By Matthew Asher
It’s hard to believe that in January this year, the Atlanta Falcons and Seattle Seahawks met in the NFC Divisional Playoffs that ended with Atlanta kicking the game-winning field goal as time expired. Seattle was considered the weaker of the two teams and Atlanta was expected to dominate the Seahawks in that game.
Now the tables have completely turned. Seattle not only is off to their best start in franchise history, but they are atop the NFC with an 8-1 record. But over the past two games, Seattle has had to rally to win against teams that they should have had no trouble dominating. They needed a goal-line stand against the Sam Bradford-less Rams and against Tampa Bay they needed to score 17-straight points just to force overtime.
Those two wins are important because both the Rams and Bucs represent Atlanta’s only two wins of the season, and the Falcons didn’t have nearly as tough a time beating either team as Seattle did.
On offense, there is one thing that Atlanta does especially well: pass the ball. Averaging 289.2 passing yards each contest, quarterback Matt Ryan has kept his team in nearly every game. Ryan has completed 67.8 percent of his pass attempts for 2,442 yards, 15 touchdowns and 10 interceptions for a quarterback rating of 91.7.
While Ryan has done a good job with one of Atlanta’s star receivers, Julio Jones, out of the rest of the season and their other star receiver, Roddy White, battling leg injuries, the Falcons have been throwing the ball a lot more to their starting tight end Tony Gonzalez and Jones’ replacement, Harry Douglas. Gonzalez leads the team in catches with 44 receptions, 476 yards and four touchdowns. Harry Douglas has 38 catches and is the only active Falcon with more than 500 receiving yards (571) and one touchdown of his own.
The rest of Atlanta’s offensive numbers are nothing special. The 22 points scored each game rank them 18th in the league and the 353.6 total yards of offense are the 12th most this season.
The one thing the Falcons do not do well is run the football. This is partially because their starting running back Steven Jackson was injured in Week 2 and is just returning to his former self. Either way, the 64.4 rushing yards per game is the absolute worst in the league. Atlanta’s three main running backs, Jacquizz Rodgers, Steven Jackson and Jason Snelling have combined for 485 rushing yards on 140 carries and three touchdowns.
On the defensive side of the football, nothing Atlanta does is especially noteworthy. The four major defensive statistics (points, total yards, passing yards and rushing yards) all rank in the bottom half of the league with none of them any higher than 20th.
The 27.2 points the Falcons allow rank 26th in the league. While this is the worst ranking for any of the defensive categories, it’s most important because it’s the only one that matters at the end of the day. The 364.9 total yards allowed each game rank 21st and the 248.6 passing yards and 116.2 rushing yards given up both rank 20th.
Kickoff is scheduled for 10 am PDT.
For more Seahawks news and updates, visit Seahawks Central.
Matthew Asher is a freelance journalist. From an early age, sports have played a major role in his life. He graduated from Emory University with a B.A. in Journalism. After college he spent 2 years working with CNN Sports and still occasionally writes sports articles for several publications both in the United States and Canada. His work can be found on Examiner.com.