December 20, 2010 in Sports

Atlanta takes advantage of Seattle miscues

John Boyle Everett Herald
 
Associated Press photo

Matt Hasselbeck fumbles after being hit by Atlanta’s Jamaal Anderson in the end zone. The Falcons recovered for a touchdown.
(Full-size photo)(All photos)

SEATTLE – Despite their late-season swoon, the Seahawks came into Sunday’s game against the NFC’s best team a confident bunch.

Seattle left Qwest Field a team still searching for answers following a 34-18 loss to the Atlanta Falcons.

The Seahawks started the game with a long touchdown drive, then eventually undid that good start with a three-turnover third quarter that allowed the Falcons to become the sixth team in eight weeks to hand the Seahawks a double-digit loss.

“We came into this game expecting to win, and that was apparent with how we came out,” receiver Mike Williams said. “We were ready for a slugfest and we pretty much knocked ourselves out.”

And not only did the Seahawks take one on the chin Sunday, they also became a team facing a full-fledged quarterback controversy with two games left on the schedule. After Matt Hasselbeck turned the ball over three times in the third quarter, leading to 17 Atlanta points that turned the game into a blowout, Pete Carroll benched his starting quarterback in favor of Charlie Whitehurst. Carroll wouldn’t say who will start next week in Tampa Bay, but the fact that there is now uncertainty at the game’s most important position doesn’t bode well for a team that still has legitimate playoff aspirations.

No really; this could still be a playoff team. That’s right, the 6-8 Seahawks, a team that has been outscored by 15 or more points in six of its last eight games, are still in a first-place tie with St. Louis in the dreadful NFC West.

“We’re fortunate that that’s still there, because we’re not playing well” Pete Carroll said. “But it’s a reality, so we’re going to go for it.”

If Seattle beats Tampa Bay next week, or if the Seahawks lose but St. Louis beats San Francisco, the Seahawks can clinch the NFC West with a win over the Rams in their season finale.

“There’s something that’s really crazy and weird about us still having a shot to win the division,” safety Lawyer Milloy said. “Something that’s keeping us around. But ultimately you have to win and that’s the bottom line.

“We’ve still got a shot. As bad as we might feel right now, awkwardly, we still have a shot. That’s all you want.”

And therein lies the problem for the Seahawks. Yes, they’re still in position to win the division, but nothing in their recent body of work suggests they will win either of their last two games. Since starting the season 4-2, Seattle’s only wins have been over Arizona and Carolina, teams that have a combined record of 6-22 this season.

“We’re not playing good enough football to beat a team like that right now,” Carroll said of the Falcons. “This was a gauge – can we do it in this game? Our whole week, our preparation, our focus was to see if we could get that done, and we couldn’t do it. We’re still working at it. It’s a work in progress. We have to figure it out.”

The way the game started, it appeared that the Seahawks had in fact figured something out. Facing the team with the NFC’s best record, Seattle looked like an inspired team as it opened the game with an 80 yard touchdown drive that ranked among the best possessions the Seahawks’ offense has put together this season.

Hasselbeck went 5 for 5 on the drive, the run game was effective, and only once did Seattle even face third down.

The Falcons answered with a time-consuming drive of their own, however, and Seattle’s offense went dormant after that.

“We gave them the football game in the third quarter,” Carroll said.

Falcons 34, Seahawks 18

Atlanta01717034
Seattle730818

Sea—Lynch 1 run (Mare kick)

Atl—Snelling 3 pass from Ryan (Bryant kick)

Atl—FG Bryant 27

Sea—FG Mare 38

Atl—Jenkins 24 pass from Ryan (Bryant kick)

Atl—Babineaux fumble recovery in end zone (Bryant kick)

Atl—FG Bryant 25

Atl—White 5 pass from Ryan (Bryant kick)

Sea—Whitehurst 1 run (Obomanu pass from Whitehurst)

A—67,101.

AtlSea
First downs2115
Total Net Yards266234
Rushes-yards37-9821-91
Passing168143
Punt Returns1-122-3
Kickoff Returns1-464-76
Interceptions Ret.2-381-17
Comp-Att-Int20-35-118-33-2
Sacked-Yrds Lost1-62-11
Punts4-45.04-41.3
Fumbles-Lost2-02-1
Penalties-Yards4-3510-76
Time of Poss.35:2524:35

INDIVIDUAL STATISTICS

RUSHING—Atlanta, Turner 25-82, Ryan 6-6, Snelling 4-6, G.Johnson 1-4, Douglas 1-0. Seattle, Lynch 12-60, Whitehurst 3-10, Forsett 2-9, Washington 1-6, Hasselbeck 2-4, M.Robinson 1-2.

PASSING—Atlanta, Ryan 20-35-1-174. Seattle, Whitehurst 8-16-0-83, Hasselbeck 10-17-2-71.

RECEIVING—Atlanta, White 7-65, Gonzalez 4-26, Snelling 4-15, Jenkins 3-48, Douglas 1-10, Peelle 1-10. Seattle, Williams 8-66, Morrah 2-14, Forsett 2-7, M.Robinson 2-7, Carlson 1-31, Lynch 1-17, Obomanu 1-7, Stokley 1-5.

MISSED FIELD GOALS—None.

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