The Seahawks were dominant in the first half, shaky in the third quarter and then made enough plays in the fourth quarter to emerge with a 26-24 victory over the Falcons. How’d they grade out?
It was Michael Bennett, who so often plays the role of agitator for the Seahawks, who on Sunday was found in the somewhat uncharacteristic role of peacemaker.
As Richard Sherman raged on the sideline following some miscommunication that he said led to “two bogus touchdowns’’ it was Bennett trying to calm things down.
“One play doesn’t define us,” Bennett said. “You have to let that moment go and focus on the bigger picture. It’s about winning the game and not winning that one play.”
Ultimately that’s what the Seahawks did, even if it is that one play and its aftermath — a 36-yard touchdown pass from Matt Ryan to Julio Jones that led to Sherman throwing his helmet and blowing up at teammates and coaches — that figures to linger from this game.
The bigger picture was a Seattle win that got the Seahawks to 4-1, on a day when despite some really weird moments, there were just enough more good ones than bad.
Russell Wilson is still not the Russell Wilson of usual — on one notable occasion in the fourth quarter he passed up what looked like a great chance to run for big yards, and when he did run he still didn’t seem to have his usual burst.
But he once again showed that even hobbled he can get the job done, even if there were some peaks and valleys. Wilson was 11 for 15 passing in the first half for 135 yards, with two of the incompletions wide open drops. But he was then just 4 for 7 for 25 yards in the third quarter when the Seahawks allowed the Falcons to turn a 17-3 halftime deficit into a 24-17 lead.
But in the fourth quarter, Wilson was 10 for 15 for 110 yards, leading a 70-yard drive to get Seattle back in it and then converting a critical third-down on a pass to Alex Collins to set up the winning field goal.
Wilson again connected well with Jimmy Graham, who had six receptions for 89 yards and now has 18 catches on 26 targets for 312 yards in the last three games.
Jermaine Kearse also came alive with two big catches and the forced pass interference in the fourth quarter.
And the pass protection was again decent enough – Wilson was hit just five times and took the blame for the one time he was sacked.
The running game, though, was still largely stuck in neutral and against a defense that came in ranked 26th overall. But credit Germain Ifedi with about three crunching blocks on Christine Michael’s opening 9-yard touchdown run.
Simply put, what a weird day for the defense.
For a half, the Seahawks just dominated the best offense in the NFL, holding an Atlanta team averaging 457 yards per game to just 86 in the first half. That included three first-quarter sacks, two by Cliff Avril, one that forced a fumble that led to Michael’s touchdown. The Seahawks blitzed well, tackled sure, and there seemed little reason to think at halftime this wouldn’t be a comfortable win.
Then came a bizarre third quarter in which the Falcons had touchdown drives of 75, 79 and 97 yards, punctuatedy Sherman’s blowups and subsequent uneasy feeling on the sideline.
But just when all seemed lost, the defense rose to force a punt, then a turnover, and then stop a final last-ditch Atlanta drive.
After gaining 252 yards in the third quarter, Atlanta had just 24 on 11 plays in the fourth quarter.
This was by far the best game of the season for Earl Thomas, who had three tackles, three pass defenses, an interception and about just as many fearsome hits.
Sherman had a mixed bag of a game. He was typically matched up on Julio Jones when Jones lined up outside, and was beaten a few times (unofficially Jones made three catches for 40 yards when llined up directly on Sherman). The TD, though, came in a zone as did another 24-yard reception in the third quarter (and maybe some of Sherman’s frustration was not being able to take Jones on every play, even if he didn’t say that afterward). But Sherman also got credit for a pass breakup on the interception and helped break up the final play.
Bobby Wagner had a huge day leading the effort holding Atlanta to 52 yards rushing, with 14 tackles.
And Bennett had an astonishing five quarterback hits despite leaving the game midway through the third quarter — Seattle finished with 13.
The field goal and PAT issues bring the grade down here greatly. A low snap led to a missed 29-yard field goal by Steven Hauschka early in the fourth quarter, and then a low attempt on a PAT later in the quarter was blocked. But he steadied himself to make the game-winner later.
Tyler Lockett was back to handle most of the return duties but was largely held in check. Seattle’s coverage was largely fine.