The Seahawks will attempt to become the second No. 5 seed to upend a No. 1 seed when they face 13-3 Atlanta in the divisional playoffs at the Georgia Dome.
GAME: Seattle Seahawks (11-5, 2nd, NFC West; 1-0 playoffs) at Atlanta Falcons (13-3, 1st NFC South; 0-0 playoffs). TYPE. NFC divisional playoff. WEEK: 19. WHEN: Sunday, 10 a.m., Georgia Dome, Atlanta. MEETING: 18th (Seahawks lead 8-5 regular season; 0-0 playoffs). STREAKS: Seahawks W 6; Falcons L 1. HEAD COACHES: Pete Carroll, Seattle; Mike Smith, Atlanta. LINE: Falcons by 2½. TV: FOX. RADIO: ESPN 710 AM, KIRO 97.3 FM.
Throughout the week, Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll made little secret of the fact that his primary strategy for the up-tempo Atlanta Falcons in the Georgia Dome is to keep their offense off the field.
“They’re great at third down conversions, and Matt Ryan is a fantastic quarterback efficiency-wise,” said Carroll. “They’re doing exactly the right stuff for them when they go tempo up. On the other side of it, if we can hold the football, it’s frustrating to an offense that wants to go fast.
“We won’t be trying to sit on the clock, but we’re certainly committed to the running game. There is nothing better that we can do than to be making first downs and handling the football to keep them from being on the field.
“They have the kind of players that can run a fast offense. They’re loaded with talent; their receivers, their tight end, their backs, their quarterback. That is what they play to. Hopefully we can quiet it down a bit.”
That places rookie DE Bruce Irvin, Seattle’s No. 1 pick in the draft in April, squarely under the spotlight. With Chris Clemons having undergone season-ending knee surgery, Atlanta native Irvin, normally used in pass-rush situations, moves up to take Clemons’ spot. Carroll said he isn’t worried:
“This game calls for Bruce Irvin to step up, and he’s prepared for it, so it won’t be a big transition other than just playing time. He’s ready to play the spot. We love Chris Clemons, but the focus really is always about the guy that steps up. He’s got a lot to live up to. His focus has to be consistent. He has to attack the line of scrimmage in the running game, and chase the football really well.
“I think (Irvin) has done terrific. There hasn’t been any surprises, other than maybe he’s had a very, very consistent work ethic. He still watches the older players and is learning from them. He’s answered the call in all phases and he’s learned a tremendous amount. He’s been productive, and I think he has more sacks in him.”
The other big change for the Seahawks will be Ryan Longwell’s insertion at placekicker. The Seahawks placed Steven Hauschka on injured reserve this week because a strained calf prevents him from kicking off. Ryan Longwell became Hauschka’s replacement by winning a four-man kicking competition.
“When you look at Ryan’s background, the great experience he’s had, the time he’s had in playoff situations, I think he can handle it. A few of our coaches have been with him before and know him really well. He’s very even-keeled, a true professional. He’s been there before, that was the big reason (the Seahawks signed him). He did very well in his workout too; he was flawless in the workout.”
The 38-year-old Longwell, a Puyallup native who attended the University of California, spent nine years with the Green Bay Packers (1997-05) and the last six (2006-11) with the Minnesota Vikings, before sitting out the regular season. During his years with Green Bay, he kicked four field goals against the Seahawks, including two in a 2004 playoff game.
Behind Ryan, who threw for 4,719 yards and 32 touchdowns, finishing with a passer rating of 99.1, Atlanta reeled off an NFC-high 13 wins this season. The Falcons started 8-0 before losing, didn’t lose again until Week 14 and then dropped their season finale at Tampa Bay 22-17.
Over the 17-week season, Seattle and Atlanta played five common opponents a total of six times: Carolina, Dallas, Arizona, Detroit and Washington. Atlanta went 5-1 against the common foes, Seattle 4-2. The Falcons scored 147 points and allowed 125. The Seahawks scored 165 and allowed 81.
While the Falcons finished 21st in rushing defense, they also finished fifth in points allowed, 299 (the Seahawks allowed 245).
“We have to be really on our stuff to be able to be successful against them,” said Seattle offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell.
Seattle is the No. 5 seed in the NFC playoffs and Atlanta the No. 1. Since seeding began in 1990, a No. 5 has knocked off a No. 1 just once, in 2007 when the No. 5 New York Giants upended the No. 1 Dallas Cowboys 21-17 en route to winning Super Bowl XLII.
SERIES: Dates to Nov. 7, 1976 when, as an expansion team, the Seahawks recorded a 30-13 victory over the Falcons in the Kingdome. Sherman Smith scored twice for the Seahawks, on a 21-yard pass from Jim Zorn and on a 53-yard rush. The Falcons have won the last three, in 2007 (44-41), 2010 (34-18) and 2011 (30-28). Seattle won the first four meetings, spanning 1976-88, and also won four in a row from 2000-05. The teams have never met in the postseason.
LAST MEETING: Falcons 30, Seahawks 28, Oct. 2, 2011 — Atlanta rolled to a 24-7 halftime lead and weathered a furious Seattle comeback that fell two points short. Michael Turner ran for two touchdowns for the Falcons, Matt Ryan threw a TD pass and Matt Bryant kicked three field goals. Tarvaris Jackson came up big for the Seahawks, throwing for 319 yards and three TDs. The Falcons held Marshawn Lynch to 24 yards on just eight carries.
Seahawks: 11-5, 2nd, NFC West; scored 412 points (25.8 per game), ranking 9th; allowed 245 points (15.3 per game), 1st; differential of +167 points ranks 3rd. Falcons: 13-3, 1st, NFC South; scored 419 points (26.2), ranked 7th; allowed 299 (18.7), 5th; differential of +120 points ranked 5th.
SEAHAWKS HEAD COACH: Pete Carroll (57-54 career, 24-23 Seattle) is in his third season. In 2010, he directed Seattle to the NFC West title, the Seahawks becoming the first team in NFL history to win a division with a losing (7-9) record. Prior to joining the Seahawks, Carroll served as head coach at Southern California, where his Trojans won seven Pac-10 titles.
SEAHAWKS QUARTERBACKS: Russell Wilson at Arizona — 18 of 34 for 153 yards, 1 TD, one INT, 62.5 passer rating; vs. Dallas — 15 of 20, 151 yards, 1 TD, 0 INTs, 112.7 rating; vs. Green Bay — 10 of 21 for 130 yards, 2 TDs, 0 INTs, 99.3 passer rating; at St. Louis — 17 of 25, 160 yards, 0 TDs, 3 INTs, 45.8 passer rating; at Carolina — 19 of 25, 221 yards, 1 TD, 2 INTs, 82.2 passer rating; vs. New England, 16 of 27, 293 yards, 3 TDs, 0 INTs, 133.7 passer rating; at San Francisco, 9 of 23, 122 yards, 0 TD, 1 INT, 38.7 passer rating; at Detroit, 25 of 35 for 236 yards, 2 TDs, 1 INT, 96.8 passer rating; vs. Minnesota, 16 of 24, 173 yards, 3 TDs, 0 INTs, 127.3 passer rating; vs. New York Jets, 12 of 19, 188 yards, 2 TDs, 0 INTs, 131.0 passer rating; at Miami, 21 of 27, 224 yards, 2 TDs, 0 INTs, 125.9 passer rating; at Chicago, 23 of 37, 293 yards, 2 TDs, 0 INTs, 104.9 passer rating; vs. Arizona, 7 of 13, 148 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT, 88.0 passer rating; at Buffalo (Toronto), 14 of 23, 205 yards, 1 TD, 0 INTs, 104.4 passer rating; vs. San Francisco, 15 of 21, 177 yards, 4 TDs, 1 INT, 115.3 passer rating; vs. St. Louis, 15 of 19, 250 yards, 1 TD, 0 INTs, 136.3 passer rating; at Washington, 15 of 26, 187 yards, 1 TD, 0 INTs, 92.2 passer rating. Matt Flynn — vs. Arizona, 5 of 9, 68 yards, 0 TDs, 0 INTs, 79.9 passer rating; at Buffalo (Toronto), no statistics; vs. San Francisco, no statistics.
SEAHAWKS STATS / NOTES
TEAM REGULAR SEASON OFFENSIVE RANKINGS
|Total Yards||5610||17||Total Yards||5906||8|
|Yards / Game||350.6||17||Yards / Game||369.1||8|
|Rush Yards||2579||3||Rush Yards||1397||29|
|Rush / Game||161.2||3||Rush / Game||87.3||29|
|Pass Yards||3031||27||Pass Yards||4509||6|
|Pass / Game||189.4||27||Pass / Game||281.8||6|
|Points / Game||25.8||9||Points / Game||26.2||7|
TEAM REGULAR-SEASON DEFENSIVE RANKINGS
|Total Yards||4899||4||Total Yards||5849||24|
|Yards / Game||306.2||4||Yards / Game||365.6||24|
|Rush / Allw.||1649||10||Rush / Allw.||1971||21|
|Rush / Game||103.1||10||Rush / Game||123.2||21|
|Pass Allw.||3250||6||Pass Allw.||3878||23|
|Pass / Game||203.1||6||Pass / Game||242.4||23|
|Points Allw.||245||1||Points Allw.||299||5|
|Points / Game||15.3||1||Points / Game||24.3||22|
SEAHAWKS OFFENSIVE LEADERS
SEAHAWKS DEFENSIVE LEADERS
|Tackles||Wagner 140, Wright 96, Chancellor 91|
|Sacks||Clemons 11.5, Irvin 8.0, Mebane, 3.0|
|Quarterback Hits||Clemons 22, Irvin 19, Wagner 7|
|Interceptions||Sherman 8, Browner 3, Wagner 3|
|Passes Defensed||Sherman 24, Thomas 9, Browner 6|
|Forced Fumbles||Browner 3, Clemons 3|
|Fumbles Recovered||Eight tied with one each|
FALCONS NOTES: Atlanta beat Kansas City (40-24), Denver (27-21), San Diego (27-3), Carolina (30-28), Washington (24-17), Oakland (23-20), Philadelphia (30-17), Dallas (19-13), Arizona (23-19), Tampa Bay (24-23), New Orleans (23-13), New York Giants (34-0) and Detroit (31-18), and lost to the Saints (31-27), Carolina (30-20) and Tampa Bay (22-17) . . .Michael Turner led Atlanta in rushing, averaging 50.0 yards per game. He scored 10 touchdowns . . . Atlanta had two 1,000-yard receivers, Roddy White (1,351) and Julio Jones (1,198). White scored seven TDs, Jones 10 . . . John Abraham led Atlanta in sacks with 10 and Thomas DeCoud led interceptions with six.
FALCONS QUARTERBACKS: Matt Ryan completed 422 of 615 passes for 4,719 yards, 32 touchdowns and 14 interceptions for a passer rating of 99.1. Ryan produced seven 300-yard passing games, topped by a 411-yard, 3-TD effort at New Orleans Nov. 11. He threw at least three touchdowns in a game seven times. Ryan is coming off 238-yard, 1-TD performance against Tampa Bay in the final game of the regular season.
FALCONS HEAD COACH: Mike Smith is in his fifth year and sports a 56-24 record. Smith came to the Falcons from the Jacksonville Jaguars, with whom he spent five seasons as defensive coordinator. Prior to that, Smith was a defensive assistant with the Baltimore Ravens. Smith spent 10 years (1988-98) at Tennessee Tech as the school’s special teams coordinator. The 53-year-old Smith is a graduate of East Tennessee State.
KEY DATES: Jan. 19-20 — Conference championships; Jan. 27 — Pro Bowl (Honolulu); Feb. 3 — Super Bowl, New Orleans. Feb. 20-26 — NFL combine (Indianapolis); April 25-27 — NFL draft.
NFC West Standings
|S. Francisco||11-4-1||3-2-1||Saturday vs. Green Bay|
|Seattle||12-5||3-3||Sunday at Atlanta|
|St. Louis||7-8-1||4-0-2||Season complete|
COMING UP: With a win, the Seahawks will advance to the NFC Championship game at San Francisco.
2012 Seahawks Preseason Schedule
|8/11/12||vs. Tennessee||7 p.m.||Q13||W||27-17||1-0|
|8/18/12||at Denver||6 p.m.||Q13||W||30-10||2-0|
|8/24/12||at Kansas City||5 p.m.||Q13||W||44-14||3-0|
|8/30/12||vs. Oakland||7 p.m.||Q13||W||21-3||4-0|
2012 Seahawks Regular-Season Schedule
|9/9/12||at Arizona||1:25 p.m.||FOX||L||20-16||0-1|
|9/16/12||vs. Dallas||1:05 p.m.||FOX||W||27-7||1-1|
|9/24/12||vs. Green Bay||5:30 p.m.||ESPN||W||14-12||2-1|
|9/30/12||at St. Louis||10 a.m.||FOX||L||19-13||2-2|
|10/7/12||at Carolina||1:05 p.m.||FOX||W||16-12||3-2|
|10/14/12||vs. N. England||1:05 p.m.||CBS||W||24-23||4-2|
|10/18/12||at S. Francisco||5:20 p.m.||NFLN||L||13-6||4-3|
|10/28/12||at Detroit||10 a.m.||FOX||L||28-24||4-4|
|11/4/12||vs. Minnesota||1:05 p.m.||FOX||W||30-20||5-4|
|11/11/11||vs. NY Jets||1:05 p.m.||CBS||W||28-7||6-4|
|11/25/12||at Miami||10 a.m.||FOX||L||24-21||6-5|
|12/2/12||at Chicago||10 a.m.||FOX||W||23-17||7-5|
|12/9/12||vs. Arizona||1:15 p.m.||FOX||W||58-0||8-5|
|12/16/12||*at Buffalo||1:05 p.m.||FOX||W||50-17||9-5|
|12/23/12||vs. San Francisco||5:20 p.m.||NBC||W||42-13||10-5|
|12/30/12||vs. St. Louis||1:15 p.m.||FOX||W||20-13||11-5|
|12/30/12||^at Wash.||1:30 p.m.||NBC||W||24-14||12-5|
|12/30/12||#at Atlanta||10 a.m.||FOX||—||—–||—–|
* in Toronto; ^=NFC Wild Card game; #=NFC Divisional Playoff
2012 Seahawks Capsules
Aug. 11 Seahawks 27, Titans 17 (at Seattle) — Rookie quarterback Russell Wilson ran for a touchdown and passed for one, leading the Seahawks over a Tennessee Titans team featuring two quarterbacks with strong local ties, ex-Seahawk Matt Hasselbeck and ex-Husky Jake Locker. Hasselbeck threw two interceptions while Locker completed 7 of 13 for 80 yards.
Aug. 18: Seahawks 30, Broncos 10 (at Denver) — Starting his second straight exhibition game, QB Matt Flynn failed to seize control of the quarterback job, finishing 6 of 13 for 31 yards with no TDs or INTs. But Wilson made a case for himself by completing 10 of 17 for 155 yards, two TDs and a passer rating of 28.5. The Seahawks finished with 228 yards rushing, led by Sutton’s 48 yards on three carries.
Aug. 24: Seahawks 44, Chiefs 14 (at Kansas City) — Wilson completed 10 of 17 passes for 185 yards and two touchdowns. With Wilson playing into the second half, Seattle scored 21 points, overcoming a 10-9 halftime deficit. Earl Thomas made the big defensive play, returning an interception 75 yards for a touchdown. Flynn did not play due to injury.
Aug. 30: Seahawks 21, Raiders 3 (at Seattle): Flynn, getting most of the snaps, completed 11 of 13 passes for 102 yards. Seahawks outgained the Raiders 334 yards to 101.
Sept. 8: Cardinals 20, Seahawks 16 (at Phoenix): Despite seven tries inside Arizona’s red zone in final minute, the Seahawks could not score the game-winning touchdown. The Seahawks overcame a tepid first half offensively thanks to an 83-yard kickoff return and a 52-yard punt return by Leon Washington.
Sept. 15: Seahawks 27, Cowboys 7 (at Seattle): The Seahawks took a 10-0 lead in less than five minutes when Michael Robinson forced Felix Jones to fumble the opening kickoff, leading to a short field goal, and Malcolm Smith blocked Chris Jones’ punt and Jeron Johnson returned it for a touchdown. Marshawn Lynch ran for 122 yards and the defense allowed the Cowboys only 34 yards and three first downs in the second half.
Sept. 24: Seahawks 14, Packers 12 (at Seattle): Russell Wilson and Golden Tate hooked up on a wildly controversial 24-yard touchdown pass as the clock ran out, giving the Seahawks a dramatic victory. As Wilson’s pass reached the end zone, Tate committed a pushing penalty that wasn’t called. Green Bay’s M.D. Jennings intercepted the ball and Tate tried to wrestle it away. One official ruled no touchdown, another signaled TD. After review, Tate was awarded the touchdown. The Seahawks had eight sacks in the first half, a record-tying four by Chris Clemons.
Sept. 30: Rams 19, Seahawks 13 (at St. Louis): Rookie kicker Greg Zuerlein booted four field goals, including a club-record 58-yarder which he later topped with a 60-yarder, as the Rams handed Seattle its second NFC West loss. Zuerlein also was a perfect decoy on the biggest play of the day — a fake field goal that turned into a two-yard touchdown pass from punter Johnny Hekker to Danny Amendola. The score put the Rams (2-2) ahead 10-7 late in the first half. Marshawn Lynch ran for 118 yards and a touchdown, but Russell Wilson threw three interceptions.
Oct. 7: Seahawks 16, Panthers 12: (at Charlotte): The Seahawks used a series of big defensive plays, the best pass of Russell Wilson’s NFL career, and a planned safety in the final minute to edge Carolina. Cornerback Brandon Browner made two of the three biggest defensive stops. With Carolina at the Seattle 27-yard line in the third quarter, Browner stripped the ball from DeAngelo Williams, giving the Seahawks a chance to take the lead after they had fallen behind 10-6 on Wilson’s worst pass of the season. Less than three minutes into the second half, Wilson threw behind intended receiver Anthony McCoy, and Carolina’s Captain Munnerlyn snatched the ball and raced 33 yards for a touchdown that put the Panthers ahead 10-6. But after Browner stripped Williams. Wilson, on a third-and-eight from the Carolina 13, rocketed a slant pass to Golden Tate for a touchdown.
Oct. 14: Seahawks 24, Patriots 23: Russell Wilson threw a 46-yard touchdown pass to Sidney Rice with 1:18 to play to give the Seahawks a come-from-behind victory. The Seahawks trailed 23-10 in the second half, but Wilson fired touchdown passes to Doug Baldwin and Braylon Edwards before finding Rice with the game-winning throw.
Oct. 18: 49ers 13, Seahawks 6: Alex Smith threw a 12-yard touchdown pass to Delanie Walker late in the third quarter and San Francisco held off the Seahawks in a battle for first place in the NFC West. Frank Gore ran for 131 yards. The 49ers made just enough plays to win a defense-first game. Marshawn Lynch ran for 103 yards for Seattle, but Russell Wilson couldn’t generate a passing game, going 9 of 23 for 122 yards and a passer rating of 38.7.
Oct. 28: Lions 28, Seahawks 24: Titus Young caught his second touchdown pass from Matthew Stafford on a one-yard slant with 20 seconds left, lifting Detroit. Young needed to make the second TD catch after Zach Miller had a spectacular, 16-yard snag on a toss from Russell Wilson with 5:27 left that put the Seahawks ahead. But Seattle (4-4) couldn’t stop the Lions (3-4) on their last possession.
Nov. 4: Seahawks 30, Vikings 20: Lynch ran for 124 yards and a touchdown, Wilson threw three first-half touchdown passes, and the Seahawks overcame 182 yards by Adrian Peterson to snap a two-game losing streak. Peterson tore through the Seahawks defense for one of the finest games of his career, yet was stuck being a spectator as Seattle slowly pulled away in the fourth quarter, mostly on the legs of Lynch, with a few key passes by Wilson.
Nov. 11: Seahawks 28, N.J. Jets 7: Wilson threw two touchdowns to Sidney Rice, and Lynch ran for 124 yards and a touchdown as the Seahawks overwhelmed the Jets at CenturyLink Field. Rice also threw the first pass of his NFL career, completing a 23-yard touchdown to Golden Tate.
Nov. 25: Dolphins 24, Seahawks 21: Dan Carpenter hit a 43-yard field goal at the final gun after Ryan Tannehill led a 65-yard, six-play drive, and the Dolphins rallied to beat the Seahawks at SunLife Stadium. Miami scored 17 points in the final 8:08 after the Seahawks took the lead on a 98-yard kickoff return by Leon Washington. The eighth KOR TD of Washington’s career tied the league record. Russell Wilson completed 21 of 27, including 16 in a row, for 224 yards, two TDs and a passer rating of 125.9.
Dec. 2: Seahawks 23, Bears 18 (OT): Wilson engineered scoring drives of 97 and 80 yards at the end of regulation and in overtime, finishing off with touchdown passes to Golden Tate and Sidney Rice, giving the Seahawks their third consecutive win at Soldier Field and just their second victory of the season on the road. After Wilson led the Seahawks on a 12-play, 97-yard drive that ended with a 14-yard TD pass to Tate, the Bears tied the score at 17-17 with 24 seconds to play on a Robbie Gould field goal. The Seahawks won the OT coin flip and Wilson directed an 80-yard, 12-play drive that ended with a 13-yard TD to Rice.
Dec. 9: Seahawks 58, Cardinals 0: Lynch ran for three touchdowns and the Seahawks intercepted four passes and recovered four fumbles en route to the fourth-largest shutout victory in NFL history. The Seahawks scored five ways against the Cardinals, including run, pass, interception return, fumbled punt return and field goal. Seattle’s previous largest shutout win was 45-0 over Kansas City in the Kingdome Nov. 4, 1984.
Dec. 16: Seahawks 50, Bills 17: Wilson set a franchise record by rushing for three touchdowns in leading the Seahawks to another historic win. The Seahawks became the first team since the 1950 Rams and Giants to score 50 or more points in consecutive games. Wilson scored on runs of 14, 25 and 13 yards, all in the first half. He also threw a touchdown pass to Zach Miller as the Seahawks rolled to a 31-7 lead and cruised at Rogers Center in Toronto.
Dec. 23: Seahawks 42, 49ers 13: Russell Wilson threw four touchdown passes, two to Doug Baldwin, and Richard Sherman returned a blocked field goal 90 yards to a touchdown as the Seahawks overwhelmed the division-leading 49ers to clinch their first playoff spot since 2010. The Seahawks, who also received a rushing and receiving touchdown from Lynch, rolled to a 31-3 lead.
Dec. 30: Seahawks 20, Rams 13: Russell Wilson tied Peyton Manning’s record for most touchdown passes by a rookie with 26, and his 1-yard TD run with 1:39 left gave Seattle the win and an 8-0 home mark for just the third time in franchise history (also 2003 and 2005). The Seahawks won seven of eight and five in a row to close out the regular season and finished with the No. 1-ranked defense in the NFL. St. Louis sacked Wilson six times, three by Chris Long, but Wilson threw a second-half TD pass to Michael Robinson and scored himself to spark the victory. Wilson finished the game with a 136.3 passr rating.
Jan. 6: Seahawks 24, Redskins 14: Marshawn Lynch scored the go-ahead touchdown in the fourth quarter as the Seahawks rallied from a 14-point deficit at FedEx Field. It marked the largest comeback in Seahawks’ playoff history. After Robert Griffin III staked Washington to a 14-0 lead with touchdowns on the first two possessions, the Seahawks cut the deficit to 14-13 at halftime. The Seahawks had three field goals from Steven Hauschka, a 4-yard TD from Russell Wilson to Michael Robinson, and Lynch’s game-winning TD. Lynch rushed for 132 yards, tying Shaun Alexander’s single-game playoff record.