Right tackle James Carpenter looked good. He drove the Falcons' John Abraham across the formation on one play, then landed on him the way offensive linemen love to do when imposing their physical dominance on defenders. Carpenter sometimes looked like the Seahawks' best tackle in this game. That is partly because left tackle Russell Okung still doesn't appear fully comfortable planting hard on his ankles to anchor against strong pass-rushers. Abraham beat Okung to the inside and hit Tarvaris Jackson in the lower legs on the first play of the game. Okung responded by pancaking Ray Edwards on the next play. The line did not allow a sack, so this was improvement across the board and a confidence-builder heading into a road game against the New York Giants' defensive front. But if Okung can get back to how he played when healthy in 2010, the line will take another giant step forward.
At least they had the fullback covered. Something wasn't right when the Falcons' Michael Turner ran over left tackle for the touchdown that gave Atlanta a 14-0 lead. Linebacker Aaron Curry thought the Falcons were passing on the play. He appeared to peek into the backfield at the snap, only to run with fullback Ovie Mughelli directly away from the onrushing Turner. Curry kept running with Mughelli toward the sideline without looking back. Middle linebacker David Hawthorne tried to make the play, but Falcons left tackle Sam Baker blocked him. Defensive end Chris Clemons seemed to be stunting to the inside. Whatever the case, this was a bizarre letdown for a pretty strong run defense, and a case where Curry, if indeed assigned to the fullback in coverage on this play, would have been better off breaking away to stop Turner.
Brandon Browner is scrappy. There were some attitude plays from the Seahawks' right cornerback. He made an aggressive tackle in the run game. One play after running with Julio Jones on a deep ball that was caught out of bounds, Browner lined up against Falcons cornerback Christopher Owens, a gunner on the punt team. Browner shadowed Owens toward the middle of the field and knocked him down with a push to the back. When Owens got up, Browner immediate decked him.
Zach Miller atoned for his end-zone drop. The Seahawks' tight end could not hold onto the ball in the end zone when absorbing a big hit, leading to an interception. But after Leon Washington's punt return quickly put Seattle back in scoring position, Miller helped spring Lynch's 11-yard touchdown run. Seattle used three-receiver personnel on the play, with Miller motioning from his H-back spot and clearing out linebacker Mike Peterson. Receiver Mike Williams cracked back on free safety Thomas DeCoud to free Lynch completely. DeCoud is a big hitter, though, and Williams was worse off for the collision. He left the game with a concussion. The Falcons were the harder-hitting team. Strong safety William Moore shook up Seahawks receiver Doug Baldwin and even right guard John Moffitt. Seattle missed one of its biggest hitters, injured strong safety Kam Chancellor.
Tarvaris Jackson exploited the Falcons' passivity. The Falcons largely sat back in coverage as though they didn't think Jackson could make them pay. They rushed three defenders on the third-and-7 play when Jackson held the ball for an extended period before finding Ben Obomanu wide open for a touchdown. Jackson did a good job making defenders flock first to Justin Forsett over the middle and then to Golden Tate to the left before throwing further left for Obomanu. The Falcons also rushed only three when Jackson found Miller over the middle as Seattle tried to get into field-goal range in the final minute. Having extra blockers on this play afforded left guard Paul McQuistan a free shot on Abraham while Okung was battling Abraham to a stalemate. That play, like Carpenter's hit on Abraham and Moffitt's insistence on returning to the game quickly following his injury, shows the line is adopting Tom Cable's mindset.
That makes five observations. A sixth: Coach Pete Carroll has to regret his decision to opt for a 61-yard field goal on fourth-and-8 with 13 seconds left and one timeout remaining. I understand he didn't want his offense to fail after coming back so strong, but the reward for trusting the offense outweighed the risk, I thought.