The Seahawks are in Atlanta this weekend to face the Falcons, who are led by head coach Dan Quinn, a former Seahawks defensive coordinator under Pete Carroll. To learn more about the Falcons ahead of Sunday's game, we reached out to Kelsey Conway from AtlantaFalcons.com to learn more about Seattle's Week 8 opponent.
Q: What is the status of quarterback Matt Ryan heading into the game? How could his injury be a factor if he does play, or how confident are the Falcons in Matt Schaub if his number is called?
Conway: Matt Ryan is questionable to play, as of Friday afternoon. He returned to practice on Friday after not practicing on Wednesday or Thursday. If Ryan is unable to go, the Falcons have full confidence in Matt Schaub who knows the system really well. Schaub also said he's confident in himself and his ability to carry the team if he's the starter.
Q: This season has obviously not gone how many people would have expected, what are a few of the main reasons why a team most considered a playoff contender has gotten off to such a rough start?
Conway: You're right, no one expected this start from the Falcons. This season has come down to a few things: The Falcons haven't started games the way they need too. Too many times the Falcons have trailed more than two scores by the half and it's made it really hard for Atlanta's offense to operate the way they want to be able to when they're down so many points. The Falcons have rallied back in many of the games, it's just been too late. Two other big reasons for the 1-6 start are the Falcons' inability to get pressure on opponents' quarterbacks, Atlanta ranks last in the league in sacks with five. Also, the Falcons' defense hasn't been able to get off the field on third down. Opponents are converting more than 50 percent of the time on third down and it's simply just been too easy at times.
Q: The pass rush, or lack thereof, has gotten a lot of attention, but what else has contributed to a difficult season for Dan Quinn's defense?
Conway: Not getting enough pressure is a big reason for the Falcons' defensive problems because the way it's affecting the secondary. The Falcons are relatively inexperienced in the secondary with cornerback Isaiah Oliver earing a starting role in just his second year as well as the injuries to Desmond Trufant and Keanu Neal. The Falcons lost Neal for the season in Year 3 and his production is hard to replace. Veteran cornerback Desmond Trufant has also been injured recently and has missed some time. The unit just hasn't been clicking on all levels and it's made it difficult to overcome. The Falcons are playing the run well this year, it's the pass defense and inability to get off the field on third down that have been a few of Atlanta's issues defensively.
Q: What are the reasons for optimism that the Falcons can still right the ship and be competitive going forward?
Conway: The offense. When the Falcons can protect (a healthy Matt Ryan) it's hard to stop Atlanta's offense. And the scary part is, the Falcons' offensive players will say they probably haven't played their best game yet and they've had some really good games. The offense has too much talent to be written off and no one in Atlanta's locker room is ready to call it a season, everyone still believes they can get this thing in the right direction and that starts with Dan Quinn's leadership at the top.
Q: If Ryan is out/limited by injury, how important will it be to get Devonta Freeman going in what has been a somewhat quiet start to the season for him?
Conway: It will be huge and when he's been able to get going early on in games, it's really helped the Falcons establish tempo. Matt Ryan played one of his best games against the Arizona Cardinals leading the Falcons back from a 17-point hole and a big reason for his success was Freeman's play. The Falcons have yet to run the ball for over 100 yards consecutively and it's an area they want to get more consistent. If Ryan can't go, Freeman helping to carry the load will be vital.
The Seahawks and the Falcons will meet this Sunday at Mercedes-Benz Stadium during week 8 of the 2019 season. Take a look back at photos from past games between the two teams.