Saturday marks the 14th playoff game the Seattle Seahawks have played under Pete Carroll. That’s an incredible achievement that doesn’t get enough recognition: With a win over the Atlanta Falcons, the Seahawks will move on to have nearly played a season’s worth of extra games under Carroll in just seven years.
Interestingly enough, three of the previous 13 came against MVP quarterbacks. Atlanta’s QB Matt Ryan is likely to be the fourth.
After posting career-numbers in the second season under offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan, Ryan looks to further himself as an elite quarterback by winning just his second playoff game. That’s something Russell Wilson did in only two years, but I digress. (Ryan is in his ninth season. I guess I didn’t digress. What does digress even mean, you know? Digress is a funny word.)
I don’t think the onus to win this game is entirely on Ryan, honestly. I think he’ll eat some and he’ll get eaten some. That’s the nature of Seattle football and it’s exactly what we saw in their first meeting this year. But if Ryan wants to feel validated when he gets that MVP trophy, he’ll want to win this game. The problem is that not many quarterbacks have done well in the playoffs against Carroll and as you would expect, most of them were really, really good.
The complete list of QBs against Carroll’s Seahawks in the playoffs looks like this:
The best of the best:
- Peyton Manning, 2013
Manning won MVP in 2013 and broke all kinds of records, throwing for 5,477 yards and 55 touchdowns with a passer rating of 115.1. Well-noted for not playing as well in the playoffs, Manning had thrown four touchdowns and one interception in the previous two games, with 630 yards. His touchdown and most of his yards in the Super Bowl came when the game was already over.
- Cam Newton, 2015
Newton won MVP in 2015 and had 45 total touchdowns, including 35 through the air. Though Carolina won the game and went up 31-0, Newton wasn’t the reason for it. The first play of the game was a 59-yard run by Jonathan Stewart. The second touchdown was a pick-six. When they needed to put the game away in the second half, Newton couldn’t and Seattle almost completed the comeback. I would his performance here as pretty average.
- Aaron Rodgers, 2014
Rodgers is a two-time MVP, including in 2014 when he threw 38 touchdowns and only five interceptions. Despite the gift of opportunity (Russell Wilson’s four interceptions) Rodgers was completely contained in this game, throwing two interceptions of his own. Put some blame on Mike McCarthy’s conservative playcalling for allowing the Seahawks to get back in the game and win it, but Rodgers didn’t do enough over the 60 minutes to get it done (never saw the ball in OT) and he had perhaps his worst performance of the season at the absolute wrong time.
These three MVPs combined to go 69-of-105, 619 yards, three touchdowns, four interceptions, 5.89 Y/A, 65.7% completions, and a passer rating of 75. Nice.
The best performance of any of them came from Jay Cutler, but that was in the 2010 season, before Richard Sherman arrived and before Michael Bennett and Cliff Avril arrived, and before Bobby Wagner and KJ Wright arrived ... look, Carroll hadn’t installed his real defense yet.
Tom Brady played well in the Super Bowl but: Cliff Avril missed the second half. Kam Chancellor, Sherman, and Earl Thomas were all injured. Brady was dominated in the first half and came alive after Avril left the game in the second.
Six of the 14 quarterbacks threw two interceptions.
Many of these quarterbacks did work late in the game with Seattle leading. They may have been in “prevent” but I won’t pretend like I did that research.
Cutler was the only one to top 7.3 yards per attempt, which is absolutely incredible. I mean, four of these guys are going to the Hall of Fame. The ones who aren’t include MVP Newton, who could be a Hall guy eventually, and Ryan, who could be a Hall guy eventually, and Robert Griffin III, the rookie of the year, and Colin Kaepernick, Matthew Stafford, and Teddy Bridgewater. You get to the playoffs, you rarely face a Brock Osweiler type. They’re facing the best of the best right now with Ryan, but they did that before with Manning, Rodgers, Brady, and Newton. Not having Thomas is significant, but having Kam, Bennett, and Frank Clark is also notable.
I don’t think that Ryan will have a field day against the Seahawks defense. It’s just something that doesn’t happen. But without Thomas, it’s certainly possible. I just think if the Falcons are to win this game, it won’t be because Ryan had a great day, it’ll be because Wilson had a bad one.
That’s what I’m putting this game on. The defense will do its job.