Seahawks Insider Blog

Steve Sarkisian now Atlanta’s play caller, other things to know of Seahawks’ next foe

Falcons offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian, left, and quarterback Matt Ryan share a laugh before a game at New England last month. Sarkisian, the former University of Washington head coach, is in his first season with Atlanta. He is the play caller from the sidelines for Ryan and the defending NFC champion Falcons.
Falcons offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian, left, and quarterback Matt Ryan share a laugh before a game at New England last month. Sarkisian, the former University of Washington head coach, is in his first season with Atlanta. He is the play caller from the sidelines for Ryan and the defending NFC champion Falcons. TNS

SEAHAWKS’ NEXT OPPONENT

ATLANTA FALCONS (5-4)

5:30 p.m. Monday, CenturyLink Field, ESPN

Line: Seahawks by 3.

Against the Seahawks: Atlanta has won four of the last six meetings dating through Dec. 30, 2007 at the Georgia Dome. That includes the Falcons’ 36-20 sprint past Seattle last January in the NFC divisional playoffs in Atlanta. This is the third meeting in 13 months. Atlanta lost in October 2016 at CenturyLink Field 26-24, when Richard Sherman got away with yanking down All-Pro receiver Julio Jones’ arm while breaking up a fourth-down pass on the Falcons’ final offensive play.

What to know: The defending champions of the NFC are coming off their best win of the season, a 27-7 domination of Dallas in Atlanta last weekend. The Falcons have beaten the Jets 25-20 and Cowboys and lost at Carolina 20-17 since their three-game losing streak last month. That was after a 3-0 start. … Former University of Washington head coach Steve Sarkisian is Atlanta’s first-year offensive coordinator. He got a lot of static about play-calling during that three-game skid, the last loss of which was 23-7 at New England. No noise about him now after a 20-point win over the Cowboys in which Matt Ryan completed 22 of 29 throws and Tevin Coleman ran for his season high of 83 yards. … Lead running back Devonta Freeman (five touchdowns) is unlikely to play. He is in the league’s concussion protocol for what he got after two carries against Dallas. … Ryan last weekend became the fastest in NFL history to reach 40,000 yards passing. He did it in 151 games. Drew Brees did that in 152. … Ryan has thrown for two touchdown passes in three straight games. … People have been saying Ryan’s "a little bit off" from what he was last season. Well, yeah. Last season he was the NFL’s MVP with just under 5,000 yards (4,944), 38 touchdown passes, just seven interceptions, a 70-percent completion rate and passer rating of 117.1. This season he’s at 66.6 percent completions with 13 TDs and eight interceptions. … Last season Ryan threw for an whopping average of 309 yards per game. This season it’s a still-not-too-shabby 263.6. … Jones is still The Man at wide receiver. His 49 catches through nine games are seventh-most in the NFC. He’s still the deep threat; his 79 yards per game receiving is third-most in the conference. Jones caught seven passes for 139 yards and a touchdown in Atlanta’s close loss at Seattle 13 months ago, a game during which Sherman exploded at the sidelines at defensive coordinator Kris Richard for blown coverages to Jones’ side. Jones had 67 yards and another TD in that playoff game in January. Sherman has often shadowed Jones around the field, but he’s out for the season with a torn Achilles. Expect Seattle to not shadow Jones with anyone this time, not Jeremy Lane, rookie Shaquill Griffin or newly signed Bryon Maxwell. … Tight ends have been Ryan’s weapon of choice near the goal line. Three of Austin Hooper’s 31 catches this season are for touchdowns. Those TDs tie him with wide receiver Mohamed Sanu for the team lead. … Atlanta is eight in total offense, 12 rushing and 11th passing. Its 21.9 points per game at 15th in the NFL. One big reason why they are "only" 5-4: The Falcons’ turnover margin is minus-3, 22nd in the league. Last season when they reached the Super Bowl they were plus-11. Last year Atlanta intercepted 12 passes. Through nine games this season the Falcons have just two interceptions. … The defense is seventh overall, 19th against the run and sixth against the pass. The Falcons are 10th in points allowed (19.9 per game). … Adrian Clayborn had six sacks against Dallas’ second- and third-string left tackle last season. The end and NFC defensive player of the week had six sacks over an entire season just once in his first six years in the league. That big Sunday reportedly earned him a $750,000 contract bonus for reaching eight sacks on the season. Clayborn can earn a half million more with two more sacks. Seattle left tackle Duane Brown is trying to get back from an ankle injury. Brown and the Seahawks have their own incentive: to get him healthy, to avoid backup Matt Tobin trying to block Clayborn. … Tacoma’s Desmond Trufant of Wilson High School has one interception and seven pass breakups in nine games. Teammate Vic Beasley jumped offside to negate an interception Trufant got last weekend against Dallas. This is the first season of the five-year, $68.75 million contract extension Trufant signed this spring. … Beasley led the NFL with 15.5 sacks last season. He has four this season. … Former Seahawks defensive coordinator and Falcons coach Dan Quinn recently signed ex-Seattle defensive tackle Ahtyba Rubin to a free-agent contract.

Quotable: "I texted with him because he’s such a competitor. His response was, ‘Tell J.J. I’ll miss competing against him.’ He’s always thinking in terms of a competitor. He’s such a competitor that he wants the challenges. He’s an excellent tackler."—Quinn, to Atlanta-area media this week, on reaching out to Sherman after the All-Pro cornerback and Quinn’s former player in Seattle got injured Thursday.

gregg.bell@thenewstribune.com @gbellseattle

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