Red Bryant was the centerpiece of a second--ranked run defense through six games in 2010, helping Seattle to a 4-2 start. When Atlanta visited and won soundly in Week 15, Bryant had been out nearly two months and the defense was struggling. This weekend, Atlanta won’t be as lucky; Bryant is back.
The Atlanta Falcons’ formula includes: controlling time of possession, playing clean football and winning the turnover battle. Their running game sets up an aggressive play-action passing game that mixes formations and strives for balance.
Pete Carroll preaches a similar formula in Seattle; stop the run and force turnovers on defense; control the clock with a power running game and an opportunistic passing game.
Something has to give this week; both teams are sitting at 1-2 after an inconsistent start to the season, and both are working towards improvement on the offensive line. Winning the offensive line of scrimmage is a major key to success for both teams.
For Seattle to win, their defensive line must win in the trenches. Red Bryant’s unique size, mobility and length motivated Pete Carroll to move him from defensive tackle to 5-technique defensive end. Seattle brought Red Bryant-type Alan Branch to Seattle this season as another piece to the defensive line puzzle, but Bryant was Carroll’s first defensive project.
Matt Ryan is among the league’s best young quarterbacks. However, Atlanta’s primary offensive goal is to get Michael Turner and the offensive line in sync. The Falcons have experienced the noise in Seattle and understand the impact of the fans. They know consistency on offense is the most effective way to take the crowd out of the game.
On the flip side, Pete Carroll believes Seattle needs to capitalize on last week’s win and seize momentum, especially with two road games sandwiching the bye in the next three weeks. A win this weekend will require strong run defense, persistent attitude and excellent preparation.
During the Monday press conference, Carroll mentioned that even though he praised the team’s preparation and practice last week, it wasn’t good enough. They needed to be sharper and bring the energy up a notch.
This should be a major point of emphasis this week, and it’s the job of both the coaching staff and players to play their part. On Wednesday, Carroll talked about the importance of preparation, but stressed more on communication as a major factor for this still-gelling team.
Though Carroll may depend on his coaching staff to provide leadership, Bryant is a big presence within the locker room. Bryant is a silent warrior type, but this week he needs to send a message, loud and clear.
Carroll mentioned on the radio Monday that he wanted to make sure that the team understood the message Saturday night before Week 3; Carroll wanted the team to experience winning at home. Carroll described the mentality to Brock Huard and Mike Salk as "make them feel us." How to be tough, play with good effort and make things happen.
Huard asked Carroll who sets the tempo, the "make them feel us" mentality:
"The guy that the team feels the most is Red Bryant. He has a fantastic mentality and attitude; he is a voice of the locker room; he's just one of the guys, but he is the biggest...he pretty much speaks and they move. I think it starts there and there are a lot of guys that follow up on that."
This week Bryant needs to bring his entire arsenal. His leadership is needed in preparation for the weekend and his versatility needs to be exploited on game day.
The coaching staff consistently praises him for his nimble feet and ability to run for a big man. Given the amount of interior pressure the Buccaneers were able to mount against Atlanta last week and the struggles of Atlanta's offensive line, Red Bryant needs to attack that spot frequently.
Given that the Falcons move the ball well in no huddle, similar to the Cardinals, Seattle must find ways to keep the run-stopping Bryant on the field with pass rushers around him. Bryant can take up space or face one-on-one coverage rushing the passer.
Last week Bryant was used as a tackle next to Alan Branch in hurry-up offense situations, such as inside two minutes. Gus Bradley needs to continue finding ways to exploit Bryant and Branch together on the field; experiment with blitzes on Bryant’s side.
This is the type of matchup that will show whether or not Bryant can be that special player; is he just a massive run stopper, or also a disruptive force capable of consistently affecting the passing game?
Carroll described on the radio that after the win against Arizona he stopped in the locker room to spend a minute with Bryant. Carroll said he was unaware of how Bryant played, but he wanted to make sure Bryant got the message.
Bryant is a success story within the short history of Carroll’s tenure. He is a big part of creating the attitude that the defense showed on the field last Sunday, regardless of his play.
Hopefully, this week Carroll will walk towards Bryant’s locker not to reflect and reassure, but to praise him for making the Falcons feel the defense.