BY MICHAEL CUNNINGHAM
Falcons vs. Seahawks
The Falcons and Seahawks will play an NFC divisional playoff game on Sunday at 1 p.m. at the Georgia Dome. The game will be televised by Fox.
The Falcons and 49ers each had a bye for the first round of the playoffs. The Seahawks, the No. 5 seed, advanced to the divisional round with a 24-14 victory at fourth-seeded Washington on Sunday.
Atlanta has won the last three meetings against Seattle, including a 30-28 road victory during the 2011 regular season. This will be the first playoff meeting between the teams.
The Falcons and Seahawks had four common opponents during the 2012 regular season: the Cardinals, Cowboys, Lions and Panthers.
The Falcons were 4-1 against those teams with a defeat at the Panthers (they split the season series with Carolina, an NFC South opponent). The Seahawks were 3-2 against those teams with defeats at the Lions and the Cardinals (they split the season series with Arizona, an NFC West opponent). The
FLOWERY BRANCH — Here’s a breakdown on how the Falcons’ special teams units match up against the Seahawks:
Falcons: Kicker Matt Bryant, punter/kickoff Matt Bosher, holder Bosher, kickoff returner Jacquizz Rodgers, punt returner Harry Douglas and long snapper Josh Harris.
Seattle: Kicker Steven Hauschka, punter Jon Ryan, holder Ryan, punt and kickoff returner Leon Washington and long snapper Clint Gresham.
Matchup to watch: Bosher vs. Washington
Washington is one of the most dangerous return men in the NFL.
On 27 kickoff returns, he averaged 29 yards per attempt during the regular season. He also returned one 98 yards for a touchdown against Miami on Nov. 25.
His 29-yard average was second in the NFL behind Baltimore’s Jacoby Jones (30.7) among players with 25 returns or more.
As a punt returner, Washington had 41 returns for 356 yards, the longest at 52 yards. He had 17 fair catches.
With the 98-yarder against Miami, Washington tied Cleveland’s Josh Cribbs as the
FLOWERY BRANCH — Falcons coach Mike Smith was upbeat today for his press conference.
(Thanks for letting me asked the first question!!!)
Smith opened with an extremely detailed explanation of Seattle’s offense and defense.
Here are the highlights:
Opening statement: “We had a good week of practice last week. Today we began our preparations for the Seattle Seahawks. Players were in this morning for meetings and weight training. They’ll have tomorrow off and we’ll start our preparation Wednesday for the Seattle Seahawks.”
On what Seattle does well on offense and defense: “They’re playing very good football right now. Over the past seven or eight weeks, they’re playing as well as any team in the League. Offensively, I think it starts with what their quarterback is doing. He does a very good job running their offense. You have to account for him as a running back, so you’re going to have to concern yourself with that. I think he tied QB Peyton Manning’s
FLOWERY BRANCH — Falcons defensive end John Abraham, who suffered a sprained left ankle against Tampa Bay in the regular season finale, will practice on Wednesday, head coach Mike Smith said on Monday.
“John Abraham will be participating in practice on Wednesday,” Smith said. “We will have almost the full boat, but we won’t have everybody there.”
Abraham suffered the injury in the fourth quarter of the 22-17 loss to Tampa Bay. He reached down for his ankle after defensive tackle Peria Jerry fell on top of him.
Abraham leads the Falcons with 10 sacks.
The defense should also receive a boost from safety William Moore, who returned to practice on Saturday. He missed the final four games of the regular season.
“Our intention, once the doctor’s determined the time frame of what we really needed to do to get William back 100 percent, to get him back out there on the field and get him some work as quickly as possible,” Smith said. “He progressed well enough for us to get him out
FLOWERY BRANCH – Coach Mike Smith, the winningest coach in team history, has the Falcons poised to make an unprecedented third straight appearance in the NFL playoffs.
The Falcons, the No. 1 seed, will host the Seattle Seahawks in the NFC divisional round at 1 p.m. Sunday at the Georgia Dome. The Seahawks advanced with a 24-14 victory over Washington on Sunday.
The Falcons are 0-3 in the playoffs under Smith, but are determined to reverse the direction of their recent playoff fortunes.
Each time they lost to the team that went on to represent the NFC in the Super Bowl and the last two playoff defeats were to the eventual Super Bowl champion in Green Bay and the New York Giants.
Smith doesn’t have to look too far for a signal that things are going to change.
“Matt (Ryan) has had a great regular season for us this year,” Smith said of his quarterback.
FLOWERY BRANCH — Just as in 2010, the Falcons posted a 13-3 record and won seven games by one score or less on their way to winning the NFC South title and earning the NFC’s top seed for the playoffs.
The Falcons blended a potent passing attack with an opportunistic defense to carve out the NFL’s best regular-season record.
The offense, which featured the passing of Matt Ryan, had two 1,000-yard receivers and a 93-catch tight end and led the league in screen passes that went for touchdowns, with six.
Ryan completed 422 of 615 pass attempts (68.9 percent) for 4,719 yards with 32 touchdowns and a 99.1 passer rating. He set franchise records for attempts, completions, completion percentage, yards, and touchdowns.
The defense helped the Falcons
FLOWERY BRANCH – Falcons safety William Moore, who missed the final four games of the regular season with a hamstring injury, returned to practice on Saturday.
The Falcons went through their last bye week practice in the team’s indoor facility and Moore, one of the team’s top tacklers, was back in action.
He expects to be 100 percent when the Falcons, who have gone 0-3 in the playoffs under fifth-year coach Mike Smith, put their 13-3 record and No. 1 seed on the line in the divisional round of the playoffs at 1 p.m. Sunday at the Georgia Dome.
Smith believes the bye week was beneficial and the Falcons could end up being at full strength for their divisional playoff
FLOWERY BRANCH — Falcons wide receiver Roddy White is over the knee injury that slowed him down late in the season.
He didn’t practice before the final three games, but answered the bell in each one like he has in every game since being drafted in 2005.
“It’s feeling good,” White said of the right knee. “I think the second week was really the turning point for everything. I feel a lot more comfortable. I feel like I can move around and do lateral movements and stuff like that instead of just running straight.”
White didn’t like missing practices, but he was determined not to miss any games.
“It’s was a whole different kind of week,” White said. “I was just prepared physically and mentally to go out there and have a good game.”
Despite another sparkling season, White was not selected to his
FLOWERY BRANCH – Defensive tackle Vance Walker is one of the unsung heroes of the Falcons defensive line.
The former Georgia Tech standout, who made the team after being drafted in the seventh round of the 2009 draft, was a major contributor while playing 51.9 percent of the defensive snaps during the regular season.
Walker has been ready whenever the Falcons have called. He played 84 percent ( 48 of 57) of the snaps against Tampa Bay on Nov. 25 and 80 percent (39 of 49) against Washington on Oct. 7.
He had a low of 26 percent (15 of 58) of the snaps against Arizona on Nov. 18.
“He’s done a very nice job for us in the rotation,” Falcons coach Mike Smith said on Friday. “I think he’s probably been our most productive defensive tackle in terms of pass rush this year statistically. He’s a very good anchor point. He has a very good understanding of what we are trying to do and he understands his role in the rotation.”
Walker has three sacks, 32 tackles and a forced
FLOWERY BRANCH — Cornerback Asante Samuel’s mother Christine passed away Tuesday morning.
He has been excused from practice this week. She was battling a long sickness.
“She’s just sick and going through a tough time,” Samuel told the AJC in October.
“We all sent our condolences and let it be known that we are in his corner and have his back,” safety Thomas DeCoud said. “Whenever we had a little bit time off, he’d bounce back to Florida to be with her.”
“He’s a professional,” DeCoud said. “He knows how to separate his personal life and his professional life.
If you looked at him every day, you’d never know that something that big was bothering him. It’s a testament to his character as a person.”