back healthy for next week’s game. As if our team’s health could be any better, Adam Schefter of ESPN is also reporting that wide receiver Percy Harvin is expected to make his Seahawks debut next week as well. If all of these players are back I believe that the Seahawks are going to be too dangerous to stop in the coming weeks. Just imagine what today’s game would have looked like if we were completely healthy. I am starting to get very excited about what is on the horizon for this team. A dominant performance next week and I would not be surprised to see the Seahawks penciled in for the NFC West title and home-field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs.
Thoughts on Atlanta: How can a team go from being 10 yards away from the Super Bowl one season to being on the verge of a top-5 NFL Draft pick the next? The Atlanta Falcons have talent but they did not seem to play with any fire on Sunday. I think it is safe to say that the Falcons have mailed their season in. In Atlanta, fans, media, and Falcons personnel believe that Mike Smith is the best coach in Falcons history and to me it would be unfair to pull the plug on his tenure after this season, as he has taken the Falcons to the playoffs in 4 of his first 5 seasons. The Falcons could be right back to being one of the NFL’s elite teams next season and it would be wise to use their top draft pick next year on the best defensive player available as Atlanta is already quite loaded on the offensive side of the ball.
Random Thoughts: The Seahawks went with the white jersey/ blue pants combination for the first time this season. It looked pretty good if I do say so myself… The Seahawks have now tied the 1983 Seahawks and the 2005 Seahawks for most regular season wins on the road. One more win on the road would give us the franchise single season record and I think would lead to us having the best regular season record in team history… The Falcons drum line was pretty annoying to listen to throughout the game. The microphone seemed to be right next to them. I don’t know if that’s just me or not but the drumming got to be more annoying as the game wore on… What was up with that unnecessary roughness penalty on Michael Bennett? Bennett sacked Matt Ryan but because he tackled him at the knees they awarded Atlanta with a 15-yard personal foul penalty instead of it going as a Seattle sack. So I guess you can’t tackle the quarterback anymore? Just another example of how questionable the officiating is and how the NFL is becoming continually sissified for player safety… Mac and Jack’s is one of the best beers out there. Glad we got a growler of it for this game… I have to give massive props to the Seahawks fans that traveled to Atlanta for this game. It seems like more and more fans are starting to travel with the team. San Francisco is our next road game and is the closest distance to Seattle of any other team. I can only imagine how many Seahawks fans are going to make the trip to Candlestick next month just like I am… I have to give even bigger props to the little kid who showed off his dance moves in the fourth quarter. I was very impressed and I got a really good laugh out of it. Even though I consider myself to be a pretty good dancer, I must say that kid could probably beat me in a dance-off… Thank god the 49ers lost to Carolina… With two straight home games coming up now is the time to create some serious space between us and San Francisco.
Seahawks Divisional and Playoff Outlook: For the rest of the regular season I will feature a Seahawks playoff outlook in my game previews and game reviews which will feature current projected seedings, matchups to watch, and potential clinching scenarios.
With the Seahawks win over the Falcons and the 49ers loss to the Carolina Panthers the Seahawks currently hold a 2 ½ game lead on San Francisco in the NFC West. Next week San Francisco travels to New Orleans to play the red-hot Saints while the Seahawks host the Minnesota Vikings. As it stands now, if the Seahawks win their next two games and the 49ers win their next three games heading into our week 14 matchup in San Francisco, the Seahawks could clinch the NFC West championship with a win over the 49ers. Things can and will change between now and the next three weeks however so do not get too excited just yet 12th Man.
Make sure to check back on Saturday as I preview our week 11 matchup with the Minnesota Vikings. Thanks for reading. Go Hawks!