The NFL does not respect the Seahawks. Yes, I know in those weekly press conferences the head coach and (insert random player interviewee of the week here) always talk about how they aren't taking the Seahawks for granted, but they're lying. As far as they're concerned, the Seahawks are their bitch. Behind closed doors, I can almost guarantee you that their coaches talk about their date with Seattle as a circled win -- you know, one of the games they circled as soon as the regular season schedules were released as a sure win for their guys.
They aren't alone in underestimating the Seahawks, either, because the media does it, too. The biggest tell of all for reporters and bloggers alike is the phrase "get back on track." You know what I'm talking about: the Seahawks are set to go up against a team that's playing below expectations (like, say, the Falcons), and all you hear is how the Falcons need to use this game to "get back on track." Y'know, because when you play the Seahawks, you're basically putting the NFL on easy mode for a week, so you can coast to a win and build your team's confidence back up.
There's more articles I could link to here, but I'm staying with just this one because it also says Seattle's defense is "underwhelming." Which brings me to my main point here: none of these guys actually do any goddamn research before they open their fat, bulbous maws and start spewing this kind of crap. And as most of you know by now, few things piss me off more than when someone acts like they know what they're talking about when in actuality they're too damn lazy to do even a little digging on the subject.
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Underwhelming? Is allowing the fourth lowest rushing yards per attempt (3.1) underwhelming? How about allowing the fewest passing touchdowns (2), the tenth fewest offensive yards per game (318), or the third lowest 3rd down completion percentage (29%)? I mean, if that's underwhelming, then I'd love to know what you have to do to be competent in this guy's eyes (step one: wear a Falcons jersey; step two: ?).
Back here in the real world, the Seahawks have built themselves a tough, physical defense, which is exactly what we all hoped to see out of a Pete Carroll coached team. Remember, this guy spent years working with some of the best defensive minds in the game, guys like Monte Kiffin (1986-90), the late Foge Fazio (1991-94), and George Seifert (1995-96), and their influence shows. Under Carroll, the Seahawks' defense is an intimidating mix of Tampa-2 discipline and punch-you-in-the-mouth physicality. Ask any longtime fan of an AFC East team and they'll tell you Carroll did the same thing for the Patriots' defense when he was their head coach. From '96 to '98, if you had to play New England, your offense knew it was in for a bar fight.
Speaking of physicality, look at the players who are starring in this defense. Red Bryant, David Hawthorne, Kam Chancellor, Leroy Hill, etc. -- big hitters, one and all. Remember Kenny Easley, and how everyone who entered his territory did so knowing they were in for some serious hurt? Right now, Chancellor and Thomas are bringing that level of intimidation to both sides of the field, and it's a beautiful thing to watch.
Last week, the Seahawks' defense showed it was capable of handling a respectable offensive line to the tune of three sacks, two QB hits, and I lost track of how many QB hurries. And yes, the Cardinals really do have a decent o-line, having given up just 8 sacks and 12 QB hits to date (for comparison, the top 10 o-lines in the NFL right now have given up 5 or less sacks and 11 or less QB hits). You know what Atlanta's offensive line has allowed? 13 sacks and 24 QB hits, both of which are good for 30th place in their respective categories. In short, Matt Ryan has been running for his life this season, so Chris Clemons and Raheem Brock should be in his face all game long.
Better yet, the Falcons' run game is struggling no matter which side of the offensive line Michael Turner runs behind:
|Left Side||Center||Right Side|
|Runs for 1st Downs||3 (24th)||2 (23rd)||5 (15th)|
|Runs for 10+ yards||2 (18th)||2 (10th)||3 (12th)|
|Runs for negative
|0 (1st)||4 (29th)||6 (30th)|
Put that kind of sketchy production up against Seattle's run-stuffing front seven and I'm pretty sure it isn't going to be the guys in blue who are going to look underwhelming.
Of course, the Seahawks' offense has been having its own share of problems. Right now, the Seahawks are 31st in total offensive yards per game (214.7), 30th in points per game (10), 30th in passing yards per attempt (5.4), 29th in rushing yards per attempt (3.3), and the list goes on. Seattle's inexperienced o-line ranks at or near the bottom in sacks (14, tied for 31st with Chicago) and QB hits (28, just ahead of 32nd place St. Louis and their 30 hits allowed), but they've started to get some traction in the running game. Granted, the run blocking is only gelling on the left side so far, but it's a start:
|Left Side||Center||Right Side|
|Runs for 1st Downs||8 (7th)||2 (23rd)||2 (28th)|
|Runs for 10+ yards||4 (7th)||0 (28th)||6 (30th)|
|Runs for negative
|4 (20th)||0 (1st)||1 (24th)|
Thankfully, the offense has more going for it than "we get stuffed less often when we run behind Okung." For all of Tarvaris Jackson's faults, he's got two things going for him: he's tough, which is important with all the hits he's taking, and he isn't turning the ball over. To date, he's only thrown two interceptions, which ties him for 7th least in the NFL. The offense as a whole only has only committed four fumbles so far (which ties them for 12th least with six other teams), and two of those they recovered themselves.
Better yet, the Seahawks hit it big when they signed Sidney Rice in free agency. Unlike Nate Burleson, Deion Branch, and T.J. Houshmandzadeh before him, Rice is a bona fide #1 wide receiver. Go fire up a highlight reel from last week's game and you'll see what I mean: he's big, he's fast, and he makes difficult catches against tight coverage look easy. A big reason for the win against Arizona was Jackson's trust in Rice to make those catches, and as soon as he calms down and starts trusting Mike Williams, Ben Obomanu, and Doug Baldwin to make those catches too we'll really be on to something (especially if Golden Tate continues to prove he can be relied upon as well).
Which brings us to the Falcons' defense, who have been average at best this season. Despite ranking 11th in rushing yards allowed per attempt (3.6) and tying for 7th in interceptions (4), Atlanta ranks 20th or lower in almost every other statistical category. If anyone has an opportunity to "get on track" this Sunday, it's the Seahawks, and don't let a bunch of half-assed reporters and columnists tell you any differently.