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Seahawks-Falcons turning point: When Earl Thomas became his old self again

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Thanks to a defense that didn’t panic and overreact, the safety was in position to make a game-changing play.

NFL: Atlanta Falcons at Seattle Seahawks
Earl Thomas runs with the ball after his key interception.
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The Seattle Seahawks beat the Atlanta Falcons 26-24 on Sunday, escaping with a victory after blowing a 14-point lead and then coming back from a 7-point deficit at home. It’s safe to say that in a game like this there are a myriad of “turning points” but surely we can find one that rules them all.

This should be an easy one, however: Under four minutes remaining, Seahawks down one point, the Falcons have 1st-and-10 following an 11-yard gain by Devonta Freeman. Then ... Seattle got the break they needed so badly.

Earl Thomas capped off a “Remember me? Earl Thomas?” day with an interception off of Matt Ryan that was deflected by Richard Sherman. At the time of the interception, Atlanta’s slim one-point lead could have gotten significantly more dire for the Seahawks with another scoring drive.

Julio Jones had a mostly great day against the Seahawks’ secondary, thanks to his ability to find the soft spots in the zone coverage and Ryan’s ability to put the ball right where it needed to be. So it made sense that they would try and go back to what became their bread and butter with the game on the line.

What ended up happening, however, perfectly illustrates one of the reasons why the Seattle defense is typically such a stout unit.

Take a look at where the defenders are as the ball glances off of Jones’ hands.

There is absolutely an opening there for Jones. He would have had an easy first down, and for a player of his caliber, he may have turned it into even more. But check out the margin for error. All it takes is a pass that’s slightly off-line, slightly over or under thrown or a mistake by the wide receiver, and suddenly you’re looking at a fairly easy turnover. Ryan and Jones are one of the premier quarterback-receiver duos in the league, so they won’t look back on this and lament the play call.

However, you can see why so many teams will shy away from attempting a throw like this one.

With the game on the line, despite the fact that the Falcons offense had been humming along for nearly the entirety of the second half, the Seahawks didn’t change up their game plan. They didn’t panic and start dropping into more man coverage, rather they did what they are designed to do best. It may have been frustrating to watch in the 0-21 third quarter, and it may have almost allowed the Atlanta offense to take home the victory, but when it mattered most, the Seattle defense stuck to basics, and made the Falcons pay for their costly mistake.

And Thomas reminded us all of why he’s considered one of the great defensive players of his generation.