Gridiron Gab Week Fifteen Preview: Atlanta at Seattle

After four turnovers on consecutive possessions doomed Seattle last Sunday in San Francisco, the Seahawks welcome the National Football League’s fourth-best team in terms of turnover differential to Qwest Field for a Week Fifteen contest of division leaders.

“It’s a really great challenge for us,” said Seattle head coach Pete Carroll during his Wednesday press conference from the team’s Renton, Wash. training facilities of Sunday’s game against the Atlanta Falcons, “because they do so many things right.”

“It forces us to play really, really solid football. We will not be able to make mistakes and stay with these guys – they’re just too good at it.”

Of Atlanta’s 335 points scored this season, 84 have come from the team’s 24 forced turnovers.

Leading the Falcons’ attack is the four-headed monster of Matt Ryan, Roddy White, Tony Gonzalez and Michael Turner.

In his third year in the NFL, Ryan is on pace to have his best season yet. His current completion percentage and quarterback rating (63.2 and 90.7, respectively) are the highest he’s had as a pro, while his touchdown passing total of 22 ties hiss personal best he set as a rookie coming out of Boston College.

Helping Ryan develop is wide receiver Roddy White. The 6-foot, 212-pound White not only leads the league in targets, receptions and receiving yards this season, he’s also become the first Falcon to post three consecutive seasons of at least 1,200 receiving yards – passing Andre Rison’s two straight seasons in the franchise’s history book.

Then there’s tight end Tony Gonzalez, who after hauling in a four-yard touchdown reception in Atlanta’s 31-10 road victory last Sunday in Carolina, jumped into a tie for 11th all-time in the NFL for touchdown receptions with 87.

“They really feature those two guys and they’re the guys they go to and you can see on the film why,” said Seattle’s Carroll. “They just make the plays. They make the catches. They throw the ball in there with guys hanging all over them and Roddy can make his catches and of course Tony does too.”

Despite the impressive totals, Carroll isn’t too worried about giving up a big play.

“We have to challenge those guys in their routes because they’re just going to ball control them,” said the Seahawks’ head coach. “They don’t have big averages; they have just big numbers of receptions.”

“So, that with Michael Turner is a tremendous makeup for an offense.”

After an injury and an alleged weight issue slowed and eventually shelved the running back for five games last season, the third-year Falcon has rebounded.

Turner has 11 rushing touchdowns on the season with three coming from last Sunday’s road win in Carolina. In that game, success came along the left side of the offensive line. All three of Turner’s scores against the Panthers were results of rushes to that side behind starting left tackle Sam Baker.

Unlike its offensive counterpart, the rush defense has struggled lately for Atlanta (11-2). The Falcons have given up 100-yard rushing games to opposing running backs the past two games, a streak that broke the team’s mark of nine consecutive contests without an opponent eclipsing the 100-yard mark on the ground.

That could be good news for Seattle (6-7), who should be able to find better success in the ground game with a more balanced offensive attack Sunday thanks to the possible return of receivers Mike Williams and Ben Obomanu. Williams, the team’s leading receiver with 52 receptions for 654 yards, has missed essentially the last three weeks due to injuries – the latest, an ankle injury, costing him to miss all but a handful of snaps the last two games. Obomanu, whose 430 receiving yards rank second-most on the Seattle roster this year, suffered a cut on his right hand two weeks ago after making a catch against Carolina.

With the possibility of having the team’s top-two receivers back on the field Sunday, running backs Marshawn Lynch and Justin Forsett could potentially face less defensive attention. Last Sunday when both receivers were out, Lynch and Forsett combined for just 34 yards on 13 carries.

Sunday’s kickoff at Qwest Field for the matchup between Atlanta and Seattle is set for 4:05 p.m.

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