Receiver Mike Williams expected back as Seahawks face Falcons
Only Indianapolis averages fewer rushing yards than the Seahawks. The one thing Seattle has been able to rely upon is the connection between Matt Hasselbeck and Mike Williams.
Seattle Times staff reporter
Atlanta @ Seahawks, 1:05 p.m., Ch. 13
RENTON — The Seahawks are depending on an unlikely extremity.
That became clear as receiver Mike Williams stood in front of a dozen or so reporters after Wednesday's practice as they probed the particulars of the foot and ankle injuries that limited him to one three-play series over the past three games.
"It has been a long three weeks," Williams said. "I'm excited to be back."
He is expected to return for Sunday's game against NFC-leading Atlanta, returning to a role with the Seahawks that is as crucial as it is unexpected.
"It's been amazing, to be honest," quarterback Matt Hasselbeck said. "If you were to go back in March and give these hypotheticals: 'OK, here's a guy who has been on the street for two years, that this whole organization and team would be so reliant on him being able to play,' you probably wouldn't believe it.
"But he has meant a lot to our team. He has really stepped up."
The 6-foot-5 Williams has caught 10 or more passes in three games this season. He leads the team with 52 receptions. His importance to the offense demonstrates the magnitude of his comeback, but the offense's reliance on him shows the fragility of this rebuilding season.
Williams is a former first-round pick who did not play in the NFL the previous two years. He was a low-risk chance Seattle took this summer, and to have him emerge as such a dominant receiver should have been like finding a $100 bill in the pocket of an old pair of pants. Something you weren't counting on, but, man, was it nice to find.
Turns out the Seahawks needed Williams like he was the rent money. At least that's the way it looked these past three games. The Seahawks failed to gain a first down in the first quarter of two of those games.
Offensive balance is a goal in Seattle — it is not a reality. Not yet.
But Sunday, Seattle will host a team that embodies what coach Pete Carroll wants his Seahawks to be. Atlanta's Roddy White leads the league with 1,219 receiving yards. Michael Turner ranks fourth in the NFL in rushing. Quarterback Matt Ryan's fourth-quarter play has earned him a reputation as one of the NFL's top closers.
The Falcons' defense is fundamentally sound, and they simply don't beat themselves. The Falcons have committed 13 turnovers so far this season, third-fewest in the league.
"They're playing the kind of football that we hope to play," Hasselbeck said. "What we're trying to become. I think we've got the makings of it, but we're struggling to get there."
Seattle is less than a year down the rebuilding path that Atlanta began in 2008, and there are parallels in the blueprint. The Falcons drafted a left tackle in the first round in 2008, when Mike Smith took over as head coach. Seattle drafted a left tackle this year in Russell Okung. Atlanta acquired a running back in free agency, signing Turner in 2008. The Seahawks traded for Marshawn Lynch this year.
But Atlanta's balance has eluded the Seahawks this season. Only Indianapolis averages fewer rushing yards than Seattle, and the one thing that this team has been able to rely upon is the connection between Hasselbeck and Williams.
Williams has consistently won one-on-one matchups outside, forcing opponents to adjust and opening up opportunities for someone like Ben Obomanu, who missed last week's game because of a hand laceration.
Obomanu entered the league in 2006 but he had not started an NFL game until Nov. 14 at Arizona. He has caught 16 passes since he was inserted into the lineup. That's more career receptions than he had entering this season.
He is expected to return this week as the Seahawks prepare to face an Atlanta team as balanced as it is effective, a team that is headed to where the Seahawks want to be.
"They're a playoff team," Obomanu said. "That's what we aspire to be is a playoff team, too. We understand you have to win some big games like this throughout the season."
Danny O'Neil: 206-464-2364 or email@example.com
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