The Seahawks have the hay in the barn, but do the numbers give them any chance?
Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan is one of the NFLs best at his position, but there are two very different versions of the third-year star: the indoor and the outdoor. The indoor Ryan, who has played at the Georgia Dome and games at Arizona and St. Louis, has completed 196 passes in 291 attempts (a 67.4 percentage) for 2,026 yards, 16 touchdowns and just three interceptions. Those are Tom Brady numbers, but the news gets better for the Seahawks Ryans numbers outside a dome look more like Matt Leinarts. In outdoor games, Ryan has completed 104 passes in 184 attempts (a 56.5 completion percentage) for 1,121 yards, just six touchdowns, and five picks. The key to beating the Falcons is to make them one-dimensional, and stopping Ryan should be easier in the elements.
However even if the Seahawks’ dream comes true and Ryan is negated, the Falcons running game, led by Michael Turner and with Jason Snelling as an ancillary force, will provide a very stern test for a Seattle run defense that has been struggling to plug leaks ever since Red Bryant was put on injured reserve. Atlanta averages just 4.0 yards per carry, but they pound the ball over and over until something breaks they rank eighth with 124.5 rushing yards per game because only the Kansas City Chiefs, Jacksonville Jaguars, and New York Jets have more rushing attempts per game than Atlantas 31.2.
The Falcons also rank fifth in rushing first downs, and this could be a major problem for the Seahawks overall. When it comes to third down conversions, only the New England Patriots have a higher conversion percentage than Atlanta the Falcons convert 48 percent of their third downs.
The Seahawks have converted just 37 percent of their third downs, and even that may seem like a high number to those who have watched the teams difficulty in maintaining consistent drives. However, each teams defense has allowed a 40 percent third-down conversion rate, so Jeremy Bates may want to keep that in mind when he gets a craving for the deep end of the playbook on third-and-2.
Quarterback protection is an issue for both teams; though the Seahawks have had that issue all across their line and Atlanta has it in one place. Left tackle Sam Baker, who Pete Carroll coached at USC, has allowed 9.5 sacks in just thirteen games this season. Good news for Chris Clemons and Raheem Brock, and even Aaron Curry if the linebacker is sent to blitz off the edge? Quite possibly.
Using Football Outsiders DVOA metrics as a guide, its clear that the Falcons have just one real weakness pass defense. They rank 22nd in Pass Defense efficiency, and are especially vulnerable against #1 receivers. Mike Williams, this could be your big day.