Can they stop him?

Tony Gonzalez is a sure Hall of Famer, but Seahawks hope to keep the Atlanta tight end from getting his first playoff victory

eric.williams@thenewstribune.comJanuary 11, 2013 

RENTON – K.J. Wright knows one thing about Atlanta tight end Tony Gonzalez – the old man can still play.

“He’s still looking good,” said the Seattle linebacker, who gave up a touchdown to the 36-year-old graybeard in last season’s 30-28 loss to Atlanta. “He’s looking crafty and still moving fast. We’ve got to make sure that, especially in our zone coverage, that we keep our eyes on him. He leads the team in receptions, so we know he’s their go-to guy, and we’ve got to stop him.

“He’s been able to play for so long, and play at a high level. He’s really showing young guys how to do it.”

Gonzalez indeed leads Atlanta in receptions with 93 for 930 yards, including eight touchdowns. He is second all-time with 1,242 receptions and has topped 90

catches five times during his 16-year career, a record for tight ends.

Gonzalez owns career records for tight ends with 14,268 yards receiving, 103 touchdowns and 30 games with at least 100 yards receiving.

Gonzalez was voted to his 14th Pro Bowl at the end of the 2012 season, and likely is a first-ballot Hall of Famer.

But Gonzalez still has yet to experience a playoff victory – one of the main reasons he agreed to let Kansas City trade him to Atlanta four years ago.

“I’m not going to lie to you: I really, really want to win this game,” Gonzalez told Atlanta-area reporters. “Not just for me, honestly, but for the guys on this team, how hard we’ve worked.”

Gonzalez maintained that he’s 95 percent sure he plans to retire at the end of this season but still plans on “talking to my family, my inner circle – especially my son” – before making a definitive retirement announcement.

Asked if he plans on dancing during Sunday’s player introductions in the Georgia Dome like Baltimore linebacker Ray Lewis did in his final home game with the Ravens, Gonzalez was blunt.

“You don’t want to see me dance,” he said. “It’s not a pretty thing.”

The Seahawks want to figure out a way to keep the athletic Gonzalez from dancing in the end zone on Sunday. Seattle safety Kam Chancellor and the team’s athletic but young group of linebackers have had trouble covering tight ends down the middle of the field this season.

Green Bay’s Jermichael Finley had four catches for 60 yards against Seattle. New England’s Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez combined for 12 catches, 91 yards and a touchdown. Detroit’s Brandon Pettigrew caught seven passes for 74 yards. And Miami’s Charles Clay finished with eight catches for 84 yards, including one score.

At 6-foot-3 and 232 pounds, Chancellor provides the best one-on-one matchup against the 6-5, 247-pound Gonzalez.

Seattle linebacker Bobby Wagner said the key for Seattle is being physical with Gonzalez.

“The biggest thing is just having an awareness of where he’s at, and understanding they’re going to look for him, whether it’s third down, red zone or whatever,” Wagner said. “You want to make it as difficult as you can, understanding that he might catch some balls, but they should be difficult catches. He should have to work for it. Make his life miserable instead of easy.”

Seattle cornerback Richard Sherman said he didn’t play very much against Atlanta last season when the Seahawks faced the Falcons. Sherman was part of Seattle’s “dime” package (six defensive backs).

“I played a little bit against Tony (Gonzalez), but that was about it,” Sherman said.

So there’s a chance Gonzalez could see a chattering Sherman across from him again on Sunday.

“You know he talks,” Gonzalez said. “That’s how it goes. I’ve been around the league a long time, and I’ve seen plenty of Richard Shermans. You have to ignore it and just go about your business. But he’s a competitor. He’s a good player.”

Eric D. Williams: 253-597-8437 @eric_d_williams

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