We ended the first quarter with Aaron Curry making a solid play on Michael Turner. Atlanta has 2nd and 8 and Seattle needs to get their defense off the field. The offense had one 1st down in less than four minutes with the ball in the first. They need a chance to gain some rhythm and give the defense a rest; the Falcons are making both tasks very difficult. Let's get to it.
Punt, fair catch at the 11. Check out the shift - all skill players except Marshawn Lynch move - on 1st down, which looks the same as the mishap in the 1st quarter:
No snap, everyone is set, it worked. So, what play do we get?
Lynch runs for a few, plus this facemask penalty you see above - realize this actually stopped Lynch and turned him backwards, it was that blatant - for a 17 yard gain! A run right on 1st for -3 brings up 2nd, but then Brent Grimes illegally contacts Mike Williams. Kind of ticky tacky in my opinion, but it's another 1st down! Former stud-safety and now commentator John Lynch says how Tarvaris Jackson acknowledged in interviews; Mike Williams isn't a guy who will create a ton of separation and he'll have to adjust to throwing into tight windows with BMW. Hmmmmmm.
Seattle ran this next concept in a similar area of the field last week - and in the first two weeks as well - and the Falcons were all over it.
Seattle in '12.' Check it out, another shift (the shift isn't necessarily included in "concept" of the play), but to the other side. It's a decoy...so we're supposed to be thinking run up the middle or left...?
Instead we have play action, naked bootleg. Miller comes across as the receiver, but the linebacker has a beat on him. Atlanta knows Seattle runs this play often enough on 1st down (on others as well) to get a few yards.
They get a yard. Seattle throws from shotgun, empty set on 2nd and 9, leading us to 3rd and 4. Brace yourself...Seattle in '12' and Lynch will motion out wide. Mike Williams is the target.
(This motion and formation looks similar to the screen to Lynch from the first quarter of Week 3, the major difference being shotgun and the tight ends are not in-line here.)
James Carpenter throws a very nice delayed cut block to get his rusher to the ground. The three receivers up top are very bunched. Rice is covered down below. Williams is where Jackson is looking, and he's covered. Remember that whole tight windows with BMW thing...
Turning the tipped ball into a turnover is something this defense does very well. Jackson put it into a tight window and the Falcons capitalized. Another note; Seattle used a fullback twice on their first three plays. We haven't seen one in the 10 plays since.
Atlanta ball on the Seattle 37. Turner breaks some tackles on a 1st down run and then Ryan scrambles after a play action bootleg:
Red Bryant can't recover off the fake and Ryan easily gets the 1st.
After fullback Ovie Mughelli drops a short pass on 1st, Atlanta makes it look too easy. Atlanta in '22' versus an over 4-3. The fullback releases from the in-line left spot - Aaron Curry follows - and watch the underlined tight end come across.
At handoff both David Hawthorne and Atari Bigby are watching the front-side gap. The tight end takes Clemons and seals the backside.
Turner cuts back and follows his tight end. Hawthorne and Bigby are the two men with a chance to make the play.
Hawthorne can't recover and Bigby is too late. Turner isn't even running full speed here. Ugh. 14-0.
Gus Bradley tries to rally the troops:
Leon Washington has an unexciting return to the 16. Lynch runs for two on 1st and then this chaotic sequence occurs. These next three plays are nuts.
Seattle in '02' with two tight ends right, Falcons in nickel. Doug Baldwin is the circled guy. Four rush, clean pocket, Jackson stares down Baldwin...
The plus is that the 'backer missed, the minus is the throw turns Baldwin back a little and exposes him...
McCoy shows he knows it's all about the ball - as he should know after attending USC - and makes a hustle play. Love that he fought for it too. After a challenge by Atlanta we learn this was an incompletion. Notice Baldwin is still down. He got rocked.
So now it's 3rd and 8 and it's bounce-back time for Baldwin. 'Hawks in '11' versus nickel. Baldwin circled, and he'll basically run straight down, above the numbers.
T-Jax has a clean pocket and notice the two guys from the backfield pre-snap, release. This opens just enough of a window...watch Baldwin's adjustment and body control, through the catch and accelerating out...
20 on the throw, 10 more after the catch. T-Jax clearly likes Baldwin and I like Seattle's confidence in the undrafted free agent.
However, we also know Jackson likes Sidney Rice...Seattle in '12.'
Man jumps, flag...TAKE A SHOT!...
Looks left, looks right...
TOUCHDOWN!!!! Talk about arm strength...and considering the situation, pretty on the friggin' money. I remember watching this ball hang in the air forever in person. Rice gets a 15 yard penalty here for a throat-slash celebration. Maaannnnn...
Last week I gave a couple of screen shots of Jeron Johnson almost getting a punt block; watch him evade his own teammates, and the "trash," before making the play on the kickoff.
John Schneider mentioned him on the radio during combine week; he may be put in position to make a few more plays in 2012.
The Falcons immediately go to work with a play-action, dump pass for the 1st. Then Seattle gets solid team run D led by Brandon Mebane on 1st and then Brandon Browner shows a new element of his physicality:
Play action fake, Browner jams Jones and the left tackle comes out to the flat...
To block for Julio on the screen. Notice the jam threw Jones off and perhaps got him to slip coming back out of his break...
Synchronized pass rushing.
Synchronized celebrating. I love Browner...I was jacked up after this one. So 3rd and long, big chance to get off the field and get some momentum. But, we see something different from Seattle; an amoeba/psycho package with seven DB's ('bandit') in the game. Seattle is trying to manufacture pressure.
Bigby moves in to Clemons' spot, and Clemons is now over the A-gap (center) with Hawthorne, who crept down. Jacquizz Rodgers has moved into the backfield for Atlanta and now Browner is playing well off and it looks like zone. Notice that Julio Jones will run a route over the middle.
Hawthorne is the only blitzer as Rodgers releases and Bigby takes him - thus seven DB's drop. Jones is open. Earl Thomas sees this...
But can't make the diving play. Off goes Jones...
and he is pushed out by Johnson at the Seattle 36. More solid team run d - Clinton McDonald and Alan Branch led the charge on each play respectively - puts Atlanta back in 3rd and 7. Another legit shot to get off the field. It's worth noting K.J. Wright and Aaron Curry are both seeing playing time. Anyway, this provides a chance for the D to get it done, once again. What's the call?
More 'bandit' amoeba, but this time it's man coverage. Rodgers will release from the backfield and we have another four man pressure. Watch Roddy White on the top of the screen, covered by Trufant...
Four of the five Seattle corners are stuck to their men...like it...Brock comes late through the middle and pressures...
Ryan gets the throw off to White for the 1st down and unfortunately the Falcons expose the one corner not stuck to his man; Jeron Johnson is in there again on the tackle. An ET, B-Gap run blitz makes it 2nd and 10, but that doesnt matter. The Falcons are finding ways to move the ball downfield. Ryan throws the deep out on the right sideline for 16, to White over Trufant, one of his 'butter' throws. Trufant never had a chance.
Atlanta goes '23' on the goal line for their third and fourth goal line plays - 4/4 total. Again they score on 2nd down, but this time via run not pass. On the play; Turner slips out of Wright's grasp and Hawthorne trips, but then Leroy Hill makes a fantastic effort:
11 plays over 5:58, 21-7 Atlanta. Linebacker coach Ken Norton Jr. rallying the troops:
Seattle had opportunities to get off the field. The base defense was strong on most early downs, but it was the complex blitzes on 3rd and long that were killer - I think an example showing that Seattle needs more versatile athleticism/explosiveness added to the defense so they can field the personnel to make those packages work. Perhaps that talent is still developing on the roster.
Anyway, Atlanta was in a two-back set on every down except 3rd and long; that's 9 of 11 plays. Atlanta came into this one trying to re-establish the power football identity and they certainly have shown it thus far.
Seattle gets the ball at their 17. We see the naked-boot call again for nada. After 2nd down is the two minute warning, then Seattle goes 3 and out. On the punt three missed tackles (M-rob, Malcolm Smith and K.J.) don't create much damage, thankfully.
Atlanta ball on their 38. Marcus trufant breaks one up on 1st and 2nd down looks to be successful but...
Tony Gonzalez shakes himself out of this Thomas tackle. Instead of 3rd and long, it's 3rd and 1. Turner bowls forward for the 1st and they take a timeout. On 1st Ryan scrambles:
Then Atari Bigby tackles Tony Gonzalez on a very similar looking play to the one we saw Earl Thomas miss:
To make it 3rd down. Lastly, Brandon Browner jams Julio Jones:
...Browner actually gets a hand on this. They get off the field. The Falcons kick the field goal, to make it 24-7. Seattle returns the kick to their 23. They run with Justin Forsett on their only down and the clock runs out.
1st half stats: Atlanta is crushing on 3rd down, has more than 3:1 first downs, and has 22 runs with a 4.2 YPC average compared to Seattle six rushes with a 0.8 average (including scrambles). 72 of Seattle's 138 yards came on two plays. No sacks for either team, which is a major improvement for Seattle's offensive line.
The second half will be up next week.