Clayton: What to watch for in Seahawks-Falcons

Nov 17, 2017, 3:48 PM | Updated: 3:52 pm


The Seahawks will have a tough test at home Monday night when they face the visiting Falcons. (AP)


The scary part of the Seahawks’ Monday night game is how the team might have to move ahead without major parts of the Legion of Boom.

Cornerback Richard Sherman is out for the season with a torn Achilles and safety Kam Chancellor will most likely miss the game with a stringer. Free safety Earl Thomas should be back after missing two games with a hamstring injury. But how the defense adjusts could be the key to the rest of the season.

Moore: Seahawks’ weakness could play into Falcons’ strength

What makes things tougher still is the schedule over the next five weeks of the season — the Seahawks face four playoff contenders. They are fortunate to have Atlanta, Philadelphia and the Los Angeles Rams at home. They travel to Jacksonville to face the Jaguars, and on Christmas Eve, they face the Dallas Cowboys on the return date of Ezekiel Elliott.

Injuries are starting to become a major issue for the season, and the loss to the Washington Redskins took away the luxury of having a bad day and losing a game. It’s going to take at least 10 wins to get into the playoffs, and a good seeding is going to require 11 wins.

Let’s look closely at their upcoming game against the Falcons:

The loss of Richard Sherman takes away an institution at the left corner position. Only 18 passes have been completed on him this year in nine games — that’s only two per game. He was only thrown 40 times for 232 yards. Pete Carroll’s first decision is lining up someone in his place, and Jeremy Lane will likely get the first shot. The Seahawks were fortunate to have Byron Maxwell available to sign, and DeShawn Shead might be an option in the next couple of weeks. The hope is the dropoff from Sherman to whomever replaces him won’t be as dramatic as the drop last year from Earl Thomas to Steve Terrell. Bradley McDougald showed in the past two games the Seahawks had an answer if Thomas was again forced to miss games, and he will be challenged to fill in at strong safety if Chancellor misses this week.

Carroll said he’s not going to change the scheme. It’s Cover 1 and Cover 3, and the corners will play man. Matt Ryan will certainly test the pass coverage.

Don’t underestimate Russell Wilson. Wilson said Friday he had to have his jaw reset after last Thursday’s hit by Karlos Dansby. He also had to go on a liquid diet for four days. To no one’s surprise, Wilson continues to play. Last year, he played despite a high ankle sprain and an MCL knee injury.

If anyone has doubts about his case for being MVP, look at these numbers: He’s accounted for 82.1 percent of the offensive yards. No quarterback in the Super Bowl era has had a number like that. He has the sixth-best quarterback rating when he’s out of the pocket (100.7). He’s fifth-best on throws from three-step drops, completing 32-of-46 for 261 yards. He’s thrown 52 deep passes, most in the league. He’s fourth-best when he’s under pressure, with a 77.3 quarterback rating. He ranks 10th with a 107.9 quarterback rating. The 6.77 yards out of empty backfield formations if the fifth best in the league.

Mike Davis to the rescue. It was a popular move when the Seahawks activated Davis from the practice squad. He showed promise in the preseason, is a one-cut-and-go runner that fits the scheme, and he catches the ball well. He’s also on a mission: he wants to prove to the world the San Francisco 49ers made a mistake in cutting him.

Eddie Lacy could be an option for the Monday night game and J.D. McKissic figures to get more action, though Thomas Rawls is the likely starter.

Minus Devonta Freeman, the Falcons won’t have one of the best one-two punches for backs in football. Carolina Panthers linebacker Thomas Davis tweeted out Sunday that he thought Freeman suffered a couple of hits in their game two weeks ago that could have caused a concussion. He tweeted this after Freeman was being taken to the locker room for a concussion.

Freeman won’t play, so the bulk of the running game goes to Tevin Coleman. Coleman is an explosive runner. I remember talking to Freeman last year and he said Coleman’s strength is his ability to run north-to-south. Freeman can run east-to-west and north-to-south along with being able to handle plenty of runs in a game. The running game is important to the Falcons, but it won’t be a good without Freeman.

Pressure on the Falcons. Critics predicted the Falcons would have trouble this year after blowing a 25-point lead in the second half to the New England Patriots. Dan Quinn has appeared to keep the Falcons from lingering too much on the Super Bowl loss, but it’s clear the team isn’t playing as well.

The shift from Kyle Shanahan to Steve Sarkisian has been difficult, but that was to be expected. The Falcons have gone from 33.8 points a game to 21.9. Ryan has only 13 touchdowns passes and hasn’t been able to do much with Julio Jones in the red zone (Jones has only one touchdown catch this year). There has been improvement on the defense, but it has struggled to stop the run between the guards.

Overall, though, a Falcon loss would put them at 5-5 and they’d be in a tough spot to try to make the playoffs. This is a must win game for them.

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