By Matthew Asher
Atlanta may be just 2-6 and Seattle is 8-1, but that doesn’t mean Seattle is going to blow out the Falcons. Thanks to the decent amount of parity in the NFL, there are always a few things each team needs to focus on in order to give themselves a better chance at victory. For Atlanta, these are three keys that may decide the game.
Make Russell Wilson beat you with his arm, not his legs
This is a “two birds with one stone” tactic because it also implies that Atlanta shuts down both Marshawn Lynch and Wilson running the ball. The two of them have combined for 1,101 rushing yards and seven touchdowns through their first nine games.
Wilson’s passing numbers this season are nearly identical to his rookie campaign, but not enough to say Wilson is suffering from a sophomore slump. Wilson is on pace to throw for 3,280 yards, 27 touchdowns, 11 interceptions for a quarterback rating of 98.1 as well as rush for 667 yards and two touchdowns.
As a rookie, Wilson threw for 3,118 yards, 26 touchdowns, 10 interceptions for a quarterback rating of exactly 100.0. The one stat that is a little troubling for Seattle is his accuracy. Last season Wilson completed 64.1 percent of his throws. This season he’s completed 62.3 percent of his attempts. It may not seem like much of a drop off, but since Wilson is only throwing 25 passes a game for 205 yards, one extra catch or drop could make all the difference.
Constantly test the Seahawks pass protection
This may seem like a complete flip-flop of the previous entry about making Wilson beat you with his arm. It’s not. Last year Wilson ran the ball 94 times for 489 yards and four rushing touchdowns. The downside of his scampering was that he was sacked 33 times, more than twice a game.
Through nine games this season Wilson has run 67 times for 375 yards and one touchdown. He’s already been sacked 27 times, averaging three sacks each game. Only three quarterbacks have been sacked more this season and just one of those teams, the New York Jets, has a winning record.
Keep the ball away from Richard Sherman
As a team Seattle is doing a great job of defending the pass. They allow fewer than 180 yards through the air each game. While all of Seattle’s defensive backs are very talented, Sherman is probably the best cornerback on the team. He’s accounted for four of Seattle’s 13 team interceptions, turned those picks into 124 of the team’s 252 return yards and has the lone pick-six on the team.
With Julio Jones out for the season and Roddy White’s condition still unknown for this game, expect Sherman to line up against Harry Douglas or even Tony Gonzalez. If it sounds weird that a cornerback would cover a tight end, Sherman isn’t a typical defensive back. Standing 6’3” and almost 200 pounds, Sherman is built like the wide receivers on his team.
If Atlanta can complete at least two of these three tasks, they have a very good chance to come away with their third win of the season. If they can do all three, their odds to win go up exponentially.
Kickoff is scheduled for 1 p.m. EST. #RiseUp
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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.