Countdown to kickoff

Greetings from CenturyLink Field, where some of the Seahawks already are on the field to prepare for this afternoon’s game against the Atlanta Falcons – with kickoff and coverage on Fox (channel 13 in the greater Seattle area) scheduled for 1:05 p.m.

This is usually were I try to provide some insight into what might transpire during the next several hours, but I have no idea what to expect from this Audubon Society matchup. When the schedule was released in April, this one looked like a definite “L” for the Seahawks. The Falcons not only had a NFC-best 13-3 record last season, win No. 12 came here against the Seahawks in Week 15, 34-18.

But flash forward through the lockout-erased offseason, hurry-up-and-catch-up sessions that were training camp and the preseason and the first three games of the regular season, and look who’s having the same issues as the Seahawks.

The Falcons are 1-2. They haven’t been able to win on the road (0-2), or even score touchdowns away from home (one in eight quarters). They haven’t been able protect QB Matt Ryan, either. He’s been sacked 13 times, compared to 23 all of last season.

The Seahawks? Also 1-2, and 0-2 on the road with one TD in eight quarters. Tarvaris Jackson? Sacked 14 times, including four in the first half of last week’s 13-10 win over the Cardinals and five in each of the road losses to open the season.

So what gives today?

For starters, the Seahawks will have to score more than 13 points. Last week, their only TD drive (14 plays, 72 yards) was their only possession that even vaguely resembled the way Darrell Bevell’s offense is intended to function. Their only drive this season that was longer (80 yards) came in the fourth quarter of the opener in San Francisco, and 55 of those yards were provided by the scoring play from Jackson to Doug Baldwin – which was 7 yards of pass and 48 yards of run after the catch.

Between those two possessions, the Seahawks had the ball 18 times and scored twice – on field goals against the Cardinals. Other than that, it was 12 punts (including five three-and-outs), an interception, a lost fumble, a failed fourth-down attempt and the clock running out at the end of a half.

But the Falcons scored 12 points in their opening-day loss to the Bears in Chicago and 13 in last week’s loss to the Buccaneers in Tampa. Their TD-less streak on the road covered seven quarters before Ryan hooked up with tight end Tony Gonzalez on a 10-yard scoring pass in the fourth quarter last week. Before that score, the Falcons punted three times, lost two fumbles, threw an interception, turned the ball over on downs at the Bucs’ 7-yard line and settled for a field goal after reaching the Bucs’ 8-yard line.

So, instead of a mismatch, today’s game is a matchup of two offenses that are still trying to find their way to the end zone.

Standing in their respective ways, of course, are a Seahawks defense that ranks 10th in league and always plays better at home and a Falcons defense that already has yielded 30 and 31 points and ranks 22nd in the league.

In one corner of the NFL Nation, Seahawks coach Pete Carroll lauded his players for their best week of practice this season.

“This was probably the most solid week,” he said Friday. “It felt like we were on point and focused really well. It’ll be interesting to see if we carry it to the game.”

In an opposite corner of the NFL Nation, Falcons coach Mike Smith spent the week answering questions about what’s wrong with his offense, in general; and the line, in particular.

“We haven’t played as effectively as we’d have liked in the first three games,” he said. “As I told our media here after the first game, the first thing you’ve got to always look at is scheme, as far as shoring up something that you’re not doing well. And the second thing is personnel. That’s how we’ve approached it this week.”

So rather than the expected matchup, this is one where it’s difficult to know what to expect – even for the coaches.


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