Sunday, October 2, 2011

Ten Quick Thoughts on ATL vs. SEA

Seattle is catching Atlanta at a good time. The Falcons are experiencing an identity crisis right now and their struggling O-line isn't helping them get through the fog. Some key points:

1. This is a game that plays to some of Seattle's defensive strengths. Atlanta is San Francisco with a quarterback, run-first and play-action-dependent. They're trying to reinvent themselves as a purer passing team this year with mixed results. Hard to know what that says about today's game. If Atlanta tries to revert to run-first, Seattle's Bryant defense is there waiting for them, but the jury's still out on that defense. If Atlanta sticks to their newfound passing mantra, this young secondary could prove vulnerable.

2. There's something magical about Seattle's homefield advantage, but it's a lot less predictable than it used to be. High-powered offenses have, quite frankly, had little trouble thriving in Seattle the last three years. Once the crowd is taken out, the magic is gone. The Seahawks have to keep them in it. So ultimately, the responsibility to win is still on the team, which is a refreshing thing to come back to. Or not.

3. One thing that homefield advantage does usually favor is the home team's pass rush. Even in quieter stadiums, the crowd can still drown out some line calls and cadences for the visiting offense, which usually gives the home team's defensive line a half-step advantage. DE Chris Clemons is known to capitalize on this and faces a good matchup against gimpy, struggling OT Sam Baker. Raheem Brock and Red Bryant play well at home also. Ideally, this pass rush will need help from the interior in order to seal the deal, but expect some good moments for our QB hunters today.

4. SS Kam Chancellor, who matches up against tight ends in man coverage a lot (kudos to Fieldgulls' Thomas Beekers for alerting me to this), is out with a thigh bruise. Atari Bigby is starting in his place. Bigby was a solid player for Green Bay when he could stay healthy and avoid dumb penalties, so we might not be too poorly off. But a visit by Tony Gonzalez catching passes from Matt Ryan is hardly a friendly time to test this theory.

5. Atlanta's pass defense could be a bit overrated, which is nice, because any time now Tarvaris Jackson is going to start getting picked off by defenses who are aware of his penchant for throwing to the right. Seattle needs to get some respectable receiving threats (that is, Mike Williams) down the left side of the field, perhaps opening up the middle to guys like Golden Tate and Doug Baldwin.

6. Brandon Browner exceeded my expectations last week against Arizona, though he did incur another penalty. But keep in mind that a cornerback's matchup depends as much on the QB as it does the WR. Last week it was Kevin Kolb throwing to Larry Fitzgerald, without any terribly inviting alternatives. This week it's Matt Ryan throwing to Roddy White, Julio Jones, and Tony Gonzalez. That's a lot of one-on-one matchups.

7. The Falcons are giving up a fair number of rushing yards through three games (vs. Matt Forte, LEsean McCoy, and LeGarrette Blount). Marshawn Lynch might find some room. Although, once again, whether he'll stay in play largely depends on whether the rest of the team can keep the game in hand. (Remind me again why Carroll is so obsessed about the run when the run is so dependent on everything else?)

8. Where the heck is Walter Thurmond?

9. This is the first 4-3 defense Seattle has faced this year. This does not automatically mean it'll be easier. Interior 4-3 tackles like Richard Seymour and Fred Robbins were a nightmare against our interior line last year. This year, our interior is backup Paul McQuistan, strength-challenged Max Unger, and rookie John Moffitt. Might be more of the same.

10. Speaking of Atlanta's pass rush, Seattle's tackles face a stiff test against Atlanta edge rushers John Abraham, Ray Edwards, and Kroy Biermann. Russell Okung has declined lately, though nobody wants to admit it yet, and James Carpenter has to continue his improvement from last week.

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