SEA-ATL grades: Ryan shakes off postseason stigma in well-rounded Falcons’ win

Highest-graded players and top takeaways from the Falcons' Divisional Round win over the Seahawks.

| 2 months ago
Matt Ryan

(Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)

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.

Atlanta Falcons

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.

Matt Ryan vs. pressure

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.

Seattle Seahawks

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.

Russell Wilson vs. pressure

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.

PFF Game-Ball Winner: Alex Mack, C, Falcons

PFF’s player grading process includes multiple reviews, which may change the grade initially published in order to increase its accuracy. Learn more about how we grade and access grades for every player by subscribing to Player Grades.

  • bailamos

    Hey, come on now, Hester had a great day!

    • crosseyedlemon

      Devin will always be loved by us Bear fans.

  • BCEagle

    Are you guys sure you didn’t mix up the grades between Wilson and Ryan? 56% completion percentage and 7.5 ypa isn’t anything to write home about regardless of how bad the line was.

    • Donald J

      PFF downgrades players it doesn’t like. Many such cases. Sad!

    • James Winslow

      No. Matt ryan through to wide open recievers, was well protected, and had a dropped pick and thus deserved his 75 overall grade.

      • Andy

        When did he throw a dropped pick? The closest I can remember was a pass to Freeman in the flat, but the db wasn’t that close to picking it off. Also the screen to Gabriel where he obviously didn’t know the ball was coming, but I can;t see how you can put that on Ryan.

        • Eric

          Agree. TV announcers got a little carried away on the play, but the DB just stuck his hand in there to deflect it away.

  • Joe Martin

    I’m in agreement with BCEagle here. How the heck did Russell grade out better than Matt? Russell was off on his throws all day. Ryan’s receivers dropped at least 3-4 catchable balls and he still overcame all that enough to put up 36 on a much tougher defense than the one Russell was facing.

  • Abe

    How does Russell Wilson throw 2 picks complete less than 60% percent of his passes and still get a higher grade than Matt. I know one of the picks wasn’t his fault but still. Yall gotta have these grades flipped

    • James Winslow

      Cuz matt ryan through to wide open recievers, was well protected, and had a dropped pick.

    • LostAlone

      Wilson was working up hill and had to do more on an individual level. That’s what the grades look at. Ryan’s performance was great but some of that came form the contributions of the rest of the offense.

    • KJ

      One of those picks was a great throw in double coverage where his receiver gifted the ball to the defense. Not Russell’s fault at all.

    • Brandon Purdy

      Because Wilson had to overcome an awful oline. Yes Wilson had a couple overthrows but so did Ryan, Rodgers and Big Ben but since they won it was forgotten about.

  • Nick Stephan

    Well this is a pretty interesting analysis. The writer makes the case that Wilson had a good indiviudual performance but was under pressure so much that he couldn’t really “do his thing”, then you show two tables where Ryan had a QBR of over 120 with no pressure and Wilson’s was under 100, actually Wilsons QBR with no pressure was close to Ryan’s QBR under pressure. Seattle’s offensive line was terrible, we can all admit that but Wilson wasn’t good by any means. He literally threw a wiggling lob up that got picked off to end any hope of a comeback for them. and Matt Ryan was under his fair share of pressure, he got sacked one more time than Wilson if we exclude that safety. And someone mentioned that Matt ryan had a pick that was dropped… what game were you watching? I saw a DB defend a pass but was no where near an interception and the other was when Gabriel wasn’t looking and the throw and it deflected off him and hit the DB. The ball was thrown perfectly to Gabriel. Let’s not forget Ryan was under serious pressure when he made that pass to Freeman for 50 yards, actually he was back peddling and threw off of his back foot. This is just one example of a lot of great throws I saw from Matt Yesterday. Also someone mentioned that Matt hit a lot of wide open receivers… so you are punishing a guy because his players were getting wide open against the best secondary in the league. What, does he have to avoid the open receiver and throw the ball into pressure to earn a higher PFF grade? Wilson didn’t play bad by any means, but you can’t make 15 exceptions just to publish an analysis that YOU want to be true so badly. Look at the facts.I’ve always respected the analysis and scores you do at PFF but this one really doesn’t make any logical sense.

    • Nick Stephan

      And the very first thing you say is basically that Matt Ryan was at a mediocre level, between his MVP best and not struggling in the playoffs like he usually does… the guy went for over 300 with three TD against the best secondary in the league; in fact, it has the highest QBR they had ever given up in a playoff game and one of the best, if not the best, WB performances against Seattle all year.

      • Wendell

        To be fair if I’m not mistaken he is using the NFL old QB rating system which tops out at 158.3 not the current analytic system that’s caps out at 100. But I do agree Ryan played phenomenal throughout the game. He didn’t wow you with a bunch of shot plays but he put a lot of passes on the money. The third down conversion to hardy to extend the drive with no julio on the field. I don’t see how Russell gets a better grade then Ryan. Great game plan to attack the cover three and Ryan executed to perfection. He has to be atleast in the top 5 rating on the offense.

        • Andy

          Also Wilson missed on two td passes, both to Baldwin, and Matt Ryan had an easy catch by Toilolo that could have been a td dropped, which would have at least been first and goal from the 5 on a drive they got a field goal. This grading must be assuming that since Wilson is under pressure all the time, he can really not do anything bad that is his fault. He holds the ball a long time, which doesn’t help his line at all.

          • Wendell

            Yeah I completely agree especially the one he missed with a LB covering him. I don’t know how much they factor Wilson scrambling because he was also their leading rusher 49yards and extended some drives with scrambles. 88 just seems high for a player whose team had one drive that was dominant outside that 1st drive completely lackluster. Even the touchdown to Baldwin came on a short field after the Hester return.

  • Johnathan Pertolick

    Russell Wilson was 17 for 30 (barely over 50%) for 225 (barely over 200 yds against a bottom 5 pass defense), 2 TD and 2 INT and a 75 rating… and gets an 88 overall?

    Matt Ryan was 26 for 37 (70%) for 338 (including setting the postseason record for ‘most first half yards against a pete carroll team in his history’, 3 TD and 0 INT and a 125 rating (+50 rating over Russ!), with the highest rating ever posted against a modern Seahawks defense and earns a 75.6?

    Y’all are wack. Russell Wilson faced a bottom 10 defense and a bottom 5 passing defense and came up very very short. That was a 50-60 performance, easy. Dude just couldn’t overcome the realistically very bad Atlanta defense.

    • Brandon Purdy

      Atl defensive rank prior to the game has nothing to do with the grading of 5he game. Wilson had more to overcome than Ryan.

  • crosseyedlemon

    Whoever convinced the Falcons to sign Alex Mack deserves a big promotion and pay raise.

    • Lukas Szepesi

      Are the Browns just the Falcons farm team now ?? 😛 Gabriel and Mack both from them and also the trade to get #6 pick to get Julio was with the Browns.
      I hope they keep trading with them !! It’s working out great so far :)

      • crosseyedlemon

        The Browns have pretty much completed the transition to a rookie laden roster so I think the Falcons will have to find another team to poach from if they want more high quality veterans like Mack.

        • Lukas Szepesi

          Ok I hope they find another place to mine talent :P. But first I hope they win the Superbowl ;).

          • crosseyedlemon

            The teams that are the obvious target for poachers are those undergoing a shakeup at the front office level. A new GM usually wants to put his own mark on the team and that usually results in some house cleaning.
            Not a Falcons fan but I’d much rather see them finally win a championship than the other 3 remaining teams.

      • JT

        Browns are also the Pats farm team….look how many 1st round picks they got that sign with the Pats.

      • Eric

        I just looked up what the Browns did with all the picks they got from the Julio Jones trade. They essentially got two 1’s and a 2, and drafted DT Phil Taylor, WR Greg Little, and QB Brandon Weeden. Explains a lot.

        • Lukas Szepesi

          Yes that’s sad ^^. I mean in general that trade was pretty good for the Browns and pretty risky for the Falcons because they gave up a lot. The Patriots often traded down to get more picks. But they have good scouting and great coaching so they can get decent players and make them even better in their system. But the picks are only good if you know what to do with them ^^ and in the end Julio was worth the sacrifice and all the players the Browns got were not worth a lot.

  • Refman

    Matt Ryan was throwing open receivers, anticipating their breaks and had a number of throws into tight windows. Wilson had one of his worst games and overthrew a wide open Doug Baldwin and made some very poor decisions (First INT throw). This grade is a JOKE.

  • rodrell green

    Ryan gets penalized for finding open guys, that’s what you’re supposed to do you idiots. If anything he should get more credit for finding the open guy in such a brief time. Many QBs miss open guys routinely and that’s often what separates them from the top tier QBs. And there was plenty of times where he threw them open (Sanu TD for example).