The Seahawks got off to another well documented slow start this weekend. The entire defensive line was just awful for the most part in the early going, and it was starting to look like Alfred Morris was going to follow up his Week 17 performance with another dominant outing.
Chris Clemons was more or less invisible for most of the game, excluding the strip of Griffin in the second, and Red Bryant has never looked so slow. Brandon Mebane who is supposed to be the anchor in the middle, and the key cog in Seattle’s run defense was nowhere to be found. If the Seahawks didn’t find a way to stop the run, there was no way they were going to win this game.
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Ultimately, Alan Branch stepped up, the run was stopped, and Seattle went on to win in dominant fashion. That is why Alan Branch gets the game ball.
He doesn’t get nearly as much credit as he deserves, but that’s all about to change. Alan Branch started to really turn it on in the 2nd quarter, and Will Montgomery who many thought deserved a pro bowl nod, couldn’t find an answer for the massive defensive tackle. He followed up a great second quarter, with a dominant third. He registered his first sack since week 4 against the Rams, and had another two tackles. On one of them he acted as a brick wall as soon as Alfred Morris hit the line of scrimmage. No gain was had on the play.
He would only get one more tackle in the game, a combined effort with Kam Chancellor, once again on Alfred Morris, but it was still a great day for Branch. His five tackles were his highest single game total of the season, and he’s matched his regular season sacks, just one game into the postseason. Granted, it only took one sack, but let’s not take away from what he did.
If Branch can lead the charge in shutting down the league’s second best rusher (per yardage), one has to wonder what hope the Falcons have of getting anything going on the ground. The Seahawks are going to need another performance like this from Branch next week, and don’t count it as out of the realm of possibility. The Seahawks are becoming perilously thin on the defensive line, especially with the apparent tear to Chris Clemons’ ACL, and are going to need increased production by committee. I expect Branch will do his share.