The last time the Falcons faced off against the Seattle Seahawks, Atlanta’s late-game effort to secure a victory was thwarted on an incomplete Matt Ryan pass to Julio Jones. The Falcons aren’t letting that play, or the loss, impact their perspective on this week’s Divisional round matchup against the Seahawks.
“I don’t have any grudges against (Richard) Sherman or nothing like that,” Jones said. “I’m here to play ball. So what happened then, it was then. This is now.”
Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman clearly interfered with Jones on a crucial fourth-down play, but the refs didn’t call it. It killed a Falcons’ drive that could have put Atlanta in field goal range to win.
Instead, Atlanta lost, 26-24. Now, faced with the Seahawks again this week in divisional play, you might think Jones and his teammates place a special emphasis on this game because of the outcome in Week 6.
This is just another week for the Falcons
The stakes are higher because it’s the postseason, but that isn’t changing the Falcons’ perspectives.
“We just landed them in the playoffs. It’s just any other game for me,” Jones said Wednesday. “It’s not, ‘I want revenge,’ or anything else like that. It’s just, you know, they’re in the way, so we’ve got to go out here and just play ball.”
Dan Quinn has placed an emphasis on preparing the same way each week, and that holds true as the team looks toward the Seahawks on Saturday.
Quinn also wants his players to remember that they can only control what they can control.
“We know what they are. They’re just like our defense. Dan Quinn came from over there,” Jones said of Seattle. “The type of schemes they’re going to play on defense, speaking offensively. But at the end of the day, it’s on us. We can’t turn over the ball, and we’ve just got to go out there and just do what we do.”
Don’t expect the Falcons to beg for flags
Quinn said that the team did talk to players about what to expect from Seattle’s physical defense. What Quinn doesn’t want his players to do is worry about calls going Atlanta’s way.
“When you’re hoping for a call or wanting something different, I think you lose your edge. And so for us, it’s going to be let’s go attack,” Quinn said. “And how they call the game, we don’t have control over it. So let’s control the things we can, which is our effort, our ability to try to break guys off.”
Taylor Gabriel, who has developed into an impact player in this Falcons offense, missed most of the last matchup after suffering an injury in the first quarter of Week 6.
Gabriel is looking forward to this matchup, and he’s not worried about looking for flags.
“It’s the postseason. You’re not going to get the calls that you usually get, so as long as we go out there and play Falcons football, and we’re physical as well. As long as we just focus on the things that we have to focus on and being sharp and efficient and the things we have to do, I feel like we’ll be OK.
“But if you focus on them holding you and things like that, you can’t play your game.”
Jones agreed. He said he won’t try to influence the refs one way or the other. He’s just ready to play.
“I’m not talking to no refs or anything like that. I’m here to play football,” Jones said. “I ain’t here to talk to the refs about this and that. That’s their job. They call what they call. If they see it, they call it. If they don’t see it, they don’t call it.”
Jones vs. Sherman is going to be a battle
Jones was able to take advantage of Seattle’s coverage at times in Week 6, which got under Sherman’s skin. Sherman confronted defensive coordinator Kris Richard on the sideline after Jones took advantage of blown coverage to score a 31-yard touchdown.
Sherman wasn’t assigned to cover Jones on the play, but he wanted to be. Physically, Sherman matches up well with Jones, which Jones acknowledged Wednesday.
“He’s a competitor. He’s very competitive,” Jones said. “He’s a long, rangy corner. You know he’s going to compete every play.”
Like Jones, Sherman approaches the game with the same level of intensity.
“I know the way he comes to play, and I do that the same, week in and week out,” Jones said. “So it’s just going to be fun, just to match up, going against each other, and just competing for four quarters.”
And while this one-on-one battle is definitely one to watch, Jones doesn’t feel extra pressure because it’s a playoff game.
“It’s not a big game for us. It’s like any other game for us,” Jones said. “We’re just doing what we do — continue to stay loose and just have fun around here.”
The Falcons have approached all 16 games in the regular season the exact same way. They’ve done a good job of staying course, cruising to an 11-5 finish and a first-round playoff bye. Over the course of the year, the offense established itself as a powerhouse, and finished the 2016 season ranked at the top of the league for scoring with 33.8 points per game.
Seattle will be without Earl Thomas, who helped seal Atlanta’s Week 6 defeat with a late-game pick that set up what turned out to be Seattle’s game-winning field goal. The Falcons’ offense has been difficult to defend, and it’s much more challenging for the Seahawks without Thomas on the field.
The Seahawks got the best of Atlanta in Week 6. Saturday’s rematch isn’t about revenge, but the Falcons aren’t going to go down without a fight.