RENTON How do the Seahawks go about slowing down soaring Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan?
“You put him on the ground,” Kris Richard said.
Seattle’s defensive coordinator didn’t elaborate following Wednesday’s practice for Saturday’s NFC divisional playoff game at Atlanta.
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He didn’t have to.
When the Seahawks took a 17-3 lead over Atlanta in the third quarter on Oct. 16 in their eventual win 26-24, they sacked Ryan four times and hit him another 13 times. No other opponent hit Ryan more this season.
That’s 17 times the Seahawks put the possible NFL most valuable player for this season on the ground.
No team sacked Ryan more this season than Seattle did. Ryan’s 9.26 yards per pass attempt was the highest in NFL history over a 16-game regular season. But against the Seahawks that October day at CenturyLink Field he had his second-fewest yards per attempt (7.98). He threw one of his seven interceptions this season at Seattle.
So that makes Pro Bowl defensive ends Michael Bennett and Cliff Avril plus situational speed rusher Frank Clark (10 sacks this season a defense that was third in the league in dumping QBs this season) huge factors Saturday for Seattle’s quest to reach the NFC championship game for the third time in four years. Especially because the Seahawks will again be without three-time All-Pro free safety Earl Thomas, out for the year with a broken shin.
Richard praised Ryan for his accuracy -- his completion rate of 69.9 percent was second-best in the NFL this regular season, a tick behind Drew Brees’ 70 percent.
“It’s the efficiency,” Richard said. “He has a really good feel for the offense. He has a lot of confidence in his arm. He’s got a really good wide receiver to throw to, that he can essentially throw the ball sort of anywhere (and) that guy’s going to go up and contest for it.”
“That guy,” of course, is wide receiver Julio Jones.
Seahawks three-time All-Pro cornerback Richard Sherman shadowed Jones for parts of that previous meeting in October. Jones, the league’s leader in yards per catch (21.5) coming into that game, finished with seven catches for 139 yards. Four of those catches and 45 yards came when Sherman was covering him.
Asked if Sherman shadowing Jones was the Seahawks’ plan again for Saturday, Richard turned coy -- understandably.
“It’s tempting,” Richard said. “But we’re not too sure.
“It’s a great matchup, there’s no doubt about it. But we still want to go out there and do what we’re accustomed to doing.”
Richard, 39, was far more expansive talking about a first for him last weekend: interviewing Sunday night in the Seattle area for the Buffalo Bills’ head-coaching job. The Bills on Wednesday hired Carolina defensive coordinator Sean McDermott for that job opened when they fired Rex Ryan a couple weeks ago.
The interview continued Richard’s meteoric rise from being a graduate assistant at USC for Pete Carroll in 2008.
“It was a great experience. The guys I was in there with -- and gal -- were fantastic. They are really good human beings. It felt good. It kind of felt good to piece everything together, create your formula, your philosophy, your ideas. It was just an awesome experience. So I am very grateful.”
He said and from Carroll preparing him since he hired the former USC player to be Seattle’s assistant defensive backs coach in 2010 to form his own vision and coaching philosophy in the event an opportunity like Buffalo’s would arise.
I asked Richard what he learned about himself through the interview.
“I’m ready,” he said.