Here’s our weekly First Look at Seattle’s upcoming opponent, which this week is the Atlanta Falcons, led by QB Matt Ryan (above in an AP photo).
Game time: 10 a.m. Pacific Time, Sunday, Georgia Dome
Coach: Mike Smith, 58-30, 6th season
Last game: Lost at Carolina, 34-10.
The series: Seahawks lead the regular-season series 8-5 but have lost the last three dating to a 21-18 win at CenturyLink Field in 2005. The most memorable game in the series, though, occurred in the divisional playoff round last Jan. 13 when the Falcons beat Seattle 30-28 on a 49-yard field goal by Matt Bryant with eight seconds left.
The early line: Seahawks by six.
Key players: The Falcons are one of the most disappointing teams in the NFL at 2-6 after entering the season considered as a Super Bowl contender. Atlanta, though, still has one of the NFL’s most dynamic passing attacks led by QB Matt Ryan, and is sixth in the league in passing yards per game at 289.2. And that’s playing mostly without the top two receivers from a year ago in Julio Jones (out for the year with a foot injury) and Roddy White (who has missed the last three games with hamstring and ankle injuries but could be back this week). Ageless tight end Tony Gonzalez (actually 37) continues to be a receiving force and has a team-high 44 receptions for 476 yards. Atlanta’s defense has been a struggle all season, allowing 27.3 points per game, tied for 25th in the NFL. The Falcons, though, are getting solid play out of first-round pick Desmond Trufant of Washington and Wilson High in Tacoma as he leads the team with eight pass defenses from his cornerback spot and had his first career interception against Carolina Sunday.
Atlanta’s keys to success: The Falcons have had a hard-luck season dealing with some key injuries and tough early losses — Atlanta’s first four defeats all came by seven points or less, including at New Orleans (23-17) and New England (30-23). When Ryan has time to throw, the Falcons can still move the ball well through the air, and Atlanta will only be harder to defend if White comes back this week. Atlanta’s main issues are in the running game — the Falcons have the worst rushing attack in the NFL at just 64.4 per game and are 20th against the run defensively at 116.3.
BY THE NUMBERS
5 — Consecutive games in which Atlanta has given up at least 100 yards rushing.
7 — Number of interceptions thrown by Atlanta QB Matt Ryan in the last two games.
203 — Consecutive games in which Atlanta tight end Tony Gonzalez has caught a pass, second in NFL history behind the 274 of Jerry Rice.