The Atlanta Falcons entered halftime of their Week 1 matchup against the Seattle Seahawks trailing 14-12. It was a back-and-forth first half that featured a lot of action in the run game.
Running back Todd Gurley scored his first touchdown as an Atlanta Falcon, while Seattle running back Chris Carson caught two touchdown passes from Russell Wilson. As the Falcons look to get back in from of the Seahawks, atlantafalcons.com writers Matt Tabeek, Kelsey Conway and Will McFadden answer some of the most pressing question for the first half.
How will the Falcons adjust to Chris Carson being utilized as a receiver?
Matt Tabeek: I put that on the linebackers. The Falcons must do a better job of accounting for the running backs coming out of the backfield – that's a primary responsibility for those 'backers. Of course, we saw what happened on the Seahawks' first touchdown. It looked like Deion Jones got caught peeking into the backfield and Chris Carson scored an easy one on the play-action.
Kelsey Conway: Chris Carson's biggest impact hasn't necessarily come in the run game, it has been as a receiver. Carson's two touchdowns have come as a result of his versatility and being able to be utilized as a pass-catcher. The Falcons will have to adjust to the way Seattle is using him in both the run and pass game.
Will McFadden: That Carson has been so active as a receiver actually speaks to how well the Falcons' secondary played in the first half. Atlanta's defense is designed to keep everything in front, which means the backs are usually active as receivers. The key for Atlanta in the second half is rallying to make the tackle quickly when the ball is in Carson's hands, something they didn't do well prior to halftime. There aren't many adjustments that need to be made beyond that, because this is kind of what the defense is built to do.
What's the most important thing the Falcons need to do to take control of this game?
Tabeek: The Falcons need to establish an identity running the ball. Todd Gurley was signed to a one-year prove-it deal for a reason. I like what the Falcons did with him at times in the first half. Gurley had 10 carries for 51 yards and a score. He also has a catch in the first half. Letting Gurley do his thing also eats the clock and keeps Russell Wilson and Co. off the field. Plus, it tires that Seahawks defense out as the game goes on. More Gurley, please.
Conway: Get off the field on third down. The Falcons can't afford to give up any big plays on third down and let Seattle have more opportunities to stay on the field. How they adjust to this will be key to the Falcons turning things around in the second half. Three sacks on Russell Wilson is a great start, but it'll take even more to limit his production in the second half.
McFadden: I think they need to continue to run the ball. By forcing the Seahawks to devote additional players to stopping Atlanta's rushing attack, the Falcons will be set up nicely to hit on some big plays downfield, which they weren't really able to do in the first half. I like the way Atlanta's defense settled down in the second quarter, so the pressure is on the offense to give them a lead to defend.
What were your early impressions of the offensive and defensive lines?
Tabeek: I like (not love) what I'm seeing from both units so far but want to see more. I think the Falcons need to run the ball and establish an identity there – and that means letting those big guys up front pin their ears back and go run block. They must do a better job of picking up Jamal Adams in the second half. On the flip side, it's hard to argue with the three sacks in the first half (and at least one of those was due to excellent coverage on the back end of the defense). Russell Wilson has thrown just one incompletion, but the Falcons aren't letting him get too comfortable back there. I think the Falcons defense looked better as the game went on, too.
Conway: You've got to like what we're seeing from Grady Jarrett, Dante Fowler and Takk McKinley so far. They're getting consistent pressure on Russell Wilson. As far as the offensive line goes, the Falcons will have to account for Jamal Adams more in the second half.
McFadden: I think the offensive and defensive lines were the units that consistently played well in the first half, which is good to see. The defensive line generated consistent pressure on Wilson, which limited the Seahawks' ability to drive the ball downfield through the air. Seattle's pressure mostly came in the form of blitzes, and I'm sure that will be a talking point during halftime. Overall, though, I think the offensive line protected Matt Ryan well and looked particularly impressive in the run game.