SEA-ATL grades: Ryan shakes off postseason stigma in well-rounded Falcons' win
Atlanta Falcons 36, Seattle Seahawks 20
Here are the highest-graded players and most noteworthy performances from the Atlanta Falcons’ 36-20 victory over the Seattle Seahawks.
Quarterback grade: Matt Ryan, 75.6
Ryan makes mockery of postseason blues
Was this Matt Ryan at his presumptive-MVP best? No. But did he resemble the player who so often struggled when playoff time rolled around? Definitely not. Ryan did what he needed to do, and was at his best exploiting the matchups his variety of weapons on offense created. There was a lack of the big-time, downfield passing that has symbolized this offense (connecting on just one of three pass attempts over 20 yards), but in a game where turnovers were likely to be key, Ryan avoided giving the Seahawks’ DBs any chance to make the big play.
Top offensive grades:
C Alex Mack, 81.6
WR Julio Jones, 80.7
WR Mohamed Sanu, 80.5
LG Andy Levitre, 79.6
WR Taylor Gabriel, 79.1
Sum is greater than its parts for Falcons’ offense
The Falcons’ offense didn’t rely on its biggest stars to pull the team across the finish line—nearly all of Atlanta’s significant contributors played well, and that kind of consistency rarely comes. 12 offensive players earned an overall grade above 70.0, as they all made an impact. Even those who had lowlight-reel plays, like Levine Toilolo (53.8), came back to make big plays that helped seal off the game. As much as Matt Ryan is likely to win MVP, and for all the Pro Bowlers the Falcons have produced, this game symbolized that Atlanta has the kind of depth and variety on offense that you rarely see, and ultimately it was too much for Seattle too handle. If a player did stand out in this one, it’s because of what you didn’t see from him. You don’t hear the name of center Alex Mack called often—a big change from a year ago when the names of Mike Person and James Stone were all too common. He has solidified the offensive line, and in many ways, the offense as a whole, and this game was the epitome of that.
Top defensive grades:
LB De’Vondre Campbell, 85.4
DE Brooks Reed, 80.0
S Ricardo Allen, 79.2
DE Vic Beasley, 79.2
DE Dwight Freeney, 76.9
Falcons’ defense limits Seahawks’ attack with stunts
After being challenged physically on the opening drive with the likes of Grady Jarrett and Courtney Upshaw getting moved around by Seattle’s offensive line, the Atlanta defense settled into its comfort zone as the Falcons’ offense expanded their lead. Brooks Reed, Dwight Freeney and Vic Beasley were free to pin their ears back in one-on-one situations against the Seattle offensive tackles, and defensive coordinator Richard Smith called plenty of stunts up front to test Seattle’s offensive line mentally and physically in pass protection. The Falcons stunted on 13 of 25 second-half dropbacks by Russell Wilson, getting pressure on nine of those 13 plays; they may only have got to Wilson for a sack twice, but the Falcons never let him settle in the pocket and chased him down outside of the pocket to prevent broken plays from turning the game against them.
Quarterback grade: Russell Wilson, 88.8
Wilson put on the run by Falcons’ defense
The Seattle Seahawks got off to a fast start, and Russell Wilson put up a strong game on an individual level. The play of his offensive line in pass protection, however, often left him with too much to overcome. Pressured on 46.2 percent of his dropbacks (18 of 39), Wilson completed just four passes under pressure, but was forced to throw the ball away (four times) by excellent Atlanta pursuit once he broke the pocket, rather than having the time to make game-changing plays outside of the pocket. He added 49 yards on his six scrambles and picked up big plays down the field (and was denied one more when WR Paul Richardson lost control of the ball coming to ground late in the game). The Seahawks lost control of the game after their fast start, and were ultimately unable to finish drives to stay close enough for Wilson’s late heroics to be any threat to the Falcons.
Top offensive grades:
C Justin Britt, 88.3
WR Doug Baldwin, 78.6
WR Paul Richardson, 75.4
HB Thomas Rawls, 74.1
TE Jimmy Graham, 66.0
Seahawks derailed after fast start
After a 14-play drive with some physical run blocking, the Seahawks may have believed that they had the Falcons on the ropes early. However, they were unable to keep pace with the relentless Atlanta offense for anywhere close to the full 60 minutes. Justin Britt led the strong run blocking up front, but an injury to RG Germain Ifedi brought Rees Odhiambo into the game, and key mistakes put Seattle off schedule on their drives. Without the defense stealing a possession or shortening drives on a consistent basis, the Seahawks’ couldn’t go blow for blow with Atlanta, and their big-play nature wasn’t enough to overcome the Falcons’ offensive juggernaut.
Top defensive grades:
DE Michael Bennett, 79.3
LB K.J. Wright, 76.6
DE Frank Clark, 76.0
LB Bobby Wagner, 73.2
LB Michael Morgan, 51.3
Seahawks’ defense made to look average
Nothing lasts forever in football, and this performance by the Seahawks’ defense can be taken one of three ways. You can credit the Falcons’ fantastic offense, live in belief that Earl Thomas being healthy will fix it all, or accept that they just aren’t the unit they once were. There’s no shame in that, and there’s more than enough talent in place that could push them back to being their suffocating best. On Saturday, however, they were no match for the Atlanta attack, especially through the air. Injuries didn’t help, but they didn’t do enough between the tackles, and despite the best efforts of the destructive Michael Bennett, they just didn’t pressure Matt Ryan enough. In fact, Ryan saw pressure on just 25 percent of his dropbacks—that was a huge part of a no-turnover day for the defense.
— Pro Football Focus (@PFF) January 15, 2017
PFF Game-Ball Winner: Alex Mack, C, Falcons
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