Congratulations Seahawks but there are some holes to fix

Let me first say, congratulations to the Seahawks! It was a great victory, a confidence-building victory, and I think it’s big to get that playoff road win under your belt. But I don’t think there was anyone out there that wasn’t sweating it out until late in the game.

You want the quickest of summaries? The Redskins had a 129-9 lead in yardage in the first quarter. After RG3 was injured, the Seahawks outgained the Redskins 371-84 in the remaining three quarters. Yet for as much as the Seahawks outplayed the Redskins after the first quarter, they didn’t actually take the lead until 7:08 remaining in the 4th quarter.

So let’s discuss some of the mistakes that were made to try and improve on their future playoff performances.

Giving up touchdowns to your homefield opponent on their first two drives is just a recipe for disaster. Good teams will put their foot on your throat and never let you up – it simply can’t be done. The Seahawks were lucky that RG3 was injured when he was, because it really limited the offense of the Redskins for the rest of the game, and obviously you cannot count on that happening each and every week. Had they put in Kirk Cousins at the start of the third quarter, and had they scored any additional points (touchdown or field goal), we might be talking about the Redskins moving forward instead.

I would say the most crucial play in the game was the shoestring 12-yard pass to Miller for the first down. If they don’t make that play, they give the ball back to the Redskins and who knows what happens at that point. That could have been where the blowout started. Instead, the Seahawks get the first down, the drive continues, they keep their defense off the field and they get a field goal and some points on the board. This, to me, was where the momentum shifted. The Redskins were 4-and-out on the next series and the Seahawks scored a touchdown after that. Probably the second-most crucial play was Lynch’s recovery of Wilson’s fumble. Again, it was right in the middle of the momentum shift, and solidified that shift towards the Seahawks.

The most glaring errors to me were in the red zone. One touchdown on six red zone possessions – that just isn’t going to cut it in the playoffs against the NFL’s elite. They had problems with this in the beginning of the year, and they resolved them from the mid-point on, but it really came back with a vengeance in this game. They need to fix this going forward.

Wilson had a solid day, but there is definitely room for improvement. He made some huge runs to extend drives, some great passes, made some clutch downfield blocks, and showed incredible poise and leadership. But he missed some wide open receivers, and took several unnecessary sacks while being chased when he had the opportunity to get rid of it.

In the end, the Seahawks outplayed and outcoached the Redskins. When the Seahawks went down 14-0 in a hostile road environment, they changed their strategy and found a way to win. The Redskins could not find a way to overcome the adversity of  RG3 not being able to perform.

Can the Seahawks win in Atlanta? Absolutely. I’ve always felt the Falcons were a paper champion this season. Per ESPN: “Schedule is everything in the NFL, and the Falcons benefited by playing the league’s easiest schedule. They won 13 games against a schedule with a .422 opponent winning percentage, a schedule that featured teams with combined records of 108-148.” I challenge you to go back and look at their schedule this year – who have they beaten? Sure, they beat Denver early in the year before the Donkeys got rolling and Manning threw 4 picks, but that’s about it. And none of the teams they’ve played this year had a good defense (except Denver).

That’s not to say that Atlanta won’t score points – I think they will. But I think they’re going to find playing against a top-rated defense quite an eye-opener, even if Clemons is out. Wilson is probably going to need a 3TD+ (passing/running) performance in order to get by the Falcons. 187 passing, 67 rushing and 1 TD is not going to cut it in the playoffs.

There are intangibles to this game – travel and pressure. Let’s not discount that the Seahawks having to travel across the country for the 2nd time in two weeks to play in a charged up NFL playoff game. It has to be incredibly exhausting and confusing to your body to change time zones repeatedly while you’re trying to recuperate and prepare for the next game.

However, there is a tremendous amount of pressure on Atlanta to perform. They’ve had an incredible regular season, they’ve been scoring a lot of points, they secured the top seed, they’re playing at home, they are expected to hold serve at home and advance. But I just don’t see it happening – I think they run into the buzzsaw that is the Seahawks, and they learn what a real NFL defense is comprised of. I think Wilson has a much better game, the defense starts out much better and the Seahawks punish the Falcons from start to finish.

Prediction – Seahawks: 34, Falcons: 20.