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Falcons dominate Seahawks: 6 winners and losers from Seattle’s season-ending loss

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Divisional Round - Seattle Seahawks v Atlanta Falcons Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

The 2016-17 Seattle Seahawks season is over, and just like the 2016-17 Washington Huskies football team, it ended in the Georgia Dome. Just like UW’s game against Alabama, it started brightly, and crashed spectacularly. The little mistakes became huge mistakes, and it all snowballed out of control. Your end result is a 36-20 win for the Falcons, which probably is a fair enough reflection of the game as a whole.

With the Atlanta Falcons heading to the NFC Championship Game, let’s look at the winners and losers from the final game we’ll see from the Seattle Seahawks until September.

Winners

Devin Hester

I didn’t think Hester had anything left in the tank after his stint in Baltimore, but he sure proved me wrong. Multiple big kickoff returns, plus that 79-yard punt return (yeah yeah, I know) brought back memories of when he was with the Chicago Bears. He was brought in because of the injury to Tyler Lockett, and filled in more than admirably. In my own little world, Hester, Dante Hall, and Eric Metcalf are in the Hall of Fame just strictly for their abilities in the return game. Enjoy retirement, Mr. Hester.

Paul Richardson

If there’s a silver lining to Lockett’s injury, it’s that we now know how legitimately talented Richardson is when he’s at full strength. He had 4 catches for 83 yards, and almost had a touchdown in the 2nd quarter, but it was rightly called back after replays showed that Jalen Collins had touched Richardson when he was on the ground. This is an extremely encouraging development heading into next year.

Michael Bennett

Excluding Matt Ryan’s three kneeldowns, Atlanta was held to 3.9 yards per carry, 0.7 yards below their season average. Bennett was a major reason for that, as he helped close down running lanes, made multiple tackles for losses, and recorded a sack on Matt Ryan. It’s so great to have Bennett signed to a long-term deal.

Russell Wilson, Scrambler

Wilson (sadly) led the team in rushing with 49 yards, but he looked liked the old Wilson in terms of scrambling out of near-sacks to extend plays, as well as to take off when there was open space available. He’ll have a whole offseason to heal up, and I think we’ll see the “old” Russell return when September rolls around.

Doug Baldwin

His 4th quarter score was his 6th postseason TD reception, which ties him for the all-time franchise record with Jermaine Kearse. Baldwin is going to be the Seahawks #1 WR for many years to come, while Jermaine Kearse may not be on the team for longer than one more season, so I’m thinking Baldwin is going to be in sole possession of 1st place soon.

Steven Hauschka

Hey, he didn’t miss an extra point or a field goal today. That’s nice, I suppose. I’m really reaching to find six winners here.

Losers

Game management

Seattle had 4th and 1 at their own 39 with 4 minutes left in the 1st half. Pete Carroll opted to trust his defense and play the field position game, knowing Atlanta would get the ball to start the 2nd half. Atlanta had a 99-yard TD drive and didn’t face a 3rd down even once. Carroll later kicked the field goal on 4th and 6 at the Falcons 8 with just over 3 minutes to go in the 3rd quarter, down 26-10. Pete Carroll repeatedly tried to trust a shorthanded defense to make stops they were unable to make. While I’m not arguing they would’ve won the game had they gone for it on both of those 4th downs, Carroll played this one too conservatively, and you can’t do that on the road against an elite offense.

Red Zone offense

Atlanta has the worst red zone defense in the NFL. The Seahawks had three trips to the red zone and came away with a touchdown on their opening drive, then two field goals after that. The Falcons were always going to put up points. It was on the offense to not leave points on the field, and unfortunately that’s what happened. Seattle’s offense could not consistently sustain drives against a bad defense, and that’s been the story of their season. Russell Wilson’s missed TD to Doug Baldwin on their second drive was one of the biggest missed plays of the game, and Wilson’s 3rd down passing struggles continue to be a massive problem.

Offensive line

Russell Wilson was hurried on half of his dropbacks and got sacked three times, which includes Rees Odhiambo tripping him for a safety. George Fant got put in the spin cycle by Brooks Reed. Garry Gilliam got embarrassed by Vic Beasley on a failed 3rd and 2 run play. Germain Ifedi unfortunately suffered an ankle injury on the opening drive. A 97-year-old Dwight Freeney was repeatedly in Seattle’s backfield. The running game was almost completely shut down after the first two drives. This was a poor showing against a less-than-stellar Atlanta defensive front.

Kevin Pierre-Louis

KPL’s needless holding penalty a million yards away from Devin Hester turned 1st and goal at Atlanta’s 7 into the game-changing sequence of events that shall not be rehashed. The 2014 4th round draft pick has struggled to find playing time on defense, and made an inexcusable mistake today on special teams that changed the game considerably. His needless error also summed up the poor special teams play that is a major reason that Seattle didn’t have the #2 seed.

Steven Terrell

He’s no Earl Thomas, we shouldn’t expect him to be half as good as Earl Thomas. Steven Terrell was Brian Russell reincarnated on Saturday. The entire defense was poor, but no one on the field was as excruciatingly bad as Terrell. His tackling was atrocious and he was ripped apart in coverage. Whereas Kelcie McCray has proven to be serviceable when filling in for Kam Chancellor, Terrell’s been flat out awful. Seattle has to improve its defensive depth in the offseason, and free safety is one of those areas.

DeShawn Shead

This isn’t related to his performance on the field. He went down early in the 3rd quarter on a non-contact knee injury, which Pete Carroll said was a possible torn ACL. If true, that’s devastating news, and it may affect his status as far as being able to play next season. Shead had earned his role as the starting CB2 last season after Cary Williams was just too inept to stay on the roster. The 27-year-old is a restricted free agent, so it will be really interesting to see what happens with regards to Shead’s long-term health and his future with the team.