The Seahawks return home in Week 3 to host the Atlanta Falcons, with both teams looking to bounce back following losses in Week 2. For the Seahawks to improve upon last week’s performance, they know they’ll need to get their offense back on track, while also cleaning up some mistakes on defense.
“Man, this is an important week for us, getting back home and getting our act together,” Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said. “We didn’t do what we wanted to do last week, so all phases are called on, everybody’s got to contribute. We need to put a good game together here. We worked really hard in that direction trying to get ready to play smart and play right and not give a bunch of stuff away—penalties and the ball and all that kind of stuff. So I’m looking for us to bounce and turn this thing back around and get rolling.”
And with that thought in mind, here are five things to watch when the Seahawks host the Falcons at Lumen Field on Sunday:
1. Geno Smith has been historically accurate, now can he and the passing game be more explosive?
Dating back to last season’s win over the Jaguars, Seahawks quarterback Geno Smith has completed 80 percent or more of his pass attempts in three straight games, making him the only quarterback in league history to accomplish that statistical feat.
Yet for six of the eight quarters the Seahawks have played this season, that high completion rate hasn’t translated to points, with the offense producing 17 points in the first half of a Week 1 win over Detroit, and no points in the six quarters that have followed.
One way the Seahawks hope to get the offense going is by getting more out of what has so far been a quiet running game, but another factor, as Carroll highlighted this week, could be calling on Smith and the passing game to do a little bit more, not necessarily in terms of passing volume, but rather in pushing the ball down the field. And that’s not to say that the Seahawks are suddenly going to revamp their entire offense, but rather, as Carroll has noted, Smith has played well enough in games and practice to earn the full trust of his coaching staff to the point that Carroll doesn’t want to hold back in terms of the type of passes the team throws to attack opposing defenses.
“My confidence in him has just grown,” Carroll said. “He had a fantastic week again. He’s just on his game. Nothing is going to change drastically, but it’s just that he has proven that he is ready. The preparation of the preseason and the offseason and all of that has folded into where now he’s really ready to go, so whenever the opportunities do come, we’re going to count on him to do stuff. There’s no hesitation.”
As for that unique streak of 80-percent completion rates, Smith isn’t too concerned with that particular number, but rather with doing what it takes to keep the offense moving.
“The goal is always to be efficient,” Smith said. “I’m not really harping on that (completion percentage stat) too much, I think it’s just circumstantial. Obviously, I want to complete 100 percent of the passes I’m throwing, I’m going to try to complete them all. The main thing, again, is stay on schedule as an offense and to put us in the right position to make plays. However that happens, it doesn’t really matter to me. We just want to win.”
2. Will the defense continue to shine in the red zone?
Seattle’s defense has some issues to clean up (see the item below this one), but one reason the Seahawks won in Week 1 and still had a chance to come back in the second half last week has been the play of the defense in the red zone.
In Week 1, the Broncos didn’t score a touchdown in four trips to the red zone, and came up completely empty on two of those trips, turning the ball over at the goal line. Last week, the 49ers were 2 for 5 in the red zone, settling for three short field goal attempts, one of which was blocked and returned for a touchdown.
Ideally the Seahawks will clean up some of their issues and keep opponents out of the red zone more often going forward, but the defense at least knows that, regardless of what else is going on, it can stand strong when an opponent is knocking on the door of the end zone. “It’s the mentality of bend but don’t break,” safety Josh Jones said. “(Linebacker coach John Glenn) says it all the time and that’s kind of a theme in the defensive room, ‘Just give us a blade of grass, and we will defend it.’ That’s the time for guys to bow up. They get down there, but the object, obviously, is to not let them in and not let them score. Then, if we can just hold them to a field goal, that would be nice, but if we can take the ball away, that would be great. Obviously, you guys seen that we did it a couple of times in Week 1.”