By SCOTT M. JOHNSON
KIRKLAND – Make no bones about it, this one probably won’t make the NFL’s list of all-time great games.
When the Seattle Seahawks and Atlanta Falcons face off at the Georgia Dome on Sunday, it will be a matchup of two teams without anything on the line. Both Seattle (4-8) and Atlanta (3-10) have been eliminated from playoff contention.
“Well, it might just be family,” Falcons cornerback Ray Buchanan said when asked about the fan turnout. “I don’t know how many people Seattle’s got that have got family up here in Atlanta, but it might just be family out there in the stands. I mean, you might be able to hear my mama screaming.”
Although no official ticket count was available, the Falcons aren’t expected to sell out. Atlanta hasn’t sold out a home game all season.
“There’s plenty of good seats,” Buchanan said. “So if you got a ticket that you bought all the way up the third level, you might be able to sit in the front row.”
In addition to their paltry records, the two teams rank among the league’s bottom seven teams in both offense and defense. The Falcons rank 30th out of 31 teams in yards per game (249.4), while the Seahawks are last in the NFL in yards allowed per game (403.1). In fact, Seattle is on pace to shatter the team record for yards allowed in a season (6,029, or 376.8 per game).
Doesn’t exactly make for a dream matchup.
“You can talk about playoff intensity and all that, and maybe that’s not going to be there because the playoffs aren’t on the line,” Seahawks quarterback Jon Kitna said. “But it’s going to be an NFL football game, and there shouldn’t be anything different from a normal, everyday Sunday.”
Despite the lack of motivation, Seahawks coach Mike Holmgren promises his team will do more than just show up. He talked to his players about staying focused, and said Wednesday that he won’t spend too much time evaluating players for the future.
“We will never take the field in any season, in any game, thinking about next year,” Holmgren said. “We will never do that. We will never think about the next week. We are thinking about that particular game that particular day, how we win that game and which people do I need to win that game. That will never change.”
Huard politely said he was tired of answering the same questions every week, mainly about his health.
“It obviously hasn’t gone the way that anybody would have hoped for, but that’s football,” Huard said when asked about a season that has included a variety of injuries. “There are a lot of guys that get beat up around this league. It seems that my last opportunity to play has been cut short, and it’s a little bit frustrating. But I have to keep my head up and keep going.”
The latest injury came while the Seahawks were in a formation called “empty backfield,” in which there were five receivers split wide and no one other than Huard behind the offensive line. Huard got blindsided by blitzing linebacker John Mobley and eventually had to leave the game.
“I didn’t see (Mobley) until after the fact,” Huard said. “… I should have still looked to my blind side and I didn’t, and I obviously paid for it.”
After watching the play on film, Atlanta’s Buchanan said it was the kind of play that makes defensive players “lick your chops.”
“It was weird to me to see that they would spread out with a five-wide receiver set and then have (Huard) drop back into a seven-step drop and expect him not to get hit,” Buchanan said. “That was kind of confusing. Normally you see guys spread out with the empty set, you would see quicker-type patterns where the QB wouldn’t have to hold the ball. It was shocking to me.”
Perhaps the most telling came when the former Pro Bowler was asked about Seattle’s receiving corps.
“We don’t take anybody lightly,” Buchanan said, “but it’s not the type that you have sit up there and lose sleep over.”