What do the Seahawks have to do to take down the Falcons on Monday Night Football? Here are three keys to the game.
1 — Making more Monday night magic
The Atlanta game is the Seattle’s only Monday-night appearance of the season, a time when the Seahawks are usually at their best. Seattle is 23-8 all-time on Monday night, winning 74.2 percent, which is the best in NFL history. The Seahawks have also won 11 in a row on Monday night dating to a 43-39 loss to Dallas on Dec. 6, 2004.
Seattle has won seven in a row on Monday night under coach Pete Carroll by a combined 163-93. That all but two of those games has come at home has unquestionably helped. But the Seahawks have also simply been stellar in prime time under Carroll.
The win Thursday at Arizona improved Seattle’s record to 21-3-1 in prime time under Carroll, including the last six. That includes a 13-1 record at home in prime time under Carroll. The one loss? In 2015 on a Sunday night vs. Arizona, 39-32.
2 — Giving Russell some help
It’s been no secret that the Seahawks are relying on Russell Wilson as much as ever. He is on pace for a career-high and team-record 4,521 passing yards and also is the team’s leading rusher with 290 yards. But just how much the Seahawks are counting on Wilson became evident in a stat revealed by NFL research.
According to the league, Wilson has accounted for (thrown or rushed for) 82.1 percent of the Seahawks’ yards from scrimmage this season, which the league says is the highest such percentage by a player in any season in the Super Bowl era (since 1966). That’s mostly an indictment on the team’s running game which remains fairly stagnant, especially when Wilson isn’t doing the carrying.
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Chris Carson, who is on injured reserve and hasn’t played since the fourth game of the season, remains the team’s leading rusher among tailbacks with 208 yards. Eddie Lacy is next with just 125. Lacy is healthy this week after sitting out the Arizona game and Seattle also signed Mike Davis off the practice squad this week.
Expect Davis to play, though the team might give Lacy the start. He was the starter two weeks ago when the team said it planned to give him the bulk of the work and see if that might allow him to find a rhythm. Thomas Rawls is also available. But with Lacy averaging 2.7 yards per carry and Rawls 2.6, the Seahawks desperately need someone — anyone — to jump-start the running game.
3 — Staying on schedule
Seahawks players and coaches often talk of staying on schedule offensively, which means doing enough on first and second down to make third downs manageable — meaning, generally, needing to gain at least six yards to keep the drive going. But Seattle has had uncommon struggles doing that this season.
Seattle was 3-13 on third down against Arizona and one reason is that on nine of the third downs Seattle had seven yards or more to go. And one reason for that is that few teams in the NFL are doing less on first down when running the ball than the Seahawks.
According to statistics from Inside Edge, no team in the NFL is gaining fewer yards per rushing attempt on first down than Seattle’s 2.6. The league average is 4.0. Seattle ran the ball on first down 12 times against Arizona and never gained more than three yards and did that just once. Seven times Seattle got one yard or fewer setting up at least second and nine or longer.
Seattle gained 12 yards on 12 rushing attempts on first down. Seattle turned to the pass much more on first down in the final three quarters against Arizona, but that creates its own risks of either a sack or an incompletion that to set up a second-and-long. In other words, Seattle’s offensive issues keep coming back to getting more of a running game going.