Atlanta Falcons head coach Dan Quinn knows all about defense in Seattle.
While the Seahawks may not be quite as well-regarded as they were when their former defensive coordinator left for the big chair in Atlanta, the Seattle stop unit is still the NFL’s best and on any given Sunday it can still morph into the “Legion of Boom,” especially when playing in front of the 12th man.
That very narrative unfolded Sunday as Quinn lost a 26-24 heartbreaker to his old team.
Quinn was one of the architects implementing what Pete Carroll wants on the defensive side in the Pacific Northwest succeeding current Jacksonville coach Gus Bradley as the DC with the Seahawks and preceding the current defensive chief, Kris Richard.
In Quinn’s current gig, however, it’s the offense creating the headlines, as the Falcons arrived for their Week 6 temperature-taking with the No. 1 offense in all of football for the ultimate battle of the perceived irresistible force against the immovable object.
In this case, the 457.4 yards per game the Falcons amassed behind early MVP candidate Matt Ryan was pitted against the paltry 264.0 yards the Seahawks allowed coming in.
Throughout the first half, it was all immovable object as Seattle built a 17-3 advantage behind a pair of touchdown runs — from Christine Michael and Alex Collins — and that top-rated defense, which stymied Atlanta from doing anything at all on the ground, making the Falcons one-dimensional.
Even that one dimension can be pretty special, however, when Ryan and his All-Pro receiver Julio Jones are playing pitch and catch. Any thoughts of a laugher ended early in the third quarter when the two Atlanta stars hooked up for a 36-yard TD pass.
When Ryan and Mohamed Sanu connected for another score later in the quarter, the irresistible force had doubled the one TD pass that the Seattle defense had allowed in its previous 18 quarters of work this season in one 15-minute span.
By the time Ryan tripled it with 17 seconds left in the frame with a 46-yard TD to tight end Levine Toilolo, it was clear what happened: the Falcons had taken a devastating right cross and crumbled to the canvas before rising to answer with a left hook that stunned the Seahawks.
This was a heavyweight fight that lived up to the hype and it was more of a Hollywood version, because, as you may have guessed, Seattle also got off the deck to answer with another TD on the ground, Michael’s second of the afternoon.
A catastrophic blocked PAT off the foot of Steven Hauschka was soon alleviated by Ryan’s one major mistake of the game, an ill-fated laser that went off Jones’ hands and was intercepted by Seahawks’ All-Pro safety Earl Thomas.
And wouldn’t you know it, after Hauschka was unable to convert the far easier 33-yard PAT, he was true from 44 yards to put his team back on top of the see-saw with two minutes left.
With the crowd at a fever pitch, the Seahawks’ defensive backs were buzzing, not allowing a thing before a 4th-and 10 play in which a desperation Ryan heave into double coverage for Jones was broken up.
The game was Seattle’s, although not without some controversy as it looked like Richard Sherman grabbed the receiver’s right arm and Quinn was incensed on the sidelines even though he’s seen that denouement before.
For years, the Seahawks’ defensive backs have been defined by their physicality with men like Carroll, Bradley and, yes, Quinn, assessing that officials will be less likely to throw a big flag in a key moment.
In a lot of ways, that philosophy got Quinn his current job.
On Sunday, it cost him a game.
-John McMullen is a national football columnist for FanRagSports.com and TodaysPigskin.com. You can reach him at [email protected] or on Twitter @JFMcMullen — Also catch John each week during the NFL season on ESPN South Jersey, ESPN Southwest Florida, ESPN Lexington, KDWN in Las Vegas, and check @JFMcMullen for John’s upcoming appearances on SB Nation Radio, FOX Sports Radio, CBS Sports Radio as well as dozens of local radio stations across North America.