Seahawks, Falcons hope to find rhythm this Sunday

Oct 1, 2011, 1:01 PM | Updated: Oct 2, 2011, 7:49 am

By JEFF BARTL

STATS Writer

(AP) — Things were much easier for Matt Ryan when he was one of the NFL’s best-protected quarterbacks while leading the Atlanta Falcons to the NFC’s best record in 2010.

It’s been a much different story this season, as Ryan hopes to stay on his feet and help his offense find its rhythm when Atlanta visits the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday.

Ryan has been sacked 13 times, including four last week when the Falcons (1-2) lost 16-13 to Tampa Bay. He went down only 23 times all of last season – 29 fewer than the league-high suffered by Chicago’s Jay Cutler – and coach Mike Smith said he will evaluate his offensive line in order to better protect his franchise quarterback.

Ryan has been sacked at least four times in each game. He’d been sacked four times in a single contest just twice in his first three regular seasons.

“We are very disappointed with the way we have protected our quarterback in the first three ballgames,” Smith said. “We’ll have to look at what’s going wrong schematically as well as evaluate our personnel.”

Ryan, though, refuses to place all the blame on the line.

“We just need to execute a little better – myself included,” said Ryan, who threw for a career-high 330 yards against the Bucs. “The ball needs to come out. You can’t keep hanging onto it back there.”

Though he may see some relief against a Seattle defense that is tied for 23rd with only five sacks this season, Ryan and Smith both admitted the offense needs more balance. The Falcons rushed for only 30 yards last week, with Michael Turner gaining 20 on 11 carries.

Atlanta had rushed for 248 yards combined its first two games.

“We have been very uncharacteristic in terms of our consistency in the first three ballgames,” Smith said. “There’s spurts in the ballgame you’ll see that we’re doing things very well, and there’s other times that it’s just not up to our level of expectations. Right now we are not operating as efficiently or as effectively as we’re capable of.”

Tarvaris Jackson has been sacked 14 times – tied for the most in the league – and didn’t look capable of much in his first two games in a Seahawks uniform.

He heard boos early in Seattle’s home opener last Sunday against Arizona, and his team went into the locker room trailing 10-6. But Jackson led a 14-play, 72-yard drive to start the second half, finishing it with an 11-yard touchdown run that lifted the Seahawks (1-2) to a 13-10 victory.

“(The fans are) scrutinizing (him) very sharply at this point. He’s not wavered by it at all. I’m not, either,” coach Pete Carroll said. “But it’s going to take some time until everybody gets comfortable and sees what he’s all about and sees his play.

“They didn’t boo him in the second half. I think that second half was OK.”

Having former Vikings teammate Sidney Rice, who made his Seahawks debut after sitting out the first two games with a shoulder injury, certainly helped. The two connected eight times for 109 yards, and will now face an Atlanta pass defense that’s 22nd in the league, allowing 261.0 yards per game.

The Falcons have also surrendered 248 yards on the ground and three touchdowns the past two weeks, which bodes well for a Seattle ground game that broke out for 122 yards against the Cardinals after combining for 95 in losses to San Francisco and Pittsburgh.

Lynch ran for 60 yards and a touchdown on 12 carries against Atlanta on Dec. 19 last season, though Ryan’s three touchdowns helped the Falcons to a 34-18 victory.

The Seahawks have won eight of 12 all-time meetings, including four of six in Seattle.

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