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Seahawks defense struggles early in loss to Falcons

Michael Turner had 70 of the Falcons’ 121 rushing yards, including 51 in the first half. (Jane Gershovich/

By Brady Henderson

Defense helped keep the Seahawks afloat during the first three weeks of the season.

On Sunday against the Falcons, that unit couldn’t keep up.

Not with all the weapons Atlanta has on offense, and especially not in the first half. The Seahawks allowed 412 yards, generated no sacks and didn’t force a turnover. It all added up to a 30-28 loss that dropped Seattle to 1-3.

Matt Ryan picked on cornerback Brandon Browner, and picked apart the Seahawks secondary. Atlanta’s quarterback was 28 of 42 for 291 yards and a touchdown pass to tight end Tony Gonzalez, who finished with seven catches for 56 yards. Rookie Julio Jones, the sixth overall pick in April’s draft, had the best game of his young career, catching 11 passes for 127 yards. Michael Turner had 88 total yards and a pair of rushing touchdowns.

“It’s a very, very good football team,” Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said of Atlanta. “It takes a really good effort to get those guys.”

Matt Ryan threw for 291 yards and added 26 more on the ground. (AP)

More specifically, it takes such an effort for two halves. The Seahawks found that out on Sunday.

The Falcons did most of their damage in the first half, running an effective hurry-up offense and capitalizing on the Seahawks’ inability to get third-down stops when they needed them. Atlanta converted 6 of their 8 third-down chances, none bigger than a 29-yard pass to Jones late in the second quarter that extended a Falcons’ scoring drive.

With Atlanta facing a third-and-13 on their own 35, a stop would have forced a punt and could have given the Seahawks decent field position with a chance to drive for a tying touchdown before halftime. Instead, Ryan hit Jones across the middle for 29 yards and a first down. Seven plays and another third-down conversion later, Turner scored from a yard out to give the Falcons a 21-7 lead.

“They came out and they made their plays on third down,” cornerback Marcus Trufant said.

The Seahawks’ halftime adjustments included more safety presence in the box to slow Turner, who had rushed for 51 yards in the first half. That worked, as Seattle held Atlanta to 29 yards rushing in the second half. The Falcons converted only 3 of their 8 third-down chances, many of which were longer than those they had faced earlier in the game.

“We ran the ball really effectively in the first half, and they did a good job of taking that away from us to a certain extent in the second half,” Ryan said.

Atlanta entered Sunday’s game with concerns about an offensive line that had allowed 13 sacks over the first three weeks — the third highest total in the NFL.

That seemed like a favorable matchup for Seattle, which has playmakers along its defensive line and had sacked Arizona’s Kevin Kolb three times the previous week.

Apparently not. Ryan wasn’t sacked once, and was able to scramble for healthy gains when flushed out of the pocket. He finished with 26 rushing yards on four carries.

“That makes him additionally hard,” Carroll said of Ryan’s scrambling ability. “He’s not a fast guy, he just has a good knack for the run and how to get out, and he did a good job of that.”