Matt Ryan and the Atlanta Falcons moved the ball against the Seattle Seahawks in Week 6 when the Legion of Boom still had All-Pro safety Earl Thomas in the lineup. In Saturday’s playoff tilt, Seattle won’t have Thomas to help slow Julio Jones & Co.
Ryan said this week Thomas’ absence due to a fractured tibia won’t change the Falcons’ mindset one iota.
“We created some big plays with Earl in the lineup, too,” Ryan said, via ESPN’s Vaughn McClure. “There’s plays to be made at all times through games. One guy’s not going to make it … Earl’s a great player, there’s no question about that, but there will be opportunities. There always are during games. Like always, whenever we get our opportunities, hopefully we can make those plays.”
Ryan noted that in that game Seattle was missing the other half of their safety duo, Kam Chancellor, who will play this week.
“I think they’re really good on the defensive side of the ball,” Ryan said. “Earl’s out; Kam’s back in. When we played them, Kam didn’t play for them. He’s such a good player, too. Kind of sets the tone for them in terms of physical [style] and being aggressive. Earl’s a good player for sure and covers a lot of ground.”
Missing the ground-covering Thomas could prove fatal for Seattle against Ryan. In the wild-card round, the Detroit Lions didn’t possess the offensive firepower to take advantage of Thomas’ absence down the seam. Atlanta’s diverse, multi-leveled offense with Jones and Mohamed Sanu gashing the intermediate level, Taylor Gabriel taking the top off, and Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman underneath bring a much different beast.
In Week 6, Ryan put up 335 yards passing with three touchdowns and one interception (which caromed off Jones’ hands on a game-changing play).
Despite allowing more points per game without Thomas this season and having zero interceptions since he went down in Week 13, Ryan doesn’t believe the falloff is steep for Seattle.
“I think their scheme stays pretty consistent,” Ryan said. “I think that’s probably one of the things that Seattle’s done a great job of since Pete [Carroll] has been there. They really don’t change all that much. And they do what they do, and they do it really well.”
The key for Seattle will be pressuring Ryan, getting him off his spot and disrupting the timing with receivers. In Week 6, Seattle’s defensive front dominated early. Ryan was sacked four times that game, tied for the most he’s been taken down this season. The Seahawks were without Frank Clark that day, and Michael Bennett suffered an injury that sidelined him in the second half. With both healthy this week, Ryan will need his line to give him enough time to take advantage of Thomas’ absence in the secondary.
Source: NFL Headlines