Sunday, April 22, 2018
Sports

Seattle corners face huge test

Seattle's cornerbacks are going to have their hands full today.

At least that's the Seahawks' hope, because Brandon Browner and Richard Sherman are going to be asked to engage with, battle and frustrate Falcons receivers Julio Jones and Roddy White at the line of scrimmage.

"We're going to try and hang with them," coach Pete Carroll said.

Stand up and man up. That's what Sherman shouted on the sideline during last week's wild-card win at Washington and in the locker room afterward.

But Washington, like Seattle, is a run-oriented offense. Atlanta is part of the NFL's new era of airborne offenses. And as far as receiving tandems go, White and Jones are a pair of aces.

"Probably the most complete we've faced," Seattle defensive coordinator Gus Bradley said. "I don't want to slight anybody else, but (they're) very talented."

They will be playing into the teeth of a Seahawks defense that in many ways works from the outside in. The ability of Browner and Sherman to play man-to-man coverage and the range of safety Earl Thomas over the top key the defense.

And as strong and fast as the Falcons' receivers are, the Seahawks don't intend to concede anything.

"I expect our guys to try to play like they always play," Carroll said. "They don't need to change anything."

Atlanta's Matt Ryan was one of 11 quarterbacks to throw for more than 4,000 yards this season, the second straight season he has done so. The Falcons had the fewest rushing yards of any playoff team in the regular season, yet were No. 7 in scoring overall.

They had three players catch more than 70 passes, tight end Tony Gonzalez (93), White (92) and Jones (79). Even running back Jacquizz Rodgers caught 53 passes, three more than Seattle's leader, receiver Sidney Rice.

That puts the onus squarely on the secondary. And it starts with the cornerbacks who, in a rare instance, won't have a huge size advantage.

"We're built similarly," Sherman said in reference to the Falcons' receivers.

Browner is 6 feet 4, giving him an inch on the 6-3 Jones. The 6-3 Sherman has 3 inches on White, who was a two-time high school state champion in wrestling.

"It's going to be a fun matchup because they're physical," Sherman said. "They've got two great receivers. We've got two good corners. It's going to be a fun matchup for both sides."

Said Thomas: "It just gives us an opportunity to show what we're made of."

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Published: 04/22/18