There were plenty of fingers to point Sunday, but not many were aimed at the Seattle Seahawks’ defense.
Clubbed 34-18 by Atlanta in front of an increasingly frustrated sellout crowd at Qwest Field, the Seahawks could take solace in the fact they held the Falcons’ high-powered offense to 266 yards, the second time in the past eight games they’ve held an opponent under 300 yards.
“(The defense) played good,” said safety Lawyer Milloy. “We gave ourselves a chance. In the (other) games we lost, we didn’t give ourselves a chance. Today I think we came out with a better mindset … we knew they didn’t make many mistakes coming in, and that was the tale of the tape.”
The Seahawks didn’t prove as adept at avoiding mistakes – or capitalizing on the few the Falcons made.
On Seattle’s first three possessions of the third quarter, quarterback Matt Hasselbeck fumbled in his own end zone, then was intercepted twice. All three turnovers resulted in Atlanta scores.
Safety Jordan Babineaux, who had a 17-yard interception return in the first quarter, refused to blame the offense.
“We just had to find a way to steal possession, and we knew that,” he said. “That was our mentality, that was our thought process after they got that big turnover for the touchdown. We didn’t do a good enough job taking the ball away from them and giving our offense more opportunities to score and put points on the board.”
For its part, Atlanta fumbled on back-to-back plays in the second quarter – and Seattle came up empty-handed both times.
After an 80-yard opening drive, the Seahawks’ offense mustered only 154 yards, keeping the defense on the field – and in poor position – for long stretches for the remainder of the game.
Coach Pete Carroll said the defense made the best of the difficult situations it found itself in.
“They certainly had a short field,” he said. “I felt they hung really tough. … I saw (Michael Turner) had like nothing in the first half, and he’s a terrific football player. We were hitting the quarterback and knocking him around.”
Things began seeping out of control near the end of the first half, when Pro Bowl cornerback Marcus Trufant was knocked out of the game with back spasms.
Kennard Cox came on to replace him, and was quickly beaten by receiver Michael Jenkins for a 24-yard touchdown that put the Falcons up for good, 17-10.
Otherwise, the Seahawks’ secondary – ranked 30th in the NFL coming in – kept quarterback Matt Ryan to a manageable 174 yards on 20-of-35 passing. Roddy White, who led the league with 99 receptions for 1,219 yards coming in, caught seven of those passes and scored a touchdown, but was held to 65 yards.
Even better, Turner, who came in as the NFL’s fourth-leading rusher, was limited to 82 yards on 25 carries, the third time in eight games he’s been held under 100 yards.
“I think we played well in the first half but 30 minutes of football isn’t gonna win,” Babineaux said. “It’s not going to win. It wasn’t good enough.”
All told, the defense spent 35 minutes, 25 seconds of the 60-minute game on the field as the offense struggled to find its bearings.
“We came out and we battled,” said linebacker David Hawthorne. “We did everything we said we wanted to do – come out and fight with these dudes and don’t lay down by any means. Come out and let them know we’re still a good football team. And I think we did that. A lot of guys made some good plays. And a lot of guys came out and played hard, and that’s all you can really ask.”