The opponent that Atlanta has waited to play since last January’s loss at the hands of the New York Giants and to take the next step and rid the playoff loss tag in the Smith / Ryan era is the Seattle Seahawks, who boast the stingiest points allowed defense in the entire NFL and who have the fourth best passer rated quarterback in rookie sensation Russell Wilson and the third leading rusher in the league, Marshawn Lynch. They’ve won six in a row, and with wins at Chicago (Dec 2) and at Washington in the wild card match this past Sunday, have eliminated the road woes that plagued them most of the year. They have beaten the likes of Green Bay, Minnesota, San Francisco and New England. They are big and play mean, have rushed for 284 yards against Arizona and have nearly three hundred yards passing against the likes of the Bears and the Patriots. Just what the Atlanta Falcons need. To take the next step, to continue in the playoffs and to get to the Super Bowl and for a good chance at winning the Big Game in February, the Falcons need to beat an opponent like these Seahawks coming to the Dome. During the Washington contest, with the skins up 14 to 3, Wilson fumbled at the Seattle forty four yard line. Marshawn Lynch not only recovered that ball, but advanced it for a twenty yard gain into Redskin territory. That to me was the turning point, the redskins could have gone up significantly but the Seahawks continued the drive that ended in a touchdown and put the momentum to them. That one play may have caused the Redskins to go with RG3 too long, and could have lessoned the Rushing of Lynch if Seattle went down by three scores. It was a huge play and Seattle came away with the recovery, and the win. But if Washington got that ball, scored some points and hung on for a nail biter, then came to Atlanta banged up and with a gimpy if not out RG3, the contest may well be easier Sunday, but not what Falcon nation really needs. After Sunday there will be more games to play, each one against a tougher opponent and with considerable more pressure. The Falcon team needs to play a playoff game against a formidable team, and play like the Falcon fans witnessed November 29th against the rival Saints or the December 16th game against the Giants. A game where fans no longer think of past failure but erases such fears so that they no longer exist. Atlanta will take that next step when a win in such a match up Sunday is accomplished and sends a signal to those visiting the nest that it is not only in the regular season a tough field of play but now a playoff destination to avoid. A victory over a Strong performing team like Seattle, hottest team the last month, will do so much for the Coaches and the players as well. The season of hard work and focus to the one game at a time mentality since that playoff loss a year ago will be rewarded, confidence built and a huge weight lifted from the franchise over the past few years. It may well clear the road for the dream destination to the Superdome.
What will a win take ? Wilson is a true rookie of the year candidate, with key word – rookie. He’ll find the Dome and a little pressure from Nolan’s defense not to his liking. In the win against Washington, he passed for 187 yards, with only four passes over twenty yards and tight end Zach Miller being his top target.
(In fact, Pierre Garcon of Washington was the leading receiver of the game with fifty yards).
The Falcons must do everything to contain Marshall Lynch, for this will be the key to the game. The more success he has at rushing for long gains and moving the chains it will keep the Ryan air attack on the sidelines. The Falcon defense has had good and bad games against good rushers, Tampa’s Doug Martin
Comes to mind in a tale of two games, one a win, the other a loss. Hope Nolan lets the secondary handle the wide outs of Seattle and has the linebackers handle the run and coverage on Miller. Having Nicholas or Weatherspoon ‘shadow’ Lynch would not be so bad of a game plan. If Lynch is held to a hundred yards or less, The home birds should win. Seattle was only five of thirteen on third down conversions against Washington, a supreme air attack is not what they showcase. One point of interest in the stat category is the highly recognized Seahawk defense was only a field goal better in points allowed in comparison to the bend don’t break Falcon defense that gave up a lot of yards in between the red zones. The Seattle defense really only saw two offenses with the weapons like that on Atlanta’s side of the ball, Green Bay in the Replacement Ref game ending call, and New England, where Brady threw for almost four hundred yards, both were narrow home wins. Ryan and crew will be rested and ready, and I see Dirk throwing what Washington did not at this big defense. The Redskins targeted the tight end Paulson only four times, Gonzalez should see that after one quarter. Washington did not utilize the screen pass, after a week of traveling across the country, it would be interesting to see the big defenders of Seattle chasing Jaquizz around. Don’t get too conservative Smitty, this is what all Atlanta has waited for and is in need of, a tough playoff game that will end the playoff losing talk and a springboard to another step taken in the Smith / Ryan era. Falcons 30 – Seahawks 20.………Bobby G prediction in the Battle of the birds.