Turn up the heat. Bring pressure.
That’s what the Seattle Seahawks have in store this afternoon at CenturyLink Field when they are on defense against the potent attack of the Atlanta Falcons.
After two games of pretty standard looks, Seahawks defensive coordinator Gus Bradley used more exotic blitz schemes in Seattle’s 13-10 win over Arizona, which caused some confusion for quarterback Kevin Kolb.
“We’re always going to mix it up,” Bradley said. “(We’ll use some) four-man rush – just like we did against Arizona. We’ve got to be able to play coverage too, but when the time is right and we feel good about the situations we’re going to try and get after him (Atlanta quarterback Matt Ryan) any way we can.
“So we’ve got guys we feel like are good blitzers, and we’re going to blitz them. We’re not going to be a team that blitzes 50 or 60 times a game. I think we blitzed around 30 times against Arizona, so we pick and choose our times.”
After failing to force a turnover and creating just two sacks in the first two games, the Seahawks sacked Kolb three times, deflected six passes, and had two interceptions that thwarted potential Arizona scoring drives.
The Seahawks will attempt to re-create that performance against Atlanta today. They know Ryan is one of the better quarterbacks in the league and can make plays. But like Kolb, if Ryan is pressured he will make mistakes.
Atlanta’s quarterback already has been sacked 13 times and hit 21 times this season. Ryan has thrown for 844 yards, five touchdowns and four interceptions in three games. He threw only nine interceptions the entire season last year.
“He moves around the pocket pretty good,” Brock said. “But obviously we want to get to him early and try and rattle him and not let him get comfortable. Because when he gets comfortable, he makes plays. And they’ve got a lot of weapons on that offense. So we want to try and get to him early.”
Added Seattle defensive tackle Brandon Mebane: “It’s all about putting pressure in the quarterback’s face because the quarterback can make or break the game, so that’s one of the key things for us.”
Ryan has several weapons at his disposal, including the ultimate possession receiver in Roddy White, who finished with a league-best 115 catches last season, and has 20 for 224 yards and a touchdown this season. But White’s been nursing a thigh injury all week and is questionable for today’s game.
On the opposite side of White is explosive rookie Julio Jones (13 catches for 215 yards). And working the middle of the field is one of the best tight ends ever to play the game in 35-year-old Tony Gonzalez (14 receptions, 173 yards, 3 TDs).
“They’ve got a lot of firepower,” said Seattle safety Earl Thomas. “So we just want to bottle it up and try to pressure them, and make them throw blind as much as possible.”
While the Falcons can push the ball downfield, at their core they remain a running team.
And that means that Seattle will have to gear up to stop bruising running back Michael Turner. At 5-10 and 247 pounds, Turner has the bulk to pound teams between the tackles, but the explosiveness to get outside and run away from the secondary.
Turner is ranked eighth in the league in rushing with 234 yards on 42 carries for a 5.6-yards per carry average, including a score.
Turner rushed for 82 yards in Atlanta’s 34-18 win in Seattle last season.
“They’ve been notorious for being a running team, especially with Michael Turner ever since he’s been there,” said Seattle defensive tackle Alan Branch. “So he’s a tough guy to get down, so we’ve got to focus first on getting him down and just making sure everybody is in their right spot, basically.
“All it takes is one guy not being in their gap for a huge play to happen. So if everybody is doing what they are supposed to do, we’re probably going to stop him.”
Eric D. Williams: 253-597-8437
ATLANTA (1-2) AT SEATTLE (1-2)
Kickoff: 1:05 p.m., CenturyLink field
TV: Ch. 13. Radio: 1030-AM, 1240-AM, 97.3-FM
The Series: The Seahawks hold an 8-4 edge over Atlanta, winning four of the past six games. However, the Falcons won the most recent contest, 34-18, in Seattle on Dec. 19, 2010.
What to watch: Second-year safety Kam Chancellor is doubtful for today’s game because of a deep thigh bruise, so six-year veteran Atari Bigby is scheduled to get his first start of the season. For Atlanta, leading receiver Roddy White (thigh) is questionable. It would be a big blow for the Falcons if he can’t go. Atlanta, which struggled to run the ball last week against Tampa Bay, could lean more on quarterback Matt Ryan to make plays. That would be harder with White out. Seattle fullback Michael Robinson returns to action after missing two games because of an ankle issue. Robinson is expected to start for the Seahawks. The Seahawks have yet to score on an opening drive this season, and have scored just six points in the first half.
The pick: Seahawks, 24-20.
No. Name (position) Ht.Wt.Year
17Mike Williams (WR) 6-5235fifth No catches last week, he needs to have more impact on offense.
7Tarvaris Jackson (QB)6-2225sixth It’s time for Carroll to hand over the keys to the offense.
92Brandon Mebane (DT)6-1311fifth Mebane needs to be stout inside against Michael Turner and Atlanta’s run game.
39Brandon Browner (CB)6-4221first He’ll continue to be a frequent target with Trufant playing well on the other side.
No. Name (position) Ht.Wt.Year
2Matt Ryan (QB)6-4220third After being sacked 13 times this year, expect Seahawks to bring pressure.
72Sam Baker (OT)6-5307third Left tackle has been weak link of the offensive line.
50Curtis Lofton (LB)6-0242third Atlanta’s defensive leader needs to play tough against Seattle running game.
55John Abraham (DE)6-426311th Falcons need their best edge rusher to show up against Seattle’s young offensive line.
Eric D. Williams, staff writer