Seahawks vs. Falcons: Seattle's Defense Will Ground Atlanta's High-Flying Attack

Mike HoagCorrespondent IIJanuary 13, 2013

SEATTLE, WA - DECEMBER 09:  Richard Sherman #25 of the Seattle Seahawks scores a touchdown on a interception return against the Arizona Cardinals at CenturyLink Field on December 9, 2012 in Seattle, Washington.  (Photo by Kevin Casey/Getty Images)
Kevin Casey/Getty Images

The Seattle Seahawks have completely shut down opponents’ passing games this season. On the flip side, the Atlanta Falcons have struggled against some of the better pass defenses around the league.

Atlanta was likely hoping the Washington Redskins would have advanced last week, considering the better matchup for its pass-first offense.

To its dismay, Seattle stormed back from a 14-point deficit and is now Atlanta-bound to attempt to add to the postseason struggles of Matt Ryan and this Falcons team.

The pressure is intensifying around Ryan to win the big game and make the next step as the team’s franchise quarterback.

Could this be the season Ryan and his team finally make the jump to become postseason contenders?

Seattle cornerback Richard Sherman labeled wide receivers Roddy White and Julio Jones as the “the top tandem out there” earlier in the week.

Add in future Hall of Fame TE Tony Gonzalez and the Seahawks will undoubtedly have their hands full.

Atlanta has posted a winning record (56-24 overall) in each of the past five seasons and has three playoff appearances. All of those trips to extra football have ended in defeat, though.

The last two weren’t even close. Atlanta looked like sure-fire bets to reach the Super Bowl after finishing with a 13-3 finish in 2010. It was smacked back in the face by the eventual champion Green Bay Packers.

Last season wasn’t much better. The eventual champion New York Giants shut Atlanta down to the tune of a 24-2 spanking.

So why is this year going to be any different?

Atlanta’s one-dimensional focus has set it up for another heartbreaking playoff defeat. The postseason is the luck of the draw, and the team may have found its kryptonite.

The Seahawks are going to bring the heat against Ryan in Sunday’s divisional-round playoff matchup. Whether they get to him frequently or not, they will be harassing him and forcing him to make mistakes against their imposing secondary.

The Seahawks bring pressure and have some of the biggest and most physical defensive backs in the NFL. The combination has made it hard for teams to move the ball down the field through the air against them.

Their opponents are throwing for just over 200 yards per contest (sixth in the NFL).

If Ryan implodes like he did against the Arizona Cardinals’ tough pass defense (five INTs) in Week 11, the team is doomed against a much more competent Seahawks offense.