Dan Quinn returns with high-flying Falcons to face Seahawks (and 5 other things to watch today)

Head coach Dan Quinn of the Atlanta Falcons during the game against the Denver Broncos at Sports Authority Field at Mile High on October 9, 2016 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images)

Head coach Dan Quinn of the Atlanta Falcons during the game against the Denver Broncos at Sports Authority Field at Mile High on October 9, 2016 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images)

SEATTLE — When Dan Quinn left Seattle for his opportunity to be an NFL head coach in Atlanta, he wanted to create an identity unique to the Falcons.

Quinn didn’t want Atlanta to be a replica of what he experienced in Seattle, even if the principles he wanted for the Falcons were similar.

“Can the team be featured in the very best way of how we wanted to utilize the players? The messaging, the identity, the toughness that we wanted to play with, having that really come to life?” Quinn said. “I think it took going through some tough lessons and developing some resiliency through last year with some difficult losses. … Those were scars that were painful as hell to go through, but on the other side of it we grew tougher, we grew stronger.”

Quinn’s former team will get an up-close look at what he’s created in Atlanta when the Seahawks host the Falcons on Sunday in a clash of teams that look to be among the top contenders in the NFC.

  • Watch Falcons vs. Seahawks – Sunday at 1 p.m. on Q13 FOX

It's an enticing matchup, featuring Atlanta's No. 1 offense against Seattle's top-ranked defense that's had an extra week of rest and preparation. And it's a reunion for Quinn to see the defense he helped create in Seattle during his two seasons as coordinator, and whether it can slow down Matt Ryan and the Falcons.

"It's going to be fun. It's going to be a fun matchup for our defense to go up against their offense," Seattle cornerback Richard Sherman said. "They throw the ball a whole lot, Matt Ryan has been having a phenomenal year, so we're going to have a good time with that challenge."

The Falcons went down this path a year ago, starting 6-1 before losing six straight, finishing 8-8 and missing the playoffs, so there is still hesitation about the validity of Atlanta's start this season. But a win in Denver , followed by a win in Seattle would certainly quiet doubters.

"When something bad goes bad, you have to forget it and get the next play. You can't let that determine the outcome of the game if you had one bad play," Atlanta wide receiver Julio Jones said. "That's how we were last year as a team. One negative thing happened and then it was like a snowball effect on us. This year we're definitely a different ballclub as far as the mentality of the team."

Here's what else to watch:

JULIO vs. SHERM: No individual matchup will top the expected battle between Jones and Sherman. Jones is two weeks removed from having 300 yards receiving against Carolina, while Sherman has started to follow specific wide receivers on a more regular basis. He did that for most of Seattle's win over the New York Jets, shadowing Brandon Marshall.

Others Sherman has followed in the past include Dez Bryant, Antonio Brown and Torrey Smith.

"What the fans should expect is two real dog competitors wanting to go battle for it. That's one of the coolest parts about our game," Quinn said.

HERE'S JIMMY: If there was any question, Jimmy Graham is back and he's finding a prominent role in Seattle's offense. Graham is coming off consecutive 100-yard receiving games, the first time he's accomplished that feat since early in the 2013 season. Graham's 12 catches in the past two games has come without quarterback Russell Wilson forcing the ball his direction. Rather, the throws are coming to Graham within the rhythm of the game plan.

BACKFIELD MATES: The Seahawks are concerned about containing the combo of Atlanta running backs Tevin Coleman and Devonte Freeman. Coleman had a career-high 132 yards receiving last week against the Broncos, while Freeman is averaging 5.3 yards per carry, seventh best in the NFL.

"They've got to be really fired up about those guys because they have a lot of stuff they can do with them and we can't zero in on it because of that. They're very fortunate," Carroll said.

BEASTLY BEASLEY: The pass rush potential of Vic Beasley flashed last week against Denver.

Beasley had 3 ½ sacks and two forced fumbles in the victory. Beasley has 4 ½ sacks in the first five weeks, after having just four sacks his entire rookie season.

BACK TO HEALTH: The early bye week played into Seattle's favor. Wilson got an extra week of treatment on his sprained knee and sprained ankle. Wide receiver Tyler Lockett is expected to be more involved after being limited the past two games with a sprain knee suffered in Week 2 against Los Angeles. Others such as Doug Baldwin, Germain Ifedi, Jarran Reed and Graham got a break after a bruising first four weeks when injuries quickly started adding up.