Saturday's Divisional Round playoff game between the Seahawks and Falcons at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta will mark the second meeting between the two teams this season, with Seattle securing a 26-24 win back in Week 6 at CenturyLink Field. During his Monday morning segment on 710 ESPN Seattle following his team's 26-6 Wild Card win over the Detroit Lions, Pete Carroll said that early-season matchup serves as an advantage for both sides heading into this weekend.
"Just in preparation it's a relative advantage that we're going to try to whip them at during the week and take more out of it than they get out of it," said the Seahawks head coach. "But they'll be battling, too. They've got a great staff, they've had a fantastic year, and there's a lot of great matchups now inside of this game and it's going to be fun to watch."
The Falcons finished the 2016 regular season with an 11-5 record, winning five of their final six games to close the year. That late-season success earned them the No. 2 seed in the postseason and the first-round bye that comes with it. Carroll said there's "tremendous scheme familiarity" between the Seahawks and Falcons, with Dan Quinn, Seattle's defensive coordinator during its back-to-back Super Bowl appearances from 2013-14, now holding the head-coaching job in Atlanta, where several former Seahawks assistants are also employed, a list that includes Falcons offensive line coach Chris Morgan, assistant offensive line coach Keith Carter, linebackers coach Jeff Ulbrich, and secondary coach/senior defensive assistant Marquand Manuel.
"Their blocking principles, their concepts, their relationships — we know each other so well," Carroll said. "I think this is really, really fun. It's like the chess game against the guy that you really got to battle at because he's really good and we know we're up against it, so it's great fun."
Saturday's game will also mark the Seahawks' second postseason meeting with the Falcons. The other came during the 2012 season when the Carroll-coached Seahawks were coming off of their first road playoff win since 1983, dispatching the Washington Redskins in the Wild Card round behind rookie quarterback Russell Wilson before moving on to the Divisional Round at Atlanta. Seattle dug itself into a 20-0 hole at halftime of that game before rallying in the fourth quarter to stake a 28-27 lead with 31 seconds left to play. But Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan needed just two plays to get his team in field goal range, completing passes of 22 and 19 yards to set up what proved to be the game-winning field goal from 49 yards out, as Atlanta moved on to the NFC Championship game with a 30-28 win.
"It was a significant game," Carroll recalled of what that postseason game meant to his team's current run of five Divisional-Round appearances in a row. "Russell, remember how he talked about it coming off the field into the tunnel before we even got to the locker room he was already talking about next year. We all were ready to go there because we had done so much that year to explode as a team and come together and 34 seconds takes that thing away from you. We were rolling.
"We were not wavered by that," Carroll added. "If anything it gave us a resolve that catapulted us."
Carroll went on to compare the end of that Falcons playoff game, and more significantly the feeling that followed, to the way the Seahawks were eliminated from postseason contention last year, when Seattle lost 31-24 in the Divisional Round to the Carolina Panthers, a road game that also featured a second-half surge by the Seahawks that wound up falling short.
"It's not unlike what happened at the end of last year. Last year was very similar," Carroll said. "We all talked about it. It felt very similar. We didn't come out of that game with a big negative feeling. We came out with a positive feeling and an awareness of what we could become and what we could do that really interjected a whole spirit during the offseason."
The Seahawks return to practice on Tuesday this week with a 'Competition Wednesday' workout — and they'll do so with rookie running back C.J. Prosise in the mix — and will practice again on Wednesday and Thursday before departing for Atlanta on Thursday afternoon. Monday acted as a pseudo-Tuesday for the Seahawks, which traditionally signals the players' day off and a preparation day for the coaching staff, something Seattle wasn't afforded last week with a Sunday regular-season finale followed by a Saturday Wild Card game.
"I can't wait to get back upstairs to tell you the truth," Carroll told 710 ESPN hosts Brock Huard and Mike Salk. "There's a lot of stuff going on right now. [Today] is huge. We didn't have this day last week, we missed it, and so it feels like we're rewarded with a great opportunity to really dig in."
Team photographer Rod Mar shares exclusive behind-the-scenes images from the Seahawks' 26-6 win over the Detroit Lions in an NFC Wild Card playoff game on Saturday, January 7 at Seattle's CenturyLink Field.