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Thiel: Falcons' Offense May Be Too Much For Seahawks In NFC Divisional Playoff

Elaine Thompson
AP Photo
Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones, right, makes a wide-open catch for a touchdown against the Seahawks in the second half of a game on Sunday, Oct. 16, 2016, in Seattle.

The Seahawks play the Falcons in Atlanta Saturday afternoon in the NFC divisional playoff game. Knkx sports commentator Art Thiel told 88.5's Kirsten Kendrick that he thinks the Atlanta offense may be too tough to beat.

The Seahawks are four-point underdogs in the game, despite beating Detroit in the wildcard playoff game, 26-6. Thiel said he saw a lot of good things from the Seahawks in that game.

"The defense performed very well and the offense had some rally in it in the fourth quarter," he said.

"The major thing to keep in mind about that game was Detroit wasn't very good. They were 9-7 coming in but they had a number of problems and they also had a number of misplays in this game.

"Yes, it was a 20-point win but the game was 10-3 at halftime and 10-6 entering the fourth quarter, so you really can't call it a rout. But it was a win and that's all that counts in the playoffs."

Finally Have A Running Game

"The thing that was most encouraging for the Seahawks was the development of a running game," Thiel continued. "This has been a season-long issue with the young offensive line, three first-year starters and injuries hurting [quarterback] Russell Wilson and others.

"But they pulled it together for 177 yards, including 161 — a club record for a playoff game — from Thomas Rawls. So, that was impressive.

"Is it sustainable? I think possibly, because one of the things coach Pete Carroll keeps saying is that these young guys improve weekly. And they did reach something of peak in this game, so that's encouraging.

"I think it's sustainable now because the offensive line has played enough together to eliminate some of the problems."

Atlanta Offense A Major Threat

"The biggest thing is the Atlanta Falcons are really, really good on offense," Thiel said. "Not so much on defense. But they had the No. 2-rated offense and they have such a diversity of weapons and attacking styles that even a defense as good as Seattle's is going to have difficulty.

"And they're missing Earl Thomas. Earl's been out now with a broken leg and he was the glue for the secondary. He was the guy that kept things in order.

"He was able to go side-to-side on the field and his knowledge of the game, really, for a free safety was unsurpassed. His backup, Steve Terrell, is a solid player. He's just not Earl Thomas."

Prediction: Seahawks' Season Ending

"The Seahawks won the first game 26-24 in mid-October," Thiel said. "It was a very unusual game because the Seahawks got off to a 17-3 start and then gave up 21 points in the third quarter — three touchdown passes over the top. That almost never happens to the Seahawks.

"There was a really interesting development in that game. Fans may remember that [cornerback] Richard Sherman got very upset with the miscommunication that took place between him and teammates that allowed [Atlanta's] star receiver Julio Jones to score on a 36-yard pass.

"He had a tirade on TV. And it's been sort of a start for Richard's controversies with his public pronouncements and rants.

"I don't think that's going to happen. I think the chances of a duplication are pretty small. So, there is some hope that the Seahawks can certainly keep the game manageable.

"But this is in Atlanta. And the Seahawks have only won only three road playoff games in their 41-year history. It's really hard to win on the road.

"I do think the Atlanta offense has improved enough since that [October] game to be a difference maker. I see the Falcons prevailing 27-24 and the Seahawks' season ending — not necessarily with a thud but definitely with a loss."

You can find Art Thiel's work at Sportspress Northwestand

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.