This was by far Seattle’s most complete performance of the season.
Offense, defense, special teams. It was hard to find any fault today. It was all positive.
Even if Atlanta played up to the soft reputation they’ve inherited over the years, there was plenty working against the Seahawks.
At half time both Curt Menefee and Jimmy Johnson referred to the Falcons as the injured team. Johnson even called Seattle “healthy”.
Red Bryant. Max Unger. Sidney Rice. Russell Okung. Breno Giacomini. Percy Harvin. All missing starters for the Seahawks.
During the game they also lost Brandon Browner (groin) and Tony McDaniel (hamstring).
How many teams in the NFL could survive that many absent starters and win as comfortably as Seattle did today?
It was yet another 10am start. They were facing an opponent who knew defeat today and they were done. The refs made a number of questionable calls (the Michael Bennett sack/roughing call was painful to observe).
The Falcons still have Matt Ryan — the main reason they’ve won a lot of games in the Mike Smith era.
Despite all of that, 33-10 flatters the Falcons. And I mean that with the greatest respect — I have a lot of time for the Atlanta fans who were classy last year after the playoff game. But they’ll probably admit this had a similar feel to the huge blowouts Seattle earned at the end of last season.
After the game all I could think about was free agency. This could be a difficult off-season financially.
Richard Sherman and Earl Thomas will get new deals, that much is a given.
But they have to — HAVE TO — find a way to keep Michael Bennett and Golden Tate.
They are just as much of a priority.
Bennett should’ve had two sacks today, the refs put paid to that. He came into the game ranked as the #4 edge rusher in the NFL according to Greg Bedard.
He has been a genuine sensation for the Seahawks this year, the definitive unsung hero.
He might be the most underrated player in the NFL.
While many have flocked to crown Earl Thomas and Richard Sherman as the teams defensive MVP, for me it’s Bennett. He has been the missing piece of the puzzle. The glue that brings all the pieces together and completes the defense.
How long has this team longed for a guy who can rush inside? Bennett doesn’t just do that, he lines up off the edge too. Today he started instead of Red Bryant at the five technique and the run defense improved.
Keeping Michael Bennett is more important than keeping Bryant and Brandon Mebane on the roster. I would rather go into the draft and free agency feeling like I had to replace those two instead of having to replace the new star of Seattle’s defense.
I haven’t studied the financial ramifications (I will) but I believe they can save around $5m in cap just by cutting Mebane.
I would give that $5m to Bennett right off the bat. And then some.
Likewise, if you have to cut currently-injured Sidney Rice to keep Tate I think it’s a tough decision you just have to make. He might not put up huge numbers every week, but he’s become an integral part of this team.
You can’t teach that one-handed touchdown grab today. But it’s not just that — for two years now this team has been able to rely on Tate to make crucial plays at key times. Players like that don’t come around too often. Finding his replacement would become an immediate priority and dare I say — a near impossible task even with guys like Odell Beckham Jr available.
They could back-load contracts. Percy Harvin’s cap hit in 2013 is just $4.9m but escalates to $13.4m next year. Whatever way they do it, they have to be creative to keep this duo in Seattle despite the need to re-sign Sherman and Thomas (plus Russell Wilson a year later).
Darrell Bevell receives plenty of criticism when things go wrong, so it’s only fair he gets some praise today. That was a perfect gameplan. He dialled up the flea flicker at the right time, he brought balance to the offense. And he did what the fans have been calling for — ran Marshawn Lynch in the redzone.
Russell Wilson was again close to flawless and showed just how dangerous he can be with time to throw.
Russell Okung, Breno Giacomini and Max Unger could return next week, but the patchwork offensive line had a terrific game. To a man they all played well — and it was good to see Alvin Bailey get further time on the field.
Jermaine Kearse is a legit NFL receiver and should become an even greater part of the game plan going forward.
Christine Michael got some carries and showed there’s no reason why he shouldn’t be more involved.
Defensively, it was great to see defensive tackle Mike Brooks have an impact after being activated last night. He was unlucky to get cut after a productive pre-season and looked the part today.
Anyone else wonder what annoyed Cliff Avril to the point he had to be pulled away from one of the coaches on the sideline?
The run defense was much improved. Matt Ryan was pressured enough. It would be nice to see a counter to the QB-running-up-the-middle conversion we’ve seen the last two weeks. Ryan and Mike Glennon aren’t exactly Colin Kaepernick, after all.
The linebackers needed to step up after a sloppy game in the first half last week. Mission accomplished.
It’ll be interesting to see who they start with Browner likely to miss a few weeks. Considering Browner is a pending free agent who will be tough to keep, this could be an early audition for his replacement. I’d like to see Byron Maxwell get a shot, but Jeremy Lane got the nod last year ahead of him. Walter Thurmond has acted mostly in the slot it seems, but could move outside.
Next week will be another test of the run defense against Adrian Peterson. Nobody is going to take Minnesota lightly after last weeks contest against Tampa Bay. But the Seahawks have a superb opportunity to go 10-1 ahead of titanic games against New Orleans and San Francisco.
Elsewhere, the Rams’ 38-8 demolition of Indianapolis showed just how good that win in St. Louis was a couple of weeks ago. The Seahawks would be 10-0 if it wasn’t for Andrew Luck.
And the 49ers’ lousy performance and losing at home to Carolina gives Seattle a 2.5 game lead in the NFC West. San Francisco goes to New Orleans next week.