There's no question that the marquee match-up in the divisional round game between the Atlanta Falcons and Seattle Seahawks is the Falcons' outstanding receivers versus Seattle's big, physical cornerbacks. Roddy White and Julio Jones are a nightmare for any defense to stop, because they can run any route, and they're the best NFL duo when it comes to beating their defenders with straight iso routes -- it's you and me, big guy; let's see who wins.
They'll be facing cornerbacks Richard Sherman and Brandon Browner, two lanky monsters who love to press at the line and get in the heads of the receivers they cover. Browner loves to wrestle with receivers, and Sherman might be the NFL's best pure cover corner. The Falcons won the last game between the two teams, a 30-28 nail-biter at Seattle's CenturyLink Field in Week 4 of the 2011 season. Jones lit Browner up in that game for 11 catches and 127 yards, but Sherman -- then in his rookie season -- really hadn't emerged yet.
Asked about the challenge by USA Today's Jim Corbett, White showed the ability to do a bit of trash-talking himself.
"Me and Julio are going to be a lot more physical this game," White said. "We're going to have to get after it real early. We've talked about it all week -- about basically just going out there and taking the fight to them.''
White then addressed the issue of Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson, who tied Peyton Manning's rookie record for touchdown passes with 26. Wilson also adds the element of the read-option, which the Falcons have not defended well this season. White was not impressed.
"If Russell Wilson is a better quarterback than Matt Ryan, then I don't know nothing about football. I'm going to quit. I'm going to retire before this game starts,'' White said. "Matt is ready to go. We're ready to go. We want to go out there and show everybody that we can win a playoff game.''
It would be good for the Falcons if they could. Ryan and head coach Mike Smith are under pressure -- at least in a national media sense -- because the Falcons have lost every playoff game with Ryan and Smith as the common denominators. There's no issue as to the Falcons' general consistency, but it's past time for the franchise to hit the next level.
With Sherman matched up on White, and Browner on Jones, we'll just hope FOX gives us some wide angle replays. The most interesting battles may take place outside the numbers.
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