Here’s how the Seattle Seahawks grade out in their 26-24 victory over the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday:
For the most part, the offense did what it needed to do. Quarterback Russell Wilson was efficient in the passing game, going 25-for-37 for 270 yards despite several drops, and he showed a slightly greater willingness to scramble than the previous three games, suggesting his injuries (ankle, knee) are bothering him less. Tight end Jimmy Graham (six catches for 89 yards) had his third straight high-impact game and appears fully settled into the offense. Seattle’s run game never got up to full speed, but the running backs managed to punch the ball into the end zone once the Seahawks drove inside the 10-yard line.
Something happened to the defense in the third quarter. Seattle dominated Atlanta’s NFL-leading offense in the first half, allowing just three points and 86 yards as Atlanta had no run game and quarterback Matt Ryan was hit eight times. But it all fell apart in the third, when breakdowns in the secondary helped the Falcons gain 252 yards and score three touchdowns to surge ahead — and led to cornerback Richard Sherman going berserk on the sidelines. Fortunately for the Seahawks, they righted themselves in the fourth quarter and finished with a flourish, preventing any thought of Atlanta making the kind of last-second comeback it pulled off against Seattle in the 2012 playoffs.
Special teams nearly cost the Seahawks this game. A bad snap on a 29-yard field-goal attempt in the fourth quarter led to kicker Steven Hauschka missing his first field goal of the season, which could have been the difference. So could the blocked extra point later in the quarter that prevented Seattle from tying the game 24-24. The Seahawks had some issues in the return game, too, as Tyler Lockett still doesn’t look like he’s at full speed, and Seattle had some untimely penalties. However, the kicking game earned a measure of redemption with Hauschka’s 44-yarder standing up as the game-winner.
The Seahawks made all the right calls in the first half. This was particularly true on defense as Seattle dialed up the blitz more frequently than in previous games to great effect. The Seahawks used a hybrid approach against Atlanta star receiver Julio Jones, with Sherman covering him when he lined up outside and handing him off when Jones lined up in the slot, and it produced mixed results. Then there was the big dust up on the sidelines in the third quarter, when Sherman got into a heated argument with most of the defense, and it seemed to take the coaches some time to settle things down, though they eventually succeeded.
The Seahawks may have made it harder on themselves than they needed to, but a win is a win, particularly when it comes against a team that was 4-1 and had just beaten each of last year’s Super Bowl participants. While the defense showed its first vulnerability of the season in the third quarter, it was important for Seattle to recover and not allow the ghosts of last season’s late collapses to resurface. If this was the Seahawks’ first true test of the season, then they managed to pass, even if it wasn’t with flying colors.