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Swiss Cheese Defense Haunts Seahawks Again as Falcons Steal 27-23 Win

On top of continuing to struggle defending the run, Seattle allowed Marcus Mariota and his receivers to have a field day with explosive after explosive in the passing game, wasting a stellar performance by Geno Smith and allowing Atlanta to fly away with the road victory.

SEATTLE, Wash. - Digging through the box score, the Seahawks nearly did everything they needed to in order to snag a Week 3 victory on Sunday.

On offense, led by Geno Smith's fantastic day with 325 passing yards and two touchdowns, Seattle racked up more than 400 yards of total offense and converted on more than 50 percent of its third down opportunities. Coach Pete Carroll's squad also won the time of possession and turnover battles, checking off two key categories that typically help win football games.

But in the end, the scoreboard doesn't lie and thanks in large part to another dismal effort by a beleaguered defense, the Seahawks squandered a prime opportunity in a 27-23 loss to the Falcons at Lumen Field.

Here are five rapid takeaways from Seattle's second consecutive defeat:

1. Living up to Carroll’s words, Smith came out hot with a more aggressive, downfield-oriented passing game.

After being shutout offensively in Santa Clara last Sunday, coach Pete Carroll reiterated numerous times during the week that the Seahawks needed to open up the offense for Smith and not "hold him back." As promised, the veteran came out throwing with more targets beyond 10 yards and remained incredibly efficient, starting the game completing seven of his first eight passes for 93 yards and a touchdown to tight end Will Dissly. In the first half alone, he completed six passes of at least 15 yards, including a 36-yard completion to Colby Parkinson and an 18-yard touchdown to Metcalf in heavy traffic. Out of the half, Smith kept dealing and surpassed 300 passing yards for the first time this season. Unfortunately, after being gifted a turnover on a botched exchange between Mariota and Patterson, his good fortune ran out when he tried to make magic happen on 4th and 18 inside two minutes to play and wound up getting picked off on a desperation heave by safety Richie Grant.

2. The running game found a semblance of live early, but wasn't much of a factor beyond the first drive.

After only rushing for 35 yards last week against the 49ers, the Seahawks quickly surpassed that mark on their opening drive as Rashaad Penny ripped off three straight runs of 10 or more yards to promptly move his team deep into Falcons territory. The drive eventually sputtered out with Jason Myers connecting on a short field goal to give the home team an early 3-0 lead. From that point on, however, Atlanta tightened up defensively, holding Penny to 31 yards on 10 carries for the remainder of the game. While Seattle managed to rush for 112 yards and nearly five yards per carry, those numbers were inflated by a 21-yard gain on a jet sweep by Ken Walker III and a 16-yard run by DeeJay Dallas on drives that resulted in field goals instead of touchdowns. Likely to the disdain of Carroll, consistency hasn't been found yet with the ground game.

3. Allowing explosive plays left and right, the Seahawks let Mariota carve them up throughout the first half.

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As a former top-five pick, there's no denying Mariota has talent, particularly as a dual-threat quarterback who can do damage running the ball. But the ex-Oregon star looked like Peyton Manning in his prime with receivers running wide open downfield in the first two quarters, something Seahawks fans have seen far too often in recent years. Though he completed just eight passes in that span, he nearly hit the 200-yard mark with seven completions of more than 20 yards in the first half alone. Several of those were back breakers on third down, including an inexcusable 26-yard completion to Olamide Zaccheaus on 3rd and 19 to move the chains in the second quarter. Moments later, Patterson exploded through a crease off right tackle untouched for an 18-yard touchdown to put the Falcons back in front 17-10. While coverage improved dramatically after the half, much of that had to do with a change in offensive philosophy by the opponent and for good reason...

4. Whether it is scheme or not, run defense continues to be an abomination week in and week out.

Continuing an ugly season-long trend, the Seahawks continued to get bulldozed by the Falcons rushing attack, yielding 179 rushing yards and nearly six yards per carry on defense. Primarily finding success off tackle, Patterson did the bulk of the damage after halftime, rushing for 107 yards and more than 10 yards per carry in the final two quarters. Right after Seattle took back the lead late in the third quarter, the versatile veteran torched Clint Hurtt's defense with 58 yards on two carries, immediately pushing Atlanta into the red zone. Three plays later, Mariota stared down a blitz from linebacker Jordyn Brooks, calmly connecting with rookie receiver Drake London. The first-round pick did the rest, shedding a tackle attempt from safety Josh Jones to find his way into the end zone and score what wound up being the game-winning touchdown.

5. Indecisiveness on a fourth down play call loomed large as the clock melted away in the fourth quarter.

Knotted up at 20 points apiece inside four minutes to play, a bizarre sequence ensued for the Seahawks. Facing 3rd and 2 from Atlanta's seven-yard line, Smith attempted to hook up with Metcalf on a goal line fade route and the pass sailed over the receiver's head. After the ball hit the turf, Seattle looked poised to go for it on fourth down, but with players clearly not on the same page, timeout was signaled in from the sideline to deliberate on the decision. After talking things over, Carroll and Waldron decided to take three points rather than risk going away empty handed, kicking a short field goal with Myers instead. Ultimately losing by four on the scoreboard, it's easy to look back at the decision in hindsight as a questionable one by the coaching staff given how well Smith had played and how poorly the defense had performed most of the afternoon. With that said, they still had plenty of chances to win the game in the fourth quarter and simply didn't get the job done.

Injury Update: Running back Travis Homer (ribs) left in the first quarter after his first and only carry of the game and did not return. Per Carroll, he was the only player included on the post-game injury report.

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