Going into this weekends playoff game against the Seattle Seahawks, the average fan would be forgiven if they were to believe that the Seattle secondary is unbeatable. All of the talk has been about the two physical corners and their stout safeties. Much has been made of their size and strength and ability to take receivers out of the game. You'd think that Julio and Roddy don't have a chance, and that Matty should just pass to JaQuizz and Mike Johnson all day.
But what is the the truth really? Are these corners the best thing to happen to football, or is the media hype blowing things out of proportion?
To examine this further, I want to look at games where the Seahawks faced some top-tier receivers, to see just how well they did.
Green Bay (Sept 24)
Ahhh, the infamous game that ended the referee strike. The Seahawks had a formidable task in this game, with the reigning MVP coming into their house with a bevy of weapons including Greg Jennings, Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb, Jermichael Finley and on and on.
The story of this game was the way in which the GB line fell apart. Rodgers was sacked 8 (8!) times in this game and only ended up throwing for 223 yards with no TDs.
Seattle's defense - and secondary - did a very nice job in this game. They didn't allow a single receiver over 100 yards and had Rodgers and company off balance all night.
New England (Oct 14)
Tom Brady had a rough day in Seattle, though his stat line doesn't look so bad. He threw for 395 yards and 2TDs (along with 2INTs). As for his receivers, Wes Welker lead the day with 10 catches for 138 yards and a TD. Brandon Lloyd added 6 catches for 80 yards while the two-headed tight-end monster of Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez combined for 12 catches for 91 yards and 1TD between them.
Detroit (Oct 28)
The inconsistent but pass-happy Matthew Stafford managed to put together a very strong day against the Seahawks. He would pass for over 350 yards, 3TD and 1INT on the way to a 28-24 victory. How did Megatron fair, though?
Calvin Johnson was held to 3 catches for a measly 46 yards and no TDs on the day. However, as a freak by-product, Titus "I will line up where I want to" Young was possessed by the spirit of a not-yet-dead Jerry Rice and broke out for 9 catches for 100 yards and 2 TDs. Brandon Pettigrew also had a nice day, pulling in 7 catches for 74 yards.
Chicago (Dec 2)
Jay Cutler - a QB known for being as friendly to cornerbacks as he is his own receivers - managed to throw for 233 yards in this game with 2TDs. It should be noted that 56 of those yards came on a stupid lack of coverage at the end of the game, so Seattle had contained this team for a good part of the day. But what of Brandon Marshall? He went nuts on this secondary - catching 10 balls for 165 yards.
Well, the truth is that this Seattle secondary IS good, but they are not unbeatable. They seem to have the ability to take away some receivers, but are susceptible to giving up yards to Tight Ends and slot guys, as evidenced above. And a more physical receiver, like Brandon Marshall, can have success against them as well.
The truth of this secondary lies somewhere between the stats and the hype. Yes, they are big and physical, but they also appear to be vulnerable to good double moves - something that was demonstrated a few times last week against the Redskins. And though they've had some success against some big name receivers, they have given up the yards to the "other" receivers as well. I think it's also fair to say that they have not faced a team with 3 top receivers like Atlanta yet.
If the Falcons are going to succeed against the Seahawks, the easier road will likely be through guys like Tony Gonzalez and Harry Douglas. As well, the screen game could be a huge factor. So, while Seattle's secondary definitely deserves respect, they are NOT unbeatable. Atlanta will need to protect Ryan and give him time, but if they do, the Falcons will be able to move the ball and score.