On a day where the Seahawks needed some bounces to go their way, few did.
The Seahawks came out strong to begin the NFC Divisional game against the Atlanta Falcons.
Everything was going peachy (intended Georgia Dome pun) as Seattle used a 14 play, 89 yard touchdown drive to take a 7-0 lead. Pete Carroll and company were committed to establishing the run from the get go, with 10 rushing plays for 49 yards over the first series.
However, it was all downhill from there.
Atlanta built a 13-point lead over the second and third quarters, and the Seahawks were never able to recover, falling 36-20 in the NFC Divisional Round for the second-straight year.
The Falcons were far and away the better team. And while the Seahawks managed to get things right early on, the issues mounted as the game went on.
Here were the major problems for Seattle…
Where to begin…
This O-line group, which has been the most criticized part of the Seahawks in 2016, knew full well they had to put in their best performance so far.
Yet Russell Wilson was constantly under pressure, and Seattle rarely had opportunities to let routes develop down field.
While the Falcons only had three sacks, Wilson’s mobility kept things from escalating. The Seahawks quarterback put on a scrambling clinic, rushing for a team-high 49 yards on just six carries.
It was hard to find a Seattle lineman who didn’t look out of place. Germain Ifedi suffered an injury in the first series and despite coming back, never looked 100 percent. George Fant allowed penetration during a number of runs up the middle. Gary Gilliam had issues with edge rushing. Rees Odhiambo stepped on Wilson’s foot, causing a safety.
2016 was an “out of sight, out of mind” year for the Seahawks offensive line. As the lowest rated line by Pro Football Focus, and most analysts consensus pick for worst unit, there’s nowhere to go but up.
If seeing the Seahawks once against struggle to play a clean game felt like deja vu, don’t worry. You aren’t stuck in the matrix.
Seattle had seven penalties for 40 yards, but the impact of those fouls was much more devastating.
It all began when Devin Hester broke out an 80 yard punt return to the Atlanta 7 yardline. However, a holding call on Kevin Pierre-Lewis brought the ball back all the way to the Seahawks 10. Two plays later, Wilson stumbled back into his own endzone, after Odhiambo stepped on his foot, for a safety.
What was potentially a 16-point swing from Seattle to Atlanta set the tone for the following two and a half quarters.
Whether it was getting off the field on third down, negating positive yards on offense, or just allowing Atlanta to continue to advance the ball, the Seahawks were crippled by flags in this game.
Contrasted to a Falcon’s team who was penalized just twice for 10 yards, the Seahawks shot themselves in the foot. And they have no one to blame on those but themselves.
When playing against an MVP caliber quarterback, the last thing you want is to make his day easier.
Matt Ryan seemed to have the time of day in the pocket as he picked a part a depleted Seahawks secondary en route to just his 2nd post-season win as the Falcon’s quarterback.
Ryan (26/37, 3 TDs, 0 INTs) was sacked just three times by Seattle’s defensive line, and seemed unphased by what little pressure did get through Atlanta’s offensive line.
Despite being led by two of the NFL’s premier pass rushers, Cliff Avril and Michael Bennett, the Seahawks D-line looked befuddled for much of the day. Avril, who led Seattle in 2016 with 11.5 sacks, didn’t record one in the loss. Bennett left the game with an injury but returned and finished with one sack.
The Seahawks front-seven was seen as a huge reason for their success in 2013 and 2014, reaching back to back Super Bowls. This group put in admirable performances throughout the season, yet didn’t reach the potential that was needed to move on to the NFC Championship game.