FLOWERY BRANCH — Here’s a look at how the Falcons run defense matches up against Seahawks run offense.
Falcons starters: Weakside linebacker Sean Weatherspoon (114 tackles), middle linebacker Akeem Dent (79 tackles) and strongside linebacker Stephen Nicholas (led team with 116 tackles).
Falcons key reserves: Linebackers Mike Peterson and Robert James.
Seahawks starters: Running back Marshawn Lynch (1,590 yards, 11 touchdowns) and fullback Michael Robinson.
Seahawks key reserves: Robert Turbin and Leon Washington.
Matchup to watch: Dent vs. Lynch
The Falcons gave up 123.2 rushing yards per game during the regular season, which ranked 21st in the league.
The Seahawks, powered by Lynch and his “Beast Mode” style, rushed for 161.2 yards per game, which ranked third in the league.
The Falcons played a lot of nickel and dime packages this season. They moved around their defensive front between 3-4 and 4-3 looks with mixed results.
Dent, who’s in his first year as a starter, progressed over the season.
Defensive coordinator Mike Nolan was almost embarrassed when he admitted that the unit’s problems against the run were caused by missed tackles. The Falcons have five defenders with at least 10 missed tackles, led by safety Thomas DeCoud’s 21 and Asante Samuel’s 18, according to ProFootballFocus.com.
They had some good moments as they held Kansas City’s Jamal Charles (87), Philadelphia’s LeSean McCoy (45) and Tampa Bay’s Doug Martin (50 in the first meeting) to under 100 yards rushing.
The Falcons have allowed 4.8 yards per carry, which is fourth-highest in the league. In their three losses, they yielded 5.1, 6.1 and 4.8 per carry.
The hard-charging Lynch, who didn’t practice on Wednesday or Thursday with a foot injury, helped Seattle average 4.8 yards per carry. Against Washington in the wildcard game, he rushed for 132 yards on 20 carries and forced six missed tackle.
If he is slowed, Turbin will pick up some carries and he averaged 4.4 yards per carry.
Lynch averages 2.77 yards per carry after contact and has forced 58 missed tackles.
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