‘$100,000 question’ for Falcons: How to contain Russell Wilson

From a personnel perspective, the Falcons should be able to generate pressure against Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson, but that may end up being the easy part.

What’s trickier is translating that pass rush into bad throws, getting Wilson on the ground or at least keeping him in the pocket so he doesn’t make plays on the move. The Falcons don’t want to stand and watch Wilson in the pocket, but neither do they want to go after Wilson so recklessly that he gets outside of it.

How do they split the difference?

“That is the $100,000 question, for sure,” Falcons coach Dan Quinn said.

The Lions couldn’t answer it during their loss at Seattle on Saturday in an NFC wild-card game. The Lions pressured Wilson on 11 of his 34 drop backs, according to Pro Football Focus, but he still completed 5 of 8 pass attempts for 89 yards on those plays, with three thrown away.

Pro Football Focus gave Seattle the lowest team pass-blocking grade in the NFL this season. The Falcons have developed an effective pass rush led by league sacks leader Vic Beasley. The Falcons seem to have the advantage in that matchup.

But Wilson’s mobility, toughness and savvy make him a difficult quarterback to affect with pressure.

“It’s not going to be one guy,” Quinn said. “You don’t just say, ‘OK, he’s a spy on him,’ or the defensive line doesn’t rush. You’ve got to play aggressive. He’s not going to run every play of the game, but he is a fantastic competitor of knowing when to escape, when to get out, when to let it rip.

“We’ll play really aggressively toward him. We’ve played other scramble quarterbacks before, but he has a real knack of where the scramble (pass) pattern may go to and how do you adjust from there.”

The Falcons have faced several mobile quarterbacks this season: Wilson, Carolina’s Cam Newton (twice), Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers, Philadelphia’s Carson Wentz, and San Francisco’s Colin Kaepernick. The Falcons generally contained all of those QBs except Rodgers, who consistently slithered out of the pocket to run or make throws.

Wilson didn’t run much during Seattle’s 26-24 victory over the Falcons, but did extend some plays with his feet while completing 25 of 37 passes for 270 yards. The Falcons pressured Wilson 11 times in that game, according to Pro Football Focus, and he was only 3-for-10 on those plays with one sack.

Wilson was dealing with ankle and knee injuries then. He appeared to move better over the final month of the season and played without a left knee brace against the Lions for the first time since spraining it in Week 3.

“The thing that is different from the first time we played them is the quarterback is healthy,” Falcons defensive coordinator Richard Smith said. “The first time was playing with injuries, which we really respect that. He’s a competitor, a really tough kid. A lot of guys wouldn’t have played with his injuries. Right now he looks much healthier. … He’s not only a threat as a quarterback throwing the ball, he can beat you with scrambles and he can beat you with the zone/read business.”