Two-thirds of the core of Seattle’s Legion of Boom, Richard Sherman (left) and Kam Chancellor, stand on the sidelines late in the Seahawks’ 34-31 loss to Atlanta on Monday in Seattle. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

Two-thirds of the core of Seattle’s Legion of Boom, Richard Sherman (left) and Kam Chancellor, stand on the sidelines late in the Seahawks’ 34-31 loss to Atlanta on Monday in Seattle. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

Seahawks’ battered secondary holds up against reigning MVP

Seattle’s secondary corrected itself despite stumbling early in the game against the Atlanta Falcons.

SEATTLE — At the end of the day, it would be hard to pin this on the secondary.

Atlanta quarterback Matt Ryan had his moments, to be sure, but if you’re looking for reasons the Seattle Seahawks fell to the Falcons 34-31 Monday at CenturyLink Field, that’s probably not the first place you should point your finger.

Things looked bad for the Seahawks secondary after last week’s game, when All-Pro defensive backs Richard Sherman and Kam Chancellor were lost to injuries.

And then, when starting cornerback Shaquill Griffin went down on the second play of the game — and the Falcons scored touchdowns on their first two possessions — well, things looked worse than bleak.

But the defense collected itself reasonably well, and when all was said and done, the Seattle offense had the ball at the end of the game with an opportunity to tie or win.

Given the quality of the opposition and all the injuries on defense, you’ll take that.

“Matt Ryan’s an MVP quarterback, and we still had a chance to win the game,” Seattle safety Earl Thomas said. “He made some good throws on us, but that’s what happens in this league.”

Ryan, the NFL’s reigning Most Valuable Player, completed 19 of 27 passes for 195 yards and two touchdowns, which is pretty tame for him.

“Honestly, I think it went pretty well, man,” Seattle cornerback Jeremy Lane said. “The score doesn’t show the outcome of how we really played. I think we did well out there. For being new guys who haven’t been on the same page, today I thought we did well coming in when someone went out.”

Lane started for Sherman at left cornerback, and after Griffin left the game with a possible concussion, Byron Maxwell was pressed into service at right cornerback.

The Seahawks signed Maxwell this week. He played for Seattle from 2011 through 2014 then spent 2015 with Philadelphia and 2016 in Miami.

Miami cut him after two games this year.

Lane was supposed to be part of the trade that brought left tackle Duane Brown to Seattle from Houston. But he failed his physical exam in Houston, came back to the Seahawks, and was in the starting lineup three weeks later.

Add that to the injuries to defensive linemen Cliff Avril and Jarran Reed, and the Seahawks (6-4) finished Monday’s game with only six players who would be starting if everybody were healthy.

“We just have to play the game. It was tough to not play with them,” Seattle linebacker Bobby Wagner said of Seattle’s injured playmakers, “but we have full confidence in the guys that were stepping into place. There’s a communication that happens when you play with somebody for five years. I felt like our communication was good. We just had to make the plays to get off the field.”

That was the one bugaboo that really hurt the defense as Atlanta (6-4) was 9-for-14 on third down conversions, at times making it look easy.

“Third down really hurt us tonight,” Lane said. “I don’t really know what really happened. That’s what film is for. We couldn’t really get off the field, and that played a big part.”

Neither Lane nor Maxwell was the victim on Ryan’s touchdown passes, but each had a critical pass interference penalty to help set up Atlanta scores.

Lane was called for interference in the end zone on the first series of the game, a 25-yard penalty that put the ball at the 1-yard line and set up a touchdown.

Then, late in the second quarter, Maxwell was beaten badly on a deep route and had to interfere to prevent a huge gain, a penalty that helped set up an Atlanta field goal.

Also, Lane dropped a potential interception on a tipped ball at the goal line, a play that would have prevented the Falcons’ second touchdown.

Still, after all that, the Seattle defense held on Atlanta’s last two third-down attempts, which gave the offense a chance to pull out a victory.

On third-and-goal from the 3, Seattle kept running back Tevin Coleman just out of the end zone to force a field goal that made the score 34-23 with 3:49 remaining.

Then, after the Seattle offense drove for a touchdown and two-point conversion to make it 34-31 with 3:00 left, defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson got Seattle’s only sack of the game to give the ball back to the offense with 1:46 left.

“We just did our part,” Lane said. “The offense usually comes through for us, and this time we just ran out of time, that’s all.”

Wagner said that Seattle played the game the way it normally would on defense.

He said there were no significant changes to the strategy or game plan to accommodate for the injuries, but it was clear that the Falcons played the game differently than they would have with Sherman on the field.

“There’s a different thought process for the offense when you have Sherm and Kam out there. So it’s a different mindset,” Wagner said. “You don’t throw to one side as much when he’s over there.”

But, although it was a painful loss, Wagner said if the defense continues to play like it did Monday night, the season still holds plenty of promise.

“We’ve got it. We’ve just got to put it together,” he said.

“It’s not over. The season has a long time to go. There’s a lot of games,” Wagner said. “We’ll be all right.”

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