Seahawks vs. Falcons: Full Roster Report Card Grades for Atlanta
The Atlanta Falcons capped off their second three-game losing streak of the season with a listless 33-10 loss at home to the Seattle Seahawks. Just about everything went wrong for the Falcons in a game that played out much like Atlanta's 2013 season.
The Seahawks could run the ball, and the Falcons couldn't. The Seahawks could rush the passer, and the Falcons couldn't. The Seahawks made plays, and the Falcons didn't.
Seattle beat Atlanta soundly on offense, defense and special teams. A team that many believed (including myself) could finish the second half of the season with a respectable 6-10 or 7-9 record once wide receiver Roddy White and linebacker Sean Weatherspoon returned from injuries looked like it may have to fight to win two more games this year.
Let's take a look at our position-by-position game grades for Atlanta and discuss what, if any, bright spots came out of this performance for the Falcons.
All game stats from ESPN.com.
The good news for Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan is that he didn't throw any interceptions this week after tossing seven picks in Atlanta's last two games. Ryan was also able to use his legs to make a couple of plays for his team.
The bad news? Ryan and Atlanta's passing offense never got anything significant going versus a stout Seattle defense.
Credit the Seahawks' secondary for winning the one-on-one matchups on the back end and keeping Ryan from getting the ball downfield.
Even Roddy White couldn't help Ryan because of the blanket coverage in the secondary. In fact, it's a wonder Ryan didn't continue his two-game interception streak given that Seattle was able to pressure Ryan pretty well and hold up in coverage.
This was far from the performance Atlanta needed from Ryan to win, but unlike the last two weeks, it's tough to put this loss on his shoulders.
It was another tough day on the ground for Atlanta's running backs.
The Falcons tried to establish the run early on in the game, but Seattle's defense wasn't having any of it.
Steven Jackson was mostly ineffective because he was repeatedly hit in the backfield, while Jacquizz Rodgers and Jason Snelling did most of their damage as pass-catchers.
While Jackson hasn't been getting great blocking, some Falcons fans are probably starting to wonder whether the 30-year-old back has a future in Atlanta beyond this season.
In all, the Falcons only rushed for 64 yards on 16 carries against Seattle, and even those stats are skewed a bit because of a 17-yard run by Rodgers and a 10-yard run by Ryan.
Atlanta did get a small spark from Jacquizz Rodgers and Jason Snelling in the first half, but it's tough to give this group a grade higher than "D" because of the way Atlanta's run game stalled.
Roddy White returned to the lineup, but there wasn't much drama between him and Richard Sherman this time around as Seattle's secondary dominated Atlanta's wideouts.
Even when Matt Ryan had time to throw, he couldn't get the ball downfield because White, Harry Douglas, Darius Johnson and Drew Davis couldn't get behind their defenders for any big plays.
Douglas managed to turn a short reception into a 31-yard gain in the fourth quarter, but Seahawks reserve cornerback Walter Thurmond poked the ball loose and recovered it to negate the play.
It was nice to see undrafted rookie and former practice squad member Darius Johnson catch his first touchdown pass in the third quarter, but Seattle was already in control of the game at that point.
Roddy White's return was supposed to inject some life into the Falcons' offense, but the unit was only able to score one touchdown for the third straight week.
Other than Matt Ryan, Tony Gonzalez has probably suffered the most from the injuries sustained by Roddy White and Julio Jones this season.
Ryan targeted Gonzalez five times against Seattle, and Gonzalez was able to haul in three catches for 29 yards. Like most opposing defenses have done against Atlanta this year, Seattle was physical with Gonzalez throughout the game.
Gonzalez was able to draw a holding penalty on Seahawks' safety Kam Chancellor in the fourth quarter, but the drive ended with a Harry Douglas fumble.
You can't help but wonder why the Falcons haven't done more to incorporate reserve tight ends Levine Toilolo and Chase Coffman into the offense.
Atlanta's offensive line has taken a beating on the field and in the media this season, but it's tough to watch this group and come up with anything positive to say.
All too often this year, we've seen opposing defenders darting into the backfield to hit Atlanta running backs behind the line of scrimmage.
Sunday was no different.
Second-year center Peter Konz's play was probably the most alarming from this group. He just doesn't look like he's able to get any push as an in-line blocker. He was pushed back on too many of Atlanta's rush attempts. If Konz doesn't show improvement over the last seven games, the Falcons may have to decide if he has a scheme issue, a strength issue or a talent issue.
Who would've known that there would be this much of a drop-off from Todd McClure? Konz has a nice Wisconsin pedigree, but if the Falcons can't get good play at center, the rest of the line will continue to suffer.
Lamar Holmes started for an inactive Sam Baker at left tackle and looked better in pass protection than he did as a run-blocker, but he's got to get more physical. He's too big to not get a push in the ground game.
Atlanta's defensive line battled for the first quarter-and-a-half before Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch burst through a nice hole for a 37-yard gain that led to Seattle's first touchdown of the day in the second quarter.
Defensive tackle Jonathan Babineaux had a couple shots at Russell Wilson in the backfield on Sunday, but he couldn't bring the Seattle quarterback down.
While part of the blame should fall on Atlanta's offense for not giving the defensive group much of a break between series, the fact remains that the Seahawks were missing three starters along their offensive line and still gained 211 yards on 42 carries against Atlanta.
Atlanta's best pass rush of the day probably came from rookie defensive end Stansly Maponga on a play when he went unblocked and was able to pressure Russell Wilson.
There weren't many other standout plays from the unit.
Rookie linebacker Paul Worrilow carried this group. He was in on 19 tackles for the second week in a row. He's far from a finished product, but the Falcons appear to have stumbled across a real keeper in the ex-Delaware Blue Hen.
Worrilow's undrafted mate Joplo Bartu didn't have too bad of a day either. He registered a sack and six tackles.
Both Bartu and Worrilow still look like they're playing catch-up with defensive coordinator Mike Nolan's schemes at times, and opposing teams are taking advantage of their confusion by throwing some false reads at them.
Falcons fans can only hope that Worrilow and Bartu will be even better after this experience.
The Falcons really could have used more in run support from veteran linebacker Akeem Dent. Perhaps this unit will get its swagger back when Sean Weatherspoon returns.
The theme of the day was "almost" for Atlanta's secondary group.
Rookie cornerback and Washington native Desmond Trufant almost broke up a 23-yard catch to his ex-Husky teammate Jermaine Kearse on a key third-down conversion during Seattle's second field-goal drive.
Free safety Thomas DeCoud almost broke up Kearse's 43-yard touchdown reception on a flea-flicker later in the second quarter.
Cornerback Robert Alford almost deflected Golden Tate's back-breaking six-yard touchdown catch that put Seattle up 23-3 right before the half.
Atlanta's defense was on the field more than it should have been on Sunday, but the Falcons desperately needed one of their defensive backs to make a play that never came.
Asante Samuel was brought in to be the team's ballhawk last season, but he's been a non-factor for most of this year. Are his days in Atlanta numbered?
Falcons kicker Matt Bryant connected on a 53-yard field-goal attempt to bring Atlanta within three points in the second quarter, but he wouldn't get another shot to put points on the board until he added the extra point on Darius Johnson's third-quarter touchdown.
Falcons punter Matt Bosher averaged 53.4 yards per kick on five punts, but his coverage unit gave up a 32-yard return to Golden Tate that set up Seattle's second touchdown late in the second quarter.
The Falcons' kick return game was as limited as the team's offense.
Seattle dominated Atlanta to the point where it was tough to tell what kind of game plan the Falcons had coming into Sunday's contest.
Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff told ESPN's Vaughn McClure that Falcons head coach Mike Smith isn't going anywhere after the game, while CBS Sports' Jason La Canfora suggested that Jon Gruden could be interested a potential Atlanta coaching vacancy.
While Dimitroff's position is hardly a surprise to most people who follow this team, it's amazing to even hear rumors like that about a team that did what the Falcons did last season.
Things change quickly in the NFL though, and that was never more evident than Sunday when the Seahawks dominated the Falcons at the Georgia Dome 10 months after the Falcons eliminated them from the playoffs.
Smith made it clear that the Seahawks won this game up front in his postgame remarks via AtlantaFalcons.com: "I do feel like our guys are playing hard, we just physically didn't win the line of scrimmage today on both sides of the football."
While Smith probably isn't in danger of losing his job after this season, would he and Dimitroff be willing to endorse offensive line coach Pat Hill, defensive line coach Ray Hamilton, and strength and conditioning coach A.J. Neibel given that Atlanta hasn't won the line of scrimmage in almost all of its games this year?