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Monday, November 11, 2013
Upon Further Review: Falcons Week 10

By Vaughn McClure

ATLANTA -- An examination of five hot issues from the Atlanta Falcons' 33-10 loss to the Seattle Seahawks:

Abused up front: Falcons coach Mike Smith was quick to point out how his team, physically, lost the battle at the line of scrimmage. From a defensive standpoint, that was disheartening considering the Seahawks played without three regular starters up front: Pro Bowl left tackle Russell Okung, Pro Bowl center Max Unger and right tackle Breno Giacomini. Of course, Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson helped his line by extending plays and running back Marshawn Lynch aided his linemen with punishing runs. Still, the Falcons' front four couldn't stop the run when it needed to most and couldn't generate pressure in key third-down situations. Offensively for the Falcons, the numbers show only two sacks were allowed, but that doesn't reveal how much duress quarterback Matt Ryan was under while being unable to throw down the field. The Falcons averaged just 4.3 yards per pass play.

White
White
Ryan
Ryan
Running on empty: Speaking of the battle at the line of scrimmage, Steven Jackson took a step back while rushing for just 11 yards on nine carries against a Seahawks defense that had been suspect against the run. Jackson said he was 100 percent in his third game back from a hamstring injury and credited the Seahawks for their defensive scheme. But Smith's assessment of Jackson's struggles was very telling. The coach was asked why the Falcons seemed to be more effective running the ball with Jacquizz Rodgers and Jason Snelling, who combined for 38 yards on four attempts. "When Snell and Jacquizz were in there, they had more holes,'' Smith said bluntly. "The blocking, you know, it all goes hand in hand with the offensive line, the running backs, and the tight ends in the run game. And the plays were definitely blocked better when [Rodgers and Snelling] were in there.''

Explosive plays: The Falcons' defense now has surrendered 14 plays of 40-plus yards for a grand total of 716 yards after giving up three such plays for 135 total yards against the Seahawks. The one that seemed to stagger the Falcons was Wilson's 43-yard touchdown pass to Jermaine Kearse off a flea-flicker from Lynch. Falcons safety Thomas DeCoud read the play and ran stride for stride with Kearse, but DeCoud didn't see the ball. "I could have gotten my head around, but I felt like just the way the play developed, I needed to close to the receiver,'' DeCoud said. "I wasn't in a position to really get my head around at that time.'' And Smith's take on the explosive plays? "Way too many big plays. ... We've got to get better at it,'' the coach said. "There are no excuses in terms of who's out there: young players, old players. These young players we've had out there, they've been playing for nine weeks. They're not rookies any longer. We've got to start making football plays. We've got to do as a coaching staff to make sure that we put them in the best position.''

Matty still iced: It's not a good sign when Ryan is making better plays with his feet than his arm. Ryan avoided the interceptions that plagued him the previous two games, but he still seemed off while completing 23 of 36 passes for a season-low 172 yards in Sunday's loss. The last time Ryan threw for fewer than 200 yards in a game was when he had just 165 against New Orleans last November. He brushed off the notion that he was throwing the ball too high against the Seahawks, but Ryan did overthrow tight end Tony Gonzalez twice in the first half. He also threw one too short to Roddy White that was almost picked off by Seahawks cornerback Brandon Browner. "Matt, in the first half, was not as efficient as we needed to be,'' Smith said. "There were some opportunities to make some throws. There were some opportunities to make some catches. And we did not get it done.''

Back in action: The loss overshadowed White's return to the lineup following a three-game hiatus due to hamstring and ankle injuries. White caught a 20-yard pass down the middle on the Falcons' second series but was held without a catch the rest of the game while being targeted four times. "I felt pretty good,'' White said. "It was the best I felt all season. That was good, just giving me a lot of confidence going into the next couple weeks that I can get out there and get going and get back to being myself again.'' White was his normal self when it came to his personal battle with Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman. White slapped at Sherman after one play. "It was no big deal,'' White said. "We get into scuffles every time we play that team, no matter if it's me, Tony, or whoever is out there. They're a good football team. They've got players who play on the edge. And we play on the edge, too.''