Originally written January 12, 2013 on NorthWest Sports Beat:
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It starts with the coach In a classic NFL birds of prey matchup, the Seattle Seahawks are set to take on the Atlanta Falcons in a win-or-go-home playoff battle. Here is how head coach Pete Carroll will keep the Falcons grounded and winless in the postseason since quarterback Matt Ryan joined the dirty birds. Marshawn Lynch should carry the ball at least 25 times against the Atlanta Falcons. (Photo: Matt Slocum/AP) 1. ) Bring Extra Skittles It’s no secret that Seattle’s Marshawn Lynch is the best back still running in the postseason, and that Atlanta’s Defense is the worst against stopping the run.  This makes for a terrible matchup for the Falcons, and one Coach Carroll can and will prey upon. Expect Marshawn Lynch to handle the ball upwards of 25 times, as Carroll and the Seahawks try and keep the it away from the explosive Atlanta offense. Let’s not forget about Robert Turbin, either. He may be called upon to provide a different dynamic for the Hawks’ offense. 2.) Cable Vision If the Hawks are to have any success in the run game, it’s all going to start with the big boys up front—Tom Cable’s offensive line. Atlanta’s D-Line is undersized, but quick. They are good at rushing the passer, but they can be man-handled when trying to stop the run. This, like the previous point, gives the advantage to Seattle, but only if the Hawks are leading.  If Atlanta gets a lead, forcing quarterback Russell Wilson to throw, the O-line will have its hands full limiting the speed of DE John Abraham and the rest of the Falcons D-Line.  3.)  Dull and Boring? I find it amusing that the Atlanta Falcons’ official website is urging Georgia Dome fans to arrive early and be as loud as possible to throw Seattle off its game. Like crowd noise will hinder any success of the Seahawks. Apparently the Peach State has never heard of the 12th Man.  But it will be up to Seattle to stymie the crowd by giving them nothing to cheer for.  Coach Carroll should play the safe game and play for field position. I love the advantage Seattle has in its special teams return game. Nothing against Atlanta’s Dominique Franks and Jacquizz Rogers, but Leon Washington is a game-breaker and could put this one on his back with electrifying runs made easier by playing in a domed stadium. And if Seattle’s defense lives up to its reputation, Leon Washington will have many opportunities to field punts. 4. ) Secondary Strikes The production of Atlanta’s two big receivers, Roddy White and Julio Jones, will be mitigated by Seattle’s tremendous cornerbacks, Brandon Browner and Richard Sherman. But if these matchups are a wash, Atlanta will look to expose Seattle’s other defenders, and may hold an edge by targeting secondary receivers like Harry Douglas and Tony Gonzales. It should be Kam Chancellor who gets the Gonzales responsibility, as I just don’t see any of the Seahawks’ linebackers being able to shut down the ageless future Hall of Fame tight end. The Hawks need to run play action against Atlanta’s D. (Photo: Elaine Thompson/AP) How Coach Carroll opts to defend these additional threats is a big question mark, and may be the biggest advantage for the Falcons.  Throw in Atlanta’s reliance on the screen pass and the Seattle defenders will be in tough against the short-to-mid-range pass. A “tweener” LB/DE like rookie Bruce Irvin may thrive in this type of defense. 5.)  Play Action Heroes With everyone under the dome thinking that the ball will be delivered to Lynch on most offensive plays, he could be the most valuable decoy available.  Because Seattle runs the read option so well, the play action will catch Falcons defenders by surprise. Look for Russell Wilson, Michael Robinson and Zach Miller to have effective and timely gains as everyone will be looking for No. 24. Back to back East Coast road trips may be an influence on the weariness of Seattle, and Atlanta will no doubt come out swinging. It’s up to coach Carroll to get his players to weather the storm.  But if last week was any indication, being down early won’t take the wind out from the Seahawks’ wings. And much like the battered ship on the seas, a slow, plodding and methodical course will eventually lead to the destination: the NFC title game. Cheers, The Bartender CLICK HERE CHECK OUT THE SEAHAWKS BLOG IN OUR CLUBHOUSE AT NWSB!
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