Seahawks vs. Falcons: Takeaways from Atlanta's 33-10 Loss to Seattle
The Seahawks, with the NFC's best record at 9-1, showed exactly why they are considered the best team in the conference by building an easy 23-3 lead at halftime against the sinking Falcons.
Very little went right for the Falcons, as their record falls to 2-7 and they scramble to find something to play for in the final weeks of the 2013 season.
The Falcons will face a currently winless Tampa Bay Buccaneers team next week, the only team they've defeated in their past seven outings.
Atlanta hopes to correct its multiple issues from this week and try to build off a handful of positives.
Another Slow Start Stalls Falcons Offense
Since its last victory in Week 7 over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the Falcons offense has generated a mere 33 points in its past 12 quarters of play. That is an average of 11 points per game, on par with the league's worst offense in the Jacksonville Jaguars, who averaged 10.8 points in their eight losses this season heading into Sunday.
The Falcons offense got off to another to sluggish start symbolized by a 3-and-out on its opening possession. It marks the fourth consecutive game where the Falcons offense opened the game with a quick 3-and-out, followed by a punt.
Atlanta's defense was able to keep Seattle's offense in check for the first quarter but gave up 20 points in the second quarter thanks in large part to a number of big plays. The Seahawks had five plays of 20 or more yards in the second quarter alone, while the Falcons had two in the entire game.
The Falcons offense has hit rock bottom over the past three weeks, unable to sustain drives and generate any big plays, and it needs to find some spark to get back on track the rest of this season.
Matt Ryan's Struggles Continue
The hope was that the return of wide receiver Roddy White to the starting lineup for the Falcons would provide the necessary boost for the Falcons' offensive attack and get quarterback Matt Ryan out of the slump he's been in the past two games.
That hope proved false, as White was marginalized by Richard Sherman and the Seattle defense. White finished the game with one catch for 20 yards on four targets.
Plagued by turnovers the past two games with a combined seven interceptions, Ryan did a good job not giving the ball up with zero picks on Sunday. But the conservative approach led to the Falcons' passing attack struggling to get yards. Ryan finished the game with a season-low 172 passing yards, once again relying on a bunch of checkdowns to running backs. Jacquizz Rodgers, Steven Jackson and Jason Snelling combined for 11 catches and 62 yards on 16 targets.
The Seahawks secondary, nicknamed the "Legion of Boom" and widely considered the best in the league, certainly earned its reputation by shutting down the Falcons' passing attack.
Steven Jackson Is Looking His Age
After a pretty solid outing last week against the Carolina Panthers, running back Steven Jackson looked to be getting back into form after missing most of this season with a hamstring injury.
Things regressed on Sunday as Jackson finished with 11 yards on nine carries. Jackson has finished just four games for the Falcons this year and has averaged under two yards per carry in half of them.
Meanwhile, backups Jacquizz Rodgers and Jason Snelling combined for 38 yards on just four carries. The Falcons made the move late in the game to start working Rodgers and Snelling into the lineup, with the pair combining for three of the team's five second-half rushing attempts.
Jackson began the game with 14 yards on his seven carries in the first half. The question will be if Jackson gets off to another slow start next week, will the Falcons be quicker to pull the plug and insert Rodgers and/or Snelling, who looked significantly more explosive against the Seahawks.
Falcons Offensive Line Regresses
After a pretty solid performance against a tough Carolina Panthers front, like Jackson, the Falcons offensive line reverted back to subpar play against the Seahawks.
Matt Ryan was sacked twice and hit four times, which is normally not poor production in terms of pass protection. But Ryan was harassed throughout the game and just never really looked comfortable in the pocket.
The Falcons were without Sam Baker at left tackle, who is still trying to recover from a knee injury that has sidelined him for most of the season. In his stead, Lamar Holmes and Jeremy Trueblood looked overmatched against the speed of the Seahawks defensive ends.
The interior of the Falcons line, which relatively has been a strength for most of the year, also got pushed around with center Peter Konz and right guard Garrett Reynolds having their fair share of struggles against the size of the Seahawks defensive tackles.
After showing progress in recent weeks, the Falcons offensive line still has a ways to go to prove it can be a reliable unit.
Falcons Wideouts Get Shut Down
As noted before, the Falcons wide receivers found it very difficult to get open against a top-notch Seahawks secondary.
Even with starting cornerback Brandon Browner exiting the game early, Seahawks backups Byron Maxwell and Walter Thurmond stepped in and were very effective at locking down the Falcons receivers.
Harry Douglas finished the game with a team-leading 49 yards passing on seven catches, but 31 of those yards came on a single play. Ryan found an open Douglas on a crossing pattern, who then ran after the catch but was stripped by Thurmond from behind, making the biggest play of the game for the Falcons meaningless.
Tight end Tony Gonzalez was held without a catch in the first half and finished the game with just three grabs for 29 yards.
The lone bright spot came when Darius Johnson beat Maxwell on a quick slant at the end of the third quarter for Atlanta's lone touchdown of the game. Ryan managed to fit the ball right over the outstretched arm of Maxwell for the score.
But it was too little, too late, and the Seahawks can add another notch in their belts by bottling up the once-potent Falcons passing game.
Marshawn Lynch Pushes Around Defense
The Falcons defense got utterly dominated by the Seahawks on the ground, giving up a season-high 211 rushing yards.
Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch rushed 24 times for 145 yards, the second-highest total by an individual back against the Falcons defense this year.
It marks the second game in three weeks in which the Falcons defense has given up over 200 yards on the ground and the sixth consecutive game where they have given up over 100 yards.
Seattle was able to build an early lead at halftime and resorted to milking the clock in the second half with their running game. The Falcons still had no answer as the Seahawks had little problem bleeding time and moving the ball on just three second-half possessions.
The disappointing aspect is that the Falcons knew that stopping Lynch was going to be a huge key to their success, and they failed to do so.
Falcons Apply Little Pressure to Wilson
Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson felt very little pressure on the day on his way to complete 73 percent of his 26 pass attempts for 287 yards and a pair of touchdowns.
With several injuries along Seattle's offensive line, recent opponents have been able to stall Wilson with pressure, as it gave up seven sacks two weeks ago against the St. Louis Rams.
But the Falcons only sacked Wilson once on the day, and Wilson had no issue finding time to complete a number of throws downfield against the Falcons defense.
As was the case two games ago against the Arizona Cardinals, even when the Falcons face offensive lines with several question marks, they don't possess a defensive line capable of capitalizing on such an advantage.
The Seahawks were able to convert 60 percent of their 15 third-down conversion attempts, and the Falcons' inability to apply heat to the quarterback is a big reason why their third-down defense is among the league's worst.
Worrilow Has Earned a Shot to Start
Falcons linebacker Paul Worrilow was all over the field and managed an unlikely repeat performance of his 19-tackle effort last week.
Worrilow has been filling in for an injured Sean Weatherspoon at weak-side linebacker and been highly productive. The Falcons hope that Weatherspoon makes a triumphant return next week against the Bucs, but that should not mean that Worrilow exits the lineup.
Worrilow spent the preseason working as the team's top backup at middle linebacker, and he should revert to that spot once Weatherspoon is back. Akeem Dent has been adequate at times but has done little to merit more reps than Worrilow this season.
Worrilow is faster and plays with much better instincts, and also doesn't need to pulled off the field on passing downs. Worrilow's initial playing time came as a substitute for Dent in the team's nickel sub package. Worrilow's play in recent weeks merits his permanent promotion to the starting lineup for the remainder of the season. If the Falcons are about getting the best 11 defenders on the field, then Worrilow has proven he's certainly among them.
Desmond Trufant Continues His Streak
Falcons rookie cornerback Desmond Trufant has broken up a pass in every game this year heading into Sunday, and his streak continued with two more deflections against the Seahawks.
While Trufant did get beat a number of times to give up some of the big plays allowed by the Falcons defense, he continues to show a knack for making plays on the ball.
Last week, Trufant recorded his first career interception and had another opportunity this week, as he jumped a route, and the pass bounced off his chest and hands.
Obviously, there still remains some refinement, but Trufant has flashed a lot of upside with his ball skills, confidence and toughness this season. His play thus far has shown strong indications that the Falcons decision to move up this past April to draft him in the first round was a smart move.