Raheem Morris admits he ‘underestimated’ Seahawks passing attack

Falcons assistant coach Raheem Morris (left) confers with coach Dan Quinn during a November game against Tampa Bay last season. (Curtis Compton/ccompton@ajc.com)
Falcons assistant coach Raheem Morris (left) confers with coach Dan Quinn during a November game against Tampa Bay last season. (Curtis Compton/ccompton@ajc.com)

Credit: Curtis Compton

Credit: Curtis Compton

FLOWERY BRANCH -- Falcons defensive coordinator Raheem Morris took responsibility for his unit’s performance in Sunday’s 38-25 season-opening loss at home against the Seattle Seahawks.

Morris said he didn’t have his players prepared properly for the pass-happy Seattle offense. During last week’s preparation at practice, Morris implemented a game plan to stop the Seattle run game first and foremost. Although the Seahawks were relegated to only 84 total rushing yards -- with running back Chris Carson totaling only 21 yards on six carries -- quarterback Russell Wilson completed 31 of 35 passes for 322 yards and four touchdowns.

“We didn’t do a good-enough job, and put that solely on me,” Morris said. “We went out, and we challenged (the Falcons defense) to stop the run and presented them with a big-time run package. We put the guys in there, and we were not going to let (Carson) beat us. We were going to knock them back and not get pushed around and make this game ugly, and hopefully put up some points and make it into a passing game.

"It never went to that point.”

Morris obviously raised some eyebrows by stating he prepared for a run-oriented Seahawks offense, considering Wilson was the opposing team’s quarterback. However, it was the Seahawks' rushing attack that scorched the Falcons for 151 rushing yards in a 27-20 victory in 2019. That, combined with Seahawks offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer’s tendency to lean on the run, might have influenced Morris when game-planning.

When Schottenheimer was Georgia’s offensive coordinator in 2015, Schottenheimer called 473 runs to 325 passing plays. In his first season as the Seahawks' offensive coordinator in 2018, Schottenheimer called 534 runs to 427 passes. In 2019, Schottenheimer called 517 passes to 481 runs.

Against the Falcons, Seattle ran only 20 times to Wilson’s 35 throws.

“We stayed one-dimensional,” Morris said. “We didn’t give them a good-enough look, a good-enough presentation. I put it on myself. I gave these guys a little too much credit in the run game and not enough credit in the pass game. And they absolutely beat us. ... We went out with that plan, and it didn’t work as well.”

Cornerback Isaiah Oliver said the secondary felt prepared to face Wilson and were well-aware of his ability to scramble to extend plays. Still, Wilson, on the run and in the pocket, was able to end the week ranked second among NFL quarterbacks with an 88.6 completion percentage.

“Going against a guy like that, his ability to make plays on the run is probably his biggest attribute,” Oliver said. “You can never necessarily know what you’re going to get from him. We tried to prepare as much as we could for him scrambling and for that ‘second play,’ as we call it. For a guy like that, he’s always going to get out of the pocket and move off the spot and still make great throws. That’s something he was able to do.”

Morris is in his first full season as the Falcons' defensive coordinator, which came after coach Dan Quinn moved him from receivers coach to defensive backs coach midway through the 2019 season. Last year, his move was credited with sparking a defensive turnaround in numerous statistical categories. Although Morris is the defensive coordinator, he is sharing play-calling duties with linebackers coach Jeff Ulbrich.

One area Morris was pleased with was the pressure the Falcons' defensive line placed on Wilson. While the Seahawks scored 38 points, the group recorded three sacks and 10 quarterback hits. He liked the fact that the Falcons, which struggled getting after the quarterback a year ago, were able to apply consistent pressure throughout the game. A good sign for the group was the fact that defensive end Takk McKinley recorded a sack on his first play from scrimmage.

But while the defensive line was able to pressure Wilson, the back seven was unable to confuse Wilson with its defensive looks.

“We were able to physically affect the quarterback, hit him a bunch of times, getting in a couple of sacks,” Morris said. “What I did not do -- and it’s solely on me -- is give the guys the ability to affect the quarterback mentally. Some of our disguises weren’t what they used to be or what they need to be in order to win a game like that. I didn’t give those guys enough credit to beat us in the pass game, and they absolutely did. Russell Wilson is a heck of a player, a phenomenal player. He absolutely came out that day and beat us.”

Morris obviously was unhappy with his first outing as the Falcons' defensive coordinator. He said he took responsibility for the defense’s shortcomings in front of the other coaches and players.

Morris said he admitted these mistakes to them because he felt they deserved honesty after a game like that.

“Just like I told Dan Quinn, I said, ‘I underestimated them’ -- just like I told like my guys, just like I’d tell you if I saw you walking into Publix. It doesn’t matter,” Morris said. “We’re going to fight back this week and be in a good place. Believe that.”