A lot has changed since the Falcons rallied for a 30-28 victory over the Seahawks in their divisional playoff game in January, as the Falcons are 2-6 entering Sunday’s rematch at the Georgia Dome.
A look at the 2-6 Atlanta Falcons, the Seahawks’ Week 10 opponent:
When: Sunday, 10 a.m. PT, Georgia Dome, Atlanta
Record: 2-6 after Sunday’s 34-10 loss to the Panthers in Carolina
Where they rank: No. 12 on offense (32nd rushing, 5th passing); No. 21 on defense (20th rushing, 19th passing)
TV: FOX (Q/13 in Seattle), with Kevin Burkhardt, John Lynch and Erin Andrews
Series: Seahawks lead 8-5, but the Falcons have won the past three regular-season matchups as well as January’s division playoff game against the Seahawks at the Georgia Dome
Star power: Tony Gonzalez. There is no shortage of star power on this team, as the Falcons had five players voted to the Pro Bowl last year – quarterback Matt Ryan, wide receiver Julio Jones, safeties Thomas DeCoud and William Moore and, course, Gonzalez, who was selected for the 13th time. But Gonzalez has put himself in a category by himself during his 16½-season NFL career. He is the most productive tight end in the history of the league, with numbers that place him among best pass-catchers to ever play the game – 1,286 receptions, second all-time to Jerry Rice (1,549); 14,744 receiving yards, No. 7 all-time; and 107 TD catches, No. 6 all-time. At 37, and in his 17th season, he leads the Falcons with 44 receptions and four TD catches this season. “Nobody can cover him,” Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said before the Seahawks’ divisional playoff game against the Falcons in January. “He’s just killed everybody for a whole career.” Right on cue, Gonzalez went out and caught six passes for 51 yards and a touchdown in the Falcons’ 30-28 victory. Gonzalez’s final game was supposed to be the NFC Championship game the following week against the 49ers, but he was persuaded into returning for the 2013 season.
Unsung hero: Jacquizz Rodgers. The 5-foot-6 former Oregon State Beaver has come up big during the Falcons’ disappointing start to this season in a number of ways. He leads the team in rushing (220 yards), shares the lead in touchdowns (four), is fourth in receptions (33) and would rank No. 10 in the league in kickoff return average (25.8 yards) if he had enough returns to qualify (he’s got only eight).
On the spot: Desmond Trufant. This isn’t so much an on-the-spot situation as it is a spotlight-on selection. Trufant, of course, is the younger brother of Marcus Trufant, Seattle’s first-round draft choice in 2003 and one of the cornerbacks on the Seahawks’ 35th Anniversary team. Trufant’s final game as a Seahawk was the Jan. 13 divisional playoff game against the Falcons at the Georgia Dome. Now, Desmond will be the Trufant on the field for the teams’ rematch on Sunday. The Falcons’ first-round draft choice from the University of Washington got his first career interception in Sunday’s game against the Panthers.
Burning question: Is this the week where the Seahawks get this not-playing-down-to-your-opposition thing right? Last Monday night, they needed a swatted fourth-down pass in the end zone by Brandon Browner on the final play of the game to get out of St. Louis with a 14-9 victory over what was a 3-4 Rams team. Sunday, they needed the biggest comeback in franchise history to pull out a 27-24 victory over the winless Buccaneers at CenturyLink Field – in overtime, and after falling behind 21-0. The Falcons haven’t just fallen to 2-6 after posting the best record (13-3) in the NFC last season; they’ve fallen on hard times, allowing each of their first eight opponents at least 23 points and scoring fewer than 14 in their past two games.
Numbers to know: 10, first-quarter points allowed by the Falcons – the same quarter in which the Seahawks have scored their fewest points (29) and allowed the fewest points (13). … 5, first downs the Falcons have given each of their past two opponents on penalties. … 19, tackles by linebacker Paul Worrilow against the Panthers. … 79, rushing yards by the Falcons against the Panthers, their third-highest total this season. … 8, takeaways by the Falcons, tied for sixth fewest in the league. … 7, interceptions thrown by Ryan in the past two games. … 6, combined games missed by Jones and fellow wide receiver Roddy White – three and counting by Jones, who is on injured reserve following foot surgery; the past three by White, because of hamstring and ankle injuries.
Familiar faces: In addition to Desmond Trufant, there’s defensive tackle Jonathan Babineaux, who is the brother of former Seahawks defensive back Jordan Babineaux; and running back Josh Vaughan, who is the nephew of former Seahawks running back David Sims.
The last word: “When you’re 2-6, you’re obviously not doing anything very consistently or effectively.” – Falcons coach Mike Smith