When: Sunday, 1:05 p.m., CenturyLink Field
Record: 1-2 after Sunday’s 16-13 loss to the Buccaneers in Tampa
Where they rank: No. 19 on offense (19th rushing, 18th passing); No. 22 on defense (20th rushing, 22nd passing)
Series: Seahawks lead 8-4, but the Falcons have won the past two meetings – including a 34-18 victory in Seattle in Week 15 last season
Star power: Tony Gonzalez. There are plenty of candidates on this team that posted the best record in the NFC last season, but the Falcons’ Pro Bowl tight end continues to get it done at 35 and in his 14th NFL season. He leads the team with three touchdown catches among his 14 receptions. The Seahawks already have faced the 49ers’ Vernon Davis (five catches for 47 yards), the Steelers’ Heather Miller (one for 16) and the Cardinals’ Todd Heap (six for 61), but they’re trying to get where Gonzalez already has been – 11 Pro Bowl selections and eight All-Pro berths. Oh, and he holds the NFL records by a tight end for career receptions (1,069), receiving yards (12,463), touchdown catches (88), 100-yard games (27) and 1,000-yard seasons (four).
Unsung heroes: Sean Weatherspoon and Curtis Lofton. Overshadowed by the concerns over the offense is the fact that the Falcons allowed 30 points to the Bears and 31 to the Eagles before limiting the Bucs to 16 on Sunday. But the linebacker duo of Weatherspoon (outside) and Lofton (middle) have combined for 60 tackles – 31 for Weatherspoon and 29 for Lofton.
On the spot: The offensive line. QB Matt Ryan has been sacked 13 times in three games after going down 23 times all of last season. Ryan also has been hit 21 times. But it’s not just the pass protection that has coach Mike Smith concerned, as the running game gained 30 yards on 15 carries against the Bucs and Michael Turner had just 20 on 11 carries for a 1.8-yard average. It’s gotten to the point where Smith is contemplating making changes in the unit this week.
Burning question: Is this the week the Falcons’ offense finally gets it road act together? In eight quarters away from home, the Falcons have scored one touchdown in losses to the Bears (30-12) and Bucs (16-13). Ryan has passed for 300-plus yards in each of those games, but it wasn’t enough. Sunday, Roddy White caught nine passes for 140 yards and rookie Julio Jones added six for 115. But that wasn’t enough, either.
Number to know: 23, as in the number of penalties the Falcons have committed. They were the least-penalized team in the league last season (58). This season, they’re on pace to hit 122.
Familiar faces: QB Bob Bratkowski was the Seahawks’ offensive coordinator (1995-97) under Dennis Erickson and also coached the wide receivers (1992-94) on Tom Flores’ staff. Defensive backs coach Tim Lewis coached the same position for the Seahawks in 2009 and is the brother of Will Lewis, the Seahawks’ VP of football operations.
The last word: “If it was that simple, we’d just fix it. It’d be fixed. This is different, (it’s not) we’ll do it this way so that it won’t happen anymore, just like magic. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work that way.” – right tackle Tyson Clabo on the offensive line issues
Tags: Atlanta Falcons, Bucs, Burning Question, Career Receptions, Coach Mike, Matt Ryan, Michael Turner, Mike Smith, Nfl Records, nfl season, Pro Bowl Selections, Receiving Yards, Running Game, Tight End, Todd Heap, Tony Gonzalez, Unsung Heroes, Weatherspoon, Yard Games
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