Good morning. We’ve got overcast skies and 68 degrees predicted for game time this afternoon here in Atlanta. But we’ll be inside in the Georgia Dome, so weather will not be a factor today.
That said, here are my five keys for the Seattle Seahawks as they try to advance to the NFC Championship game with a win on the road against Atlanta, and an opportunity to face San Francisco for a third time this season.
Score TDs in the red zone: Watching Saturday’s playoffs one thing came to my mind, teams cannot settle for field goals when they have a chance to get touchdowns. So it will be important for Seattle’s offense to put the ball in the end zone, particularly with the ability for that Atlanta offense to put points on the board.
Win the turnover battle: The teams that lost the turnover battle lost the game on Saturday (Denver 3, Baltimore 1) and (Green Bay 2, San Francisco 1), so protecting the ball and forcing a couple turnovers will be critical if the Seahawks want to get the win today.
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Be physical: The Seahawks need to bring their big boy pads today. Seattle’s game each week is to be the most physical team on the field, setting the tone for the opponent that it’s going to be a long day. That will be particularly important today in the secondary and at the second level of the defense. Seattle can’t let Julio Jones, Roddy White and Tony Gonzalez get comfortable. Make them work for everything in the passing game.
Rise and shine: Seattle can’t get behind 14-0 today and expect to come out victorious. And the Seahawks cannot use the early start as an excuse. The Seahawks have to be ready to go at the opening whistle in order to match the intensity that Atlanta is going to play with to start the game.
Control tempo: In order to limit Atlanta’s possessions, the Seahawks need to control the tempo of the game by running the ball with Marshawn Lynch and Russell Wilson, and get of the field on third down defensively. It also will be important for Bruce Irvin to show up and create pressure on Matt Ryan. Make Ryan uncomfortable so the rest of his teammates can make plays in the back end of the defense.
Here’s my game advance for Sunday. The master of motivation, Pete Carroll has his Seahawks once again a game away from playing for the NFC title.
Dave Boling of The News Tribune profiles Seattle safety Earl Thomas, who has a young daughter Kaleigh Rose as motivation.
More Boling: Seattle’s strengths match Atlanta’s weaknesses.
John McGrath of The News Tribune questions whether Atlanta’s 12th Man will rise to the task of helping to lead the Falcons to a playoff win today.
Clare Farnsworth of Seahawks.com write about Russell Wilson meeting the quarterback he’s been most compared to this year, Fran Tarkenton.
Danny O’Neil of The Seattle Times provides his keys to the game.
Jerry Brewer of The Seattle Times profiles Richard Sherman.
Here’s the latest Real Robinson Report