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Talking to Red Bryant in the locker room on Sunday was like watching someone eat a large bag of Sweet Tarts.
The Seahawks’ defensive end found a lot that was tasty about the way his team rallied from a 27-7 deficit in the second half of a 30-28 loss to the Atlanta Falcons at CenturyLink Field. But every time Bryant came close to breaking into a smile, a sour expression washed over his face as he recalled the less-memorable moments.
And that’s the kind of game it was. The Seahawks seemed incapable of getting out of their own way as the Falcons rolled up 24 points and 256 yards in the first half. Then, the Seahawks came out after intermission and pretty much had things their own way in outscoring (21-6) and outgaining (234-156) the Falcons.
Sweet: “That was champion game,” Bryant said. “That might sound like a cliché, but that was a 13-3 team last year; a battle-tested team. To comeback and fight the way we did, we have to take that and move forward.”
Sour: “That’s the kind of effort we have to play with for 60 minutes,” Bryant said. “I hate that we spotted them 27 points, because if we don’t spot them 27 points it’s a different game.”
Sweet: “The offense did a great job,” Bryant said. “The offensive line, I can’t tell you how proud I am of them. Because we see it every day at practice, that they’re growing and they’re getting more consistent and they’re getting an attitude.”
Sour: “On defense, I know we can play the way we did in the second half for four quarters. We have to make sure we get it right.”
Sweet: “We’ve got leaders on defense at linebacker, the safety position and up front. So the way we came out and battled and clawed in the second half, that’s just a test of our character and that’s the kind of resolve we’re going to have to have during this long season.”
Sour: “We didn’t play to our expectations in the first half. We know how to dictate the tempo, but we didn’t do that in the first half. And that’s frustrating.”
Sweet: “It would have been easy just to give in today. You know, game over. But we showed a lot of resolve and a lot of character.”
Sour: “But it’s tough. I’m not going to sit here and lie to you. It’s tough, because I felt like we were going to win the game.”
With all that said, here’s a look at what worked in the loss to the Falcons and what needs work as the Seahawks begin preparing for Sunday’s game against the New York Giants at the Meadowlands:
Tarvaris Jackson – Coach Pete Carroll has been preaching all along that his handpicked passer just needed time, and better protection, to show what he could do running the team’s oh-so-young offense. Jackson’s time arrived in the second half, thanks to the no-huddle offense that helps the entire unit play faster – and better.
Jackson passed for a career-high 319 yards and three touchdown passes – a beautifully thrown 52-yarder to Sidney Rice in the second quarter for the team’s only first-half TD of the season; a 6-yarder to Mike Williams in the third quarter; and an 8-yarder to Ben Obomanu, who was his last option on the play, in the fourth quarter.
Doug Baldwin – Surprised by his five-catch, 84-yard performance? Then you haven’t been paying attention. The rookie free agent from Stanford has been making plays – and playing better than expected – since the first day he stepped on the practice field at training camp in late July.
Baldwin not only makes the catch, he makes the tough catch – and Sunday returned to make more catches after taking a couple of big hits. Four games into the season, and on a team that includes Rice, Williams and Pro Bowl tight end Zach Miller, it’s Baldwin who leads the club in receptions (12) and receiving yards (194).
The offensive line – The unit that made Bryant so proud also kept Jackson from getting sacked for the first time this season. Five sacks in the opener. Five more in the shutout loss to the Steelers. Four more in the first half against the Cardinals last week. But the line has gone six quarters without Jackson being sacked.
“It was great,” Jackson said when asked about his protection. “I feel fresh, like I just came to the stadium.”
WHAT NEEDS WORK
Third-down defense – There’s a definite pattern here. When the defense plays well on third downs, the entire team plays better. They held the Cardinals to a 3-of-14 showing in their only win; the 49ers to a 1-of-12 performance in the opener; and the Falcons to 3 of 8 on the pivotal down in the second half.
In the first half, however, the Falcons were 6 of 8 and the Steelers were 8 of 15 in Week 2.
The running game – Marshawn Lynch did score on an 11-yard run in the third quarter and Jackson broke a 13-yard scramble. But on the other 13 running plays, the Seahawks gained 29 yards – a 2.2-yard average that is well below average.
Starting faster – The Seahawks were down 16-0 at the half to the 49ers; 17-0 to the Steelers; 10-6 to the Cardinals; and 24-7 to the Falcons.
The past two weeks, the Seahawks have won the coin toss and elected to receive the opening kickoff, only to punt twice – after gaining 19 plays on nine plays against the Cardinals and 8 yards on three plays against the Falcons. On their first series of the third quarters, the Seahawks drove 72 yards to a TD against the Cardinals and 61 yards to a TD against the Falcons.
“We just need to bring our second half game to the first half,” Lynch said. “That’s basically what it is right now.”