NFL Nation: Final Word 2012 divisional Seahawks-Falcons

Final Word: Seahawks at Falcons

January, 11, 2013
1/11/13
1:30
PM ET
NFC Final Word: Packers-49ers | Seahawks-Falcons AFC: Ravens-Broncos | Texans-Pats

Five nuggets of knowledge about the Seattle Seahawks' divisional playoff game against the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday at the Georgia Dome:

Banking on Wilson: Rookie quarterback Russell Wilson has 11 total touchdowns (eight passing, three rushing) against one interception in the Seahawks' past five road games, counting playoffs. He has the NFL's third-highest passer rating (104.7) and second-highest Total QBR score (87.1) in road games over that span (since Week 8).

The Falcons have allowed only six touchdown passes at home all season. They have picked off 12 passes in those games. Their QBR allowed at home (32.6) was second-best in the NFL this season (playing the NFL's easiest schedule surely helped).

Though Wilson outplayed the injured Robert Griffin III during Seattle's wild-card victory at Washington, his QBR score for that game (36.7) was his lowest since Week 7. It ranked 65th out of 95 QBR scores for playoff starters since the 2008 season. The quarterbacks responsible for the 30 lower postseason QBR scores -- Griffin among them -- went 3-27 in those games. Seattle probably needs more from Wilson to beat the Falcons.

[+] EnlargeMarshawn Lynch
Kirby Lee/USA TODAY Sports With another 100-yard effort Sunday, Marshawn Lynch can make team history, tying Shaun Alexander for the most games with at least 100 yards in a season.
Beast Mode: Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch has reached 100 yards rushing in five consecutive games and 11 times overall this season. He needs one more 100-yard game to tie the franchise record Shaun Alexander set during Seattle's 2005 Super Bowl season. Doug Martin (142), Cam Newton (116), LaRod Stephens-Howling (127), Alfred Morris (115) and Willis McGahee (113) reached 100 yards rushing against the Falcons this season. The Falcons went 3-2 in those games.

Irvin in focus: The Seahawks are counting on rookie first-round draft choice Bruce Irvin to take over for the injured Chris Clemons at the "Leo" position along the defensive line. The sack Irvin collected against Washington in the playoffs was his first since Week 14 and second in the Seahawks' past seven games. Irvin hasn't had a sack on the road since collecting two (plus a critical forced fumble) against Carolina in Week 5. Irvin has been building to this moment, however. He has played 57.3 percent of the defensive snaps since Week 14 after playing 39.5 percent of them previously this season.

Nice option to have: Increased use of option plays has helped unleash the Seahawks' ground game since a Week 13 victory at Chicago. The Seahawks are averaging 155.2 yards rushing before contact over that six-game span, up from 85 per game prior to that. The Panthers had 21 carries for 120 yards and a touchdown on option runs in a 30-28 defeat against Atlanta in Week 4. Newton then posted a season-high 97.0 QBR score against the Falcons during a 30-20 victory in Week 14. He had two touchdown passes and a 72-yard run against Atlanta in that game. Overall, the Falcons allowed 30 carries for 218 yards and two scores on plays ESPN charted as zone reads, options and option pitches.

Late-game worries: The Seahawks are riding a three-game road winning streak, but their defense hasn't been reliable during the final minutes of closely contested games away from home. That's a concern against the Falcons, who went 7-2 in one-score games this season. Ryan had four touchdown passes, zero picks and an 83.4 QBR score in the final two minutes of halves this season. That was up from 14 touchdowns with 11 picks and a 59.3 QBR score in those situations previously. Seattle's road opponents posted an 88.4 QBR score in fourth quarters this season, the highest allowed by any team this season and well above the average (55.1).

Late-game drama could be additionally nerve-wracking for Seattle given that regular kicker Steven Hauschka was placed on injured reserve with a calf injury. Veteran Ryan Longwell, 38, will be kicking in a game for the first time since the 2011 season. The Seahawks suffered a 30-28 home defeat against Atlanta last season when coach Pete Carroll opted for a 61-yard field goal try on fourth-and-8 with 13 seconds remaining. Seattle would presumably go for it if faced with a similar situation this time.

Final Word: Seahawks at Falcons

January, 11, 2013
1/11/13
1:30
PM ET
NFC Final Word: Packers-49ers | Seahawks-Falcons AFC: Ravens-Broncos | Texans-Pats

Five nuggets of knowledge about Sunday’s game between the Seahawks and Falcons:

No. 1 doesn’t matter: The Falcons earned the NFC’s No. 1 seed, but recent history says being No. 1 doesn’t carry the clout it once did. From 1990 through 2006, No. 1 seeds were 17-0 in the divisional round of the playoffs. But the No. 1 seed has lost in four of the past five seasons, including the Falcons in 2010.

[+] EnlargeMatt Ryan
AP Photo/John AmisMatt Ryan and the Falcons will try to get their passing game cranking Sunday against Seattle.
The 200 Club: Here’s a stat that might help explain why Atlanta quarterback Matt Ryan has yet to win a playoff game: In his three playoff starts, Ryan has yet to have a 200-yard passing game. Now, more than ever, I’m convinced it’s crucial for Ryan to come out winging the ball on Sunday.

Beware of the option: With quarterback Russell Wilson, the Seahawks use the read option at times. That’s something the Falcons have seen a fair amount of. Only four defenses had more read-option rushes against them in the regular season, according to ESPN Stats & Information. But Atlanta’s experience, mostly against Carolina’s Cam Newton, isn’t necessarily a positive. The Falcons allowed an average of 7.3 yards per rush on read-option plays.

The Triplets: The Falcons need to keep receivers Roddy White and Julio Jones and tight end Tony Gonzalez on the field as much as possible. On plays when all three were on the field at the same time in the regular season, Ryan threw an interception once in every 61.9 attempts. But Ryan was picked off once in every 20 attempts when all three weren’t on the field.

No rookie jitters: Logic would say the Falcons have a huge edge because Wilson, a rookie, is coming into a loud and hostile environment. But Wilson is no ordinary rookie. He did struggle in his first five road games, throwing four touchdowns and eight interceptions. But, in his past four games on the road, including a playoff win at Washington, Wilson has thrown six touchdowns and no interceptions.

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