By Alex Bigelow
Special to 710Sports.com
If there ever was a time Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan wouldn’t want to face one of the NFL’s most potent secondaries, it would probably be now.
If the 2-6 record doesn’t illustrate Atlanta’s struggles this season, Ryan’s seven interceptions over the last two games – the most over any two-game stretch for Ryan since entering the league in 2008 – does. He’s played much of the season without his two top targets, wide receivers Julio Jones and Roddy White, but the turnover problem might come to a head against a Seattle secondary that is tied for first in the league with 13 interceptions.
Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman, who has four interceptions this season, will look to increase that total against struggling Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan (10 interceptions) on Sunday. (AP)
That’s not by sheer happenstance, either.
“It’s all about the ball,” Seahawks All-Pro cornerback Richard Sherman said on “Seahawks Weekly” on 710 ESPN Seattle. “That’s the central theme of the program, as (coach) Pete (Carroll) would put it.
“That’s what we go for. We go for the gusto. Sometimes it works out, sometimes it doesn’t work out.”
Sherman and free safety Earl Thomas lead the team with four interceptions a piece, and strong safety Kam Chancellor has two for a group that has held opposing offenses to 179.8 yards per game through the air this season.
The Falcons are expected to get White back after a month-long absence due to a high-ankle sprain he suffered before the season began, and a hamstring injury he sustained in an Oct. 7 loss to the Jets. White wasn’t very productive at the onset of the season, though, only accounting for 14 catches and 129 yards through five games. And if recent history is any indication, the Seahawks’ secondary has had little trouble stopping opposing teams’ top pass-catching options.
Tampa Bay’s Vincent Jackson, who entered the game against Seattle with 41 receptions and 623 receiving yards, was held to two catches for just 11 yards. The Cardinals’ Larry Fitzgerald was held to a similar, albeit slightly better, stat line against Seattle, accounting for two catches and 17 yards. And no single receiver has gone for more than six receptions and 59 yards in the past four games against the Seahawks.
“We have fun like we’re playing eighth-grade Pop Warner football out there on the yard,” Sherman said of Seattle’s secondary group. “We really forget about the millions of millions of people watching. … You just really enjoy the moments – you enjoy being out there.”
While Ryan is on pace to throw for a career-high 20 interceptions, he’s also on pace to throw for 30 touchdowns and more than 4,800 yards. Battered and bruised? Maybe. But two things to keep in mind: Ryan has a career 35-7 record in regular-season home games, and he’s thrown 69 touchdowns to just 27 interceptions in those games; and despite throwing 10 interceptions thus far this season, he’s only thrown one in four home games.