Last season, the Atlanta Falcons finished the regular season with the best record in the NFC, racking up 13 wins and just 3 losses. One of those wins was a 34-18 win at Qwest Field over the Seahawks. This week, the Falcons will again travel to Seattle to take on the Seahawks.
Last season, the Seahawks were in the midst of losing seven of nine games when the Falcons came to town. Outclassed and demoralized by a 34-3 run by the Falcons in the middle of the game, the Seahawks were easily brushed aside.
This season, things appear different. The Seahawks are coming off an important win last week against Arizona. The defense has already proven to be a far superior unit than what the team fielded last year. With a new offensive playbook, new play-caller (offensive coordinator Darrell Bavell), new quarterback, and only one starter who has been a Seahawk for more than two years, chemistry on offense is still lacking – but will improve with time.
In addition to the changes of the Seahawks from last year, the Falcons have the look of a very different team as well. The Bears embarrassed Atlanta in their first game of the season 30-12. The Falcons did rally to beat Philadelphia AFTER Eagles superstar quarterback Michael Vick was knocked out of the game after suffering a concussion in Week 2, but were beaten by division foe Tampa Bay last week 16-13. The talent is still there, but confidence and cohesion appear to be lacking, and a loss this week would put Atlanta’s lofty pre-season goals in serious jeopardy. This week won’t be fun for Atlanta, and they will certainly be tested by the Seahawks and their deafening fans.
Seahawk receiver Sidney Rice’s debut last week was… unbelievably underappreciated. In his first action of the season, Rice recorded the Seahawks’ first 100-yard receiving performance in 7 games, snagging 8 passes for 109 yards. He slid perfectly into the offense, and had us all thinking on third downs: “look for Sidney!” I said previously several times that I really do think Rice has the potential to be the best Seahawk receiver since legendary Seahawk Steve Largent (who, as of when he retired in 1989, was the NFL’s career receiving yards leader, career receiving touchdowns leader, and career receptions leader). Rice missed most of last season due to injuries, and had missed the Seahawks’ first two games this season because of shoulder problems. Look for him to have another productive day against Atlanta’s struggling defense.
In last week’s game against the Cardinals, the Seahawks running game finally showed signs of life. Marshawn Lynch ran for 73 yards, more than twice the total of any Seahawk in either of their first two games. I’ve been waiting to see the effect of the new blocking scheme installed by new Seahawk assistant coach Tom Cable would have on what was a lethargic rushing attack that the Seahawks had last year. It has been difficult to accurately judge the effects of the new scheme because of injuries across the entire offense, namely major free agent acquisition Robert Gallery. Gallery, signed to be the team’s left guard, not only has played under Cable before, but is an experienced, run-blocking beast. Gallery had a groin injury that required surgery and isn’t expected to be back until the middle of the season. His return will almost certainly give the offense a boost.
Finally, watch the matchup between the Seahawk secondary and Atlanta’s receiving threats. With Pro-Bowl receiver Roddy White, future Hall of Fame tight end Tony Gonzalez, and supremely-talented rookie receiver Julio Jones, the Falcons possess one of the most dangerous set of receivers in the league. Additionally, the Falcons have budding superstar quarterback Matt Ryan, who lead six fourth-quarter comebacks last season. Seahawk starting safeties Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor, both second-year players, have performed well so far this season, with Chancellor especially exceeding expectations. They will need to make their presence felt. If Seahawk cornerbacks Marcus Trufant, Brandon Browner, and Walter Thurmond can keep Atlanta from making many explosive plays, the Seahawks will an excellent chance of knocking off one of the better teams in the league.
About the Author
Written by Erik Olsoy
Erik was born in Columbus, Ohio during the only Ohio State football victory over Michigan in the 1980s, but moved to Washington state and grew up there. His loyalty to Ohio State remains strong, but his strongest allegiances developed toward Seattle sports. Though he recently graduated from Boston College, he has not yet been converted to the ways of New England Sportsdom, and only roots for the Red Sox against the Yankees because the Yankees are the root of all evil.