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What the Seahawks have to do to beat the Falcons

The Seahawks have their work cut out for them Sunday in the NFC Divisional playoff game against the Falcons in Atlanta.

KPLU sports commentator Art Thiel says it's going to be an uncomfortably close game.

Seahawks will prevail, but...

Art thinks the Seahawks will win, but he says it's going to be a lot tougher than last Sunday's wild card playoff game against the Redskins.

"This is going to be much more harrowing and there's not going to be any room to breathe Sunday at all."

Falcons best in NFC

The Falcons were 13-3 in the regular season - the best team in the NFC.

"This team won 13 games for a reason. Doesn't mean they're invulnerable or impregnable but it does mean they're a very serious team with a lot of weapons that the Seahawks fans, and certainly the players, should not overlook. I see them being much more successful against Seattle than I did Washington."

One of the Falcons' biggest weapons is veteran tight end Tony Gonzalez. Art says he's been in the NFL 16 years and hasn't lost a step.

"He is still a stud when it comes to catching the ball over the middle and doing the right thing with it. He's one of the greats of all time. That's going to be a difficult match-up."

Seahawks vulnerable

The Seahawks this week lost defensive end Chris Clemons and kicker Steven Hauschka to injuries suffered on the poor turf at FedEx Field last Sunday. They've been placed on injured reserve.

Rookie Bruce Irvin will be doing Clemons' job Sunday. And the Hawks have signed defensive end Patrick Chukwurah and veteran kicker Ryan Longwell - a Seattle native. You can see photos of both new players in our slide show above.

Beast Mode will be key

Art says the Seahawks need keep the Falcons' offense off the field as much as possible. To do that, Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch (a.k.a. Beast Mode) needs to get the ball a lot.

"Ball control is everything. And you control the clock by running the ball."

Atlanta was 21st in the league in rushing defense, so Art says Lynch has the opportunity to have a a big game.

"This will be indoors at the Georgia Dome where the footing is sure. And his ability to cut, his ability to move is equally as important as his ability to knock people over. I think he needs to have the ball 25, maybe even 30, carries so that Russell Wilson can pick his spots and just throw 15-18 passes. Because, otherwise, if Atlanta's offense gets on the field a lot, they are going to light up the defense without Clemons to a point where the Seahawks' season could be ending."

You can read more about the Seahawks-Falcons match-up at Sportspress Northwest.

Kirsten Kendrick hosts Morning Edition on KNKX and the sports interview series "Going Deep," talking with folks tied to sports in our region about what drives them — as professionals and people.
Art Thiel is a co-founder and writer for the rising sports website Sportspress Northwest. In 2003 Thiel wrote the definitive book about the Seattle Mariners, “Out of Left Field,” which became a regional bestseller. In 2009, along with Steve Rudman and KJR 950 afternoon host Mike Gastineau, Thiel authored “The Great Book of Seattle Sports Lists,” a cross between and Mad Magazine that has become mandatory reading for any sports fan who has an indoor bathroom.