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This Week in Defense: Seattle's front seven are the Teammates of the Week

Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

The Narrative:

Heading into this game after two tough defensive performances against the run, everyone, myself included, had somewhat forgotten about the Legion Of Boom. Instead, we were all focused on back-to-back 200 yard runners that had come out of nowhere. No one talked much about Atlanta's passing game outside of the possible slight impact of a returning Roddy White. Some of the experts even pegged this as a game Seattle was just itching to lose. I know that a number of us felt the same way, as the talk radio waves indicated all week leading up to the game.

[1st Qtr 14:56 1st and 10] S.Jackson right guard to ATL 16 for 2 yards (T.McDaniel).

The Falcons look to test the Seahawks early with the run, but something I noted before heading into this game was just how bad their right side was. Not only do Brandon Mebane and Tony McDaniel do work here, it takes all of Steven Jackson's might to get through the line of scrimmage as Bobby Wagner and K.J. Wright fill the hole. Team tackle.

This is just a mismatch - advantage Seahawks - despite the lack of Red Bryant, as you'll soon see. The note I like here is just how well Michael Bennett and Mebane combined to stop the run in this game. Mebane gets great push, and when you add in Bennett's speed - it's just tough for most guys to get a hold on them together. (No pun intended.)


[1st Qtr 13:53 3rd and 4] (Shotgun) M.Ryan pass incomplete short right to S.Jackson (E.Thomas).

This had me laughing when I saw it. As fans, we hear the words "we saw something on film," but rarely do we understand how that plays out on the field. If you've seen my other articles on the defense this year, you'll have seen this alignment before - where the tackles and ends are scrunched together and there's an extra guy tucked in there on an end or over the center space.

K.J. Wright is at the line of scrimmage and the alignment of the secondary against the bunch formation says blitz look to Matt Ryan. At the snap, he looks to Tony Gonzalez. The problem? Seattle brings no pressure or any stunts. Matt Ryan looks right as Bennett obliterates the guard/tackle gap knocking both of them down as Cliff Avril applies pressure - thus forcing him to try and dump it off to Roddy White, who gets smacked by Earl Thomas.


[1st Qtr 7:32 1st and 10] M.Ryan pass deep middle to R.White to ATL 40 for 20 yards (E.Thomas).

Roddy White is bunched up with Tony Gonzalez here. Kam Chancellor comes down to match up; Browner is supposed to pick up Roddy White and does, but bites on the outside look of a fade. He freezes in place rather than getting sticky with White, who now has the perfect space to make an in-cut on his route - right in front of Earl Thomas for a big completion. This is a textbook example of all the amount of "mistake" it takes to give up a big play.


[1st Qtr 6:13 2nd and 10] M.Ryan pass incomplete short left to J.Rodgers.

Atlanta runs a pick play here but Bruce is all over it. He makes a bit of a mistake though by hesitating and looking for the football. However, Ryan had to unload it or risk being under pressure and Irvin being right there makes it a tough throw. Irvin's awareness here shows his potential as a linebacker.

This is a speedster in Rodgers but were it not for a hesitation for a peek by Irvin he's step for step with this kid.

[1st Qtr 6:01 3rd and 10] M.Ryan pass incomplete short right to R.White (B.Browner).

Browner's almost interception is all about understanding situational football. Pete Carroll preaches it a ton and Brandon Browner was once a recipient of it's lessons once giving up a long bomb on 3rd and 19 vs the Redskins and Rex Grossman.

The Falcons use motion here and wind up with Tony Gonzalez and Roddy White bunched once again like earlier in the drive. This time though, Tony stays in to block and Browner winds up underneath the route by White. What makes this play is Walter Thurmond's coverage.

Thurmond doesn't really have enough depth on the play, making sure to track the flat route by number 19. However rather than get sucked up on that route he stays back far enough to force Matt Ryan to hold the ball and then try to lead White to a reception. This allows Brandon's length to become involved as he gets great extension on the diving interception attempt. However, if Thurmond does suck up on this route there's loads of space for Ryan to try and fit this ball into White for a first down, no matter how good the coverage is by Browner. Credit the blitz for giving Ryan little time to consider more than one option as well.


[1st Qtr :30 3rd and 3] M.Ryan pass short middle to S.Jackson to ATL 19 for 2 yards (K.Wright).

K.J. Wright puts an exclamation point on a dominant defensive quarter as the Seahawks force another three and out. I note this play - in which Jackson sneaks through the line as a dumpoff option over the middle and K.J. tackles him just short of the first down mark - because good teams are going to try this against us. Leaking backs out, screens, quick outs.

The secondary is so good the linebackers are going to start having to do much more heavy lifting especially with the likes of Darren Sproles coming up on the schedule. The best part of this play though is how quickly both K.J. and Wagner close on Jackson. It won't be easy getting YAC against these guys if they continue to play just like this.

[2nd Qtr 7:58 2nd and 10] S.Jackson right end to SEA 33 for 1 yard (T.McDaniel).

The Falcons try a toss run - Chancellor takes out the fullback, forcing Steven Jackson to stay inside where all his help is coming to greet him. Brandon Mebane makes the tackle and has been combining with McDaniel on most of these run stops in the first half.

Mebane played a lot more early in the game than the last couple of weeks so that's good to see. It's also key to note that Kam Chancellor was also key in more than a few of these run stops something we haven't seen since his amazing play in Arizona.


[2nd Qtr 7:18 3rd and 9] (Shotgun) M.Ryan pass short left to H.Douglas to SEA 35 for -2 yards (W.Thurmond).

Seattle had Atlanta's number on 3rd down. However, that's not why I'm spotlighting this play. I mention it because Chris Maragos is in at safety on this play, for whatever reason - perhaps this is Pete giving guys experience and play time, but it's really inconsequential as Thurmond makes a fantastic play on the screen pass, forcing a long field goal by the Falcons.

The recognition is quick but the reaction is quicker as Thurmond beats the blocker to the space he intends to occupy and takes the guy down for a loss. So many times guys see the play but still can't make it and this was the case a lot last year with Trufant as the nickle down defender.

[2nd Qtr 1:21 3rd and 4] (Shotgun) M.Ryan pass incomplete short left to T.Gonzalez.

Kam Chancellor gets a great press on Tony Gonzalez, with good coverage once Tony gets free, and has the ability to get himself back in on the deflection. This kind of play, much like the earlier play against Jackson by Wright, is an example of plays that must be made as Seattle will face the likes of Jimmy Graham and Vernon Davis again.


I like this one because it shows just how powerful Kam can be - rarely do you see anyone press Tony Gonzalez without a chip or some kind of initial help. This is good to see.

[3rd Qtr 7:12 2nd and 9] (Shotgun) M.Ryan pass short middle to T.Gonzalez to ATL 43 for 9 yards (K.Chancellor).
Seattle challenged the first down ruling, and the play was REVERSED.

The Falcons bring Gonzalez in motion and Kam is a bit slow to react. Unable to play press, he stands flat footed and Tony gets great position on an in-cut route. This gives Ryan a big space to put the football, and he throws on the money. Kam stops him well before he picks up the first down though, and wrestles him to the ground. I know quality linebackers that can't even accomplish this feat. We're gonna need these kinds of plays against New Orleans in three weeks.

Overall view of the game:

Atlanta was without Julio Jones and it stunned me just how long it took the Falcons' plays to develop. Several times, Matt Ryan just had to get rid of the ball because no one could shake loose from coverage and the secondary just constricted everything down. This meant that downfield throws that might develop took much too long and that Atlanta right side is just too bad right now to hold up against any decent pass rush.

The Falcons got very little push in the run game - one gap mistake gave them their field goal in the first half - but other than that they were unable to move the ball with any regularity.

Game Ball:

The Seahawks' front seven. There were so many guys that impacted this game - from Michael Bennett filling in for Red Bryant, to Bobby Wagner and K.J. Wright bringing the lumber in the run game, to Brandon Mebane and Tony McDaniel destroying the Atlanta line. However, I wanted to really spotlight Bennett here because he did such a great job against that right side all game, so he gets the nod in honorable mention.

Needs work:

Nothing specifically from this game stood out as needing focus.

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