By Eric D. Williams The News Tribune
ATLANTA — Seattle head coach Pete Carroll’s willingness to take risks, coupled with his team’s inexperience doomed the Seahawks twice in the first half, putting his team behind the eight-ball offensively.
Down 13-0 in the second corner, the Seahawks had a chance to grab some momentum and put some points on the board.
But after Robert Turbin was stuffed for no gain on third-and-1 from Atlanta’s 11-yard line, instead of taking the three points, Carroll decided to go for the first down on fourth down.
The decision proved a bad one, as fullback Michael Robinson was stuffed for a yard loss on a play that he had been mostly successful on in the past.
“It’s one of our staple plays,” Robinson said. “They brought extra D-linemen and they sent the safety off the edge and we didn’t have enough blockers for them.”
In fact, Robinson was 6-of-7 on 3rd-and-1 during the regular season running a similar play.
Atlanta took over on downs, and the Falcons quickly marched the length of the field, with Matt Ryan finding Roddy White on a 47-yard touchdown pass on a post route. The touchdown put Atlanta up 20-0.
The Seahawks had one last shot to erase the goose egg on the scoreboard. With just over four minutes left in the half, the Seahawks once again moved into scoring position. However, on third-and-goal from the 11-yard line, Russell Wilson was sacked for a 9-yard loss by Atlanta defensive tackle Jonathan Babineaux with 17 seconds left.
With the clock winding down, Wilson failed to get his offense lined up in time to get another play off before time expired.
“There was no opportunity to react and throw the ball away,” Carroll said. “He thought he was clear stepping up, which he did all day long. So they were just so fortunate that that happened the way they got him. But he did a marvelous job of moving in the pocket today.”
With the Seahawks losing by two points, on the surface it would appear that Seattle not getting a field goal out of either of those drives could have been the difference. But not according to Wilson.
“That’s our mentality,” Wilson said. “We play aggressive. It’s the playoffs and let’s see what we can get. That play has worked for us so many times, and we didn’t get it this time.
“But it didn’t define the game. A lot of people will question that, but it didn’t define the game. We went up at one point, and there’s so many other plays in that game that we could’ve done better, or that we did really well. So I think it was a great call, to be honest with you.”
Where’s the pass rush?
The absence of Seattle’s sack leader Chris Clemons was definitely felt on Sunday. The Seahawks failed to sack Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan once, even though he threw the ball 34 times. The Seahawks also finished with just one quarterback hurry.
“Absolutely,” Carroll said, when asked if his defense missed Clemons. “How could you not? He’s our best player in rushing the passer for three years. So of course we did. Mike Morgan had to play. Mike hasn’t rushed the passer 10 snaps in his career. So that’s how we went with it.”
Carroll said because the defense couldn’t get pressure up front with just the front four, the Seahawks had to blitz more than they normally do. Bruce Irvin, starting in place of Clemons, finished with just one tackle, no sacks and no quarterback hurries.
“It is, what it is,” Irvin said about the game. “We needed more stops. We kind of waited too late and time ran out on us.”
White does some talking
He declined to talk leading up to Sunday’s game, but Atlanta receiver Roddy White had a couple things to say when he matched up with cornerback Richard Sherman.
With the Seahawks providing coverage over the top on Julio Jones and Tony Gonzalez, White was frequently targeted one-on-one against Sherman. For the most part, the Stanford product held up well, finishing with three pass deflections.
However, White did beat Sherman deep for a 47-yard touchdown, and got in the Seattle cornerback’s face afterward.
“He’s a bit of a talker, so I just asked him to talk to me for a little while,” White said. “He didn’t have too much to say after that play, so he kind of walked to the sidelines. Other than that, that was about it.”
Sherman uncharacteristically declined to talk to reporters after the game.
Seattle did not force a punt until 7:34 left in the game. … The Falcons played the second half without defensive end John Abraham, who re-injured his ailing right ankle. … Hall of Fame defensive tackle Cortez Kennedy was on hand to watch the game.