Tale of the Tape — Seahawks Must Play Better to Beat Falcons

This has been a tough week for Seahawks fans. Rarely has a win felt so much like a loss. Richard Sherman is out for the year. Kam Chancellor may be done for longer if the tests on his neck come back with similar results as Cliff Avril. It is unknown whether Duane Brown will play. The overall offensive line play took a step back, and Russell Wilson has played two inconsistent games after appearing to have found his groove the weeks prior. The Falcons have far fewer injuries, and have a greater urgency around this game due to their modest 5-4 record. They may be the better team, the healthier team, and the more motivated team. It will take a far less muddled performance by the Seahawks to win on Monday night.

The way this works: Each offense will be pitted against the opposing defense and compared on an array of key statistical attributes based on their respective rank in the NFL. The tables that follow show the rank of each unit for each of these categories. 

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Seahawks Offense vs Falcons Defense

Falcons key advantages on defense

The Falcons defense has been pretty consistent all season. No team has scored more than 26 points against them, and the only offenses to manage over 350 yards were led by Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady. They have quality players at all three levels of the defense who are strongest in defending the pass, but are not pushovers in the run game.

Adrian Clayborn is getting the hype this week after a remarkable six sack performance against the Cowboys. Vic Beasley, Brooks Reed, and Takkarist McKinley are skilled pass rushers as well. De’Vondre Campbell and Deion Jones are excellent young linebackers and Keanu Neal is a tough-nosed safety. All three primary corners are solid. Atlanta has the personnel and the coaching to slow down the Seahawks offense, which has not necessarily been a tall order of late.


Seahawks key advantages on offense

There is only one true advantage for the Seahawks, and it is a meaningful one. Seattle has done a good job of protecting the football this season, and the Falcons have done a lousy job of taking it away. In particular, the Falcons have been terrible at intercepting passes, ranking 31st in the league in interception rate. Seattle needs for that to continue if they want to have a real shot at winning this game.

One hidden advantage in this game for Seattle might be the element of surprise. Running back Mike Davis was signed off the practice squad, and nobody has seen him play, so there is no way for the Falcons to know how to prepare for how the Seahawks will use him. There is also a small chance that Luke Joeckel will return this week, which could shuffle the line and changeup the Falcons plan of attack.


Falcons Offense vs Seahawks Defense


Falcons key advantages on offense

Much has been written about the Falcons giant step backwards on offense this season. A little perspective should be infused into that discussion. Yes, they are not putting up the record-breaking numbers of a year ago, but they are 4th in the NFL in yards per play. They have shown incredible balance in being 5th in yards per carry and 5th in yards per pass. They are also 6th in explosive passes and 4th in explosive rushes. That is far from a disaster.

Matt Ryan is a smart and dangerous quarterback, and his weapons are still incredibly dangerous. Julio Jones was a handful for Richard Sherman. He should have a lot of success against Jeremy Lane, who I expect the Falcons to try and target far more than Shaquill Griffin. Taylor Gabriel is a homerun threat. Mohamed Sanu is a tough receiver with good hands. Tevin Coleman looks like he will take over the majority of the snaps at running back if Devonta Freeman cannot go, and Coleman 4.8 yards per run.

If Earl Thomas does not play, this could get ugly. If he does, the Falcons offense would still appear to have an advantage over the Seahawks secondary.

Seahawks key advantages on defense

The Seahawks pass rush is getting more and more interesting. Dwight Freeney had two sacks against the Redskins, and then Dion Jordan added a sack and three QB hits against the Cardinals. Frank Clark and Michael Bennett should make life difficult on the right side of the Falcons line. Tackle Ryan Schraeder and right guard Wes Schweitzer are vulnerable in pass protection. A healthy Jarran Reed would help, but Nazair Jones has proven he can step in and be a factor as well.

Believe it or not, the Seahawks run defense has climbed into the top ten, and is 5th in the NFL in limiting explosive running plays after starting the season near the bottom of the league. That will be crucial against this offense. An effective running game for Atlanta would greatly reduce the Seahawks chances, as their secondary will already be reeling without Sherman and Chancellor.

The Seahawks defense can help make a win possible by limiting the run and creating enough pass pressure to generate some turnovers. Atlanta has had some trouble with giving the ball away this season.


Special Teams

Seahawks kicking vs Falcons returning



Falcons kicking vs Seahawks returning

Not much of a story on special teams. The Falcons are great in coverage, but the Seahawks are not that great in returning anyway. Falcon kicker Matt Bryant has been battling some injuries, and that could be a factor on what is likely to be a rainy Monday night.




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  1. A “rainy Monday night” does not bode well for Russ’ game but on the other hand, the Seahawks’ record in primetime (and especially Monday games) is a positive harbinger.

    1. Younger, bigger, faster – wow, a real look in the mirror.

      With the Super Bowl hangover done, Atlanta is gonna show everyone who is the best team in the NFC.

      Plus a QB that stands tall in the pocket and throws to a set of physically dominant wide receivers and tight ends, the kind of teams Pete Carroll had at USC.

      Film room with Pete and JS must be kind of awkward this week. (JS sold PC on Russ, and then had to build the team around his sandlot football.) “Uh, why can’t we be more like the Falcons?”…….

      1. Nice try Kurt….funny thing is that the film JS is watching all contains college players, go figure. You must be a troll or haven’t been paying attention to how PC adapts to his players and their abilities. This is definitely a must win for the hawks….but that homer joke about Atlanta being the best in the NFC…good one….At this point, it looks like the dirty birds are not even the best (or second best) in their own division..too funny…

      2. Matty Ice vs. RW. I’ll take the sandlot football and wins. Btw, RW is better in every statistical measurements. I wonder who was the first round pick and a third rounder.

  2. The Falcons are comparatively healthier, a plus, but they are even in better shape coaching and motivation wise. My expectation is that this will be a hard fought game with the Hawks doing better than the doom and gloomers expect, but not quite as well as the Falcons. The chart above has more pluses on the Falcon side than the Hawk side……………..for several reasons. Too many for a middlin’ coached (comparatively) team like the Seahawks. For me the real frustration isn’t a lack of talent; even with key injuries the Hawks have talented depth………it’s an uneven coaching performance all season. Perhaps the few extra days since the TNF fight will help them better prepare……………I hope!

    The two portions of the team that will be most called into question are the O-line and the defensive backfield. There has been some interesting analysis this week, using PFF data, that presents the argument that only half the problems that are normally attributed to the line are actually the direct fault of the line. The other half are interpreted to be on play calling. Since I put slightly more weight on coaching skill I find it compelling. As for the back field, the lazy analysis is focused on the loss of Sherm. No doubt, it causes serious problems, but if Kam and Earl are both able to show, and perform, we should be okay. If one or both of them are out (I don’t expect Kam to make the call) we may lack enough depth to compensate against a quality team. McDougald is a fine backup, but after him we’re a bit thin on experience. That may be where Maxwell could help even without much practice. I wouldn’t be all that surprised if Griffin were moved over to take Sherm’s spot, and Lane returned to his early season position. Griffin has more talent, only lacking experience. Given the way Ryan has been struggling a might this season there may be some good interception/turnover opportunities (especially if the Falcons are over confident).

    The Seahawk historical prime time record is one of those trap stats that begs to be flipped. My one hope for a Seahawk victory is that they all reach deep, players and coaches, and crank their personal performance as high as they can to show that they won’t knuckle under to adversity. Show me men…………..

    1. I am glad that Seattle fans begin to see other parts of this team dynamic. When this team was younger, faster, stronger than anyone in the league, you’ll get away by having better talents. When the talent stack is “slacking”, then good coaching comes into play. PC got away with this type of approach when he was at USC. I am seeing the same thing is happening here in Seattle.

      That was a good observation by referencing PFF. Don’t know if you have a chance, but watch the Eagles or Rams, you’ll see how good coaching can overcome the lack of talents, especially at the QB and OL position. NE excels in this area.

  3. Time to unleash the Kracken, (love that phrase) and aggressively go for points and TOP. If Hawks play 95% of the first half with Carroll & Bevell’s patented “Three and out “offense” I don’t think they have much chance of winning.

    Coach ’em if you got ’em.

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