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Hurdle Cleared, Seattle Sent Packing

Tony Gonzalez tight-ropes along the back of the endzone for a TD.
Tony Gonzalez tight-ropes along the back of the endzone for a TD.

For nearly an entire week, football pundits esteemed, ad nauseum, the virtues of the Seattle Seahawks and the likelihood the red hot squad from the Pacific Northwest would advance to the NFC Championship Game. Well as they say, that’s why they play the game. The Falcons charged out to a 20-0 lead in the first half only to need a 49 yard field goal from Matt Bryant in the final seconds to overtake the persistent Seahawks 30-28.

“The outsiders said we can’t win in the playoffs, now they have to come up with other things to say,” said Falcons linebacker Sean Weatherspoon.

Despite the palpitations Falcons fans claimed to experience prior to the winning kick, the win was fairly par for the course over the last couple of seasons. “We’ve done it before,” said Atlanta tight end Tony Gonzalez. “I wish we didn’t have to do it like that, but I’ll take it.” Nail biting wins has been atypical for Atlanta beginning with their 30-28 come from behind win over NFC South rival Carolina in week 3. Add to that close wins over Oakland, Dallas, and Arizona at home and Tampa on the road.

Atlanta channeled some of the energy from their total beat down of the New York Giants to jump out to a 20-0 lead in the first half.

The Seahawks weren’t without scoring opportunities in the red zone. “We had five opportunities to score in the first half and just didn’t get it done,” said Seahawks Head Coach Pete Carroll. Twice in the last half of the second quarter, rookie quarterback Russell Wilson guided Seattle down to the Atlanta 11 yard line only to come up empty each time.

A field goal on either of those two drives and San Francisco would have had to figure out how to beat the team that hung 42 points on them in week 16 of the regular season.

Running backs Michael Turner and Jacquizz Rodgers helped set the tone early bashing through the Seahawks 10th ranked run defense for a combined 133 yards in the opening half. According to Rodgers, the Falcons exploited the aggressiveness of the Seahawks defense. “They (Seattle) are a tough and physical unit for sure,” said Rodgers. “However, we wanted to use their aggressive style of defense against them. For instance, because they play eight men in the box, we thought we could gash them for big plays.”

“We tackled so poorly,” said Carroll. “We had a whole thought about getting underneath them and they were able to get by us.”

The poor tackling must have been contagious because the Falcons defense suffered from it in the second half. Seahawks receiver Golden Tate took advantage of it on the first drive of the third quarter running through a Dunta Robinson shoulder bump for a 29 yard score. Several other missed tackles in the fourth quarter extended drives and contributed to a 21 point comeback. Tate set up the Seahawks go-ahead touchdown breaking three tackles for a 19 yard gain after the two-minute warning.

Seattle running back Marshawn Lynch’s touchdown with 34 seconds to play proved to be just enough for Matt “Matty Ice” Ryan. Before taking the field for the final drive, Ryan delivered a rather mild pep talk. “It’s not a big fire and brimstone speech,” said Ryan. “It’s more of just, ‘let’s go out there and do our job. We’ve got time, we’ve got the timeouts, we need to execute’.” Ryan answered his critics throwing for 41 of his 250 yards to set up the game winning field goal.

The loss was disappointing to Wilson for about 5 minutes. The rookie, who threw for 385 yards, rushed for 60 more and accounted for 3 touchdowns took it in stride before turning his sights on the future. “When the game was over I was very disappointed, but right before I got back to the tunnel – walking off the field – I got so excited for the next opportunity, next year.,” said Wilson. “I’m looking forward to what we have in the future.”

A view that Pete Carroll shares because of the talented rookies the team brought in this season. “This whole rookie class is ridiculously good,” said Carroll. “The future is so bright for this team.”

While most players will be heading off to the Pro Bowl or to rest up before OTAs in the spring, Wilson isn’t going far from his playbook. “I probably won’t take any time off knowing me,” he said. “My wife and I will go on our honeymoon but other than that I’ll probably be right back at it tomorrow.”

Despite earning their first playoff win in 8 years (2004 – Rams 27-10), the Falcons will probably be tagged as underdogs again when they face San Francisco in the NFC Championship game. Odds are nice conversation topics but they don’t win games. So far, the Falcons have been able to prove the odds makers wrong. One more performance and they will get an opportunity to play for all the marbles, wax and cookies.

Atlanta Falcons 30 vs Seattle Seahawks 28

  • Falcons fans display signs expressing their confidence for a win..

  • The visiting Seattle Seahawks kickers walk thru the tunnel to the field.

  • CThe visiting Seattle Seahawks gather in the tunnel before introductions.

  • Michael Turner runs over the right side of the offense.

  • RB Michael Turner delivers a blow to CB Brandon Browner.

  • SS Kam Chancellor knocks TE Tony Gonzalez out of bounds after a reception.

  • A Seattle 12th Man rocks the team paint, hard hat and jersey in unfriendly surroundings.

  • DE John Abraham drives TE Anthony McCoy backwards blocking the path of RB Marshawn Lynch.

  • RB Marshawn Lynch has to change directions as DE John Abraham discards a blocker.

  • WR Julio Jones breaks a tackle and heads down teh sideline.

  • RB Marshawn Lynch breaks loose before LB Sean Weatherspoon closes and forces a fumble.

  • Atlanta LB Sean Weatherspoon celebrates after forcing a Marshawn Lynch fumble.

  • Julio Jones makes a leaping grab along the Falcons sideline.

  • Tony Gonzalez makes a leaping grab for a 1 yard touchdown reception.

  • TE Zach Miller gets spun down after the catch.

  • QB Russell Wilson looks for a receiver while holding off DT Jonathan Babineaux.

  • QB Russell Wilson tries to break free of DT Jonathan Babineaux.

  • Roddy White hauls in a 47 yard touchdown pass from QB Matt Ryan.

  • WR Roddy White shares a few words with DB Richard Sherman after beating the defender for a 47 yard touchdown reception.

  • QB Russell Wilson fires a pass to a Seahawks receiver.

  • Super Fan - Seattle Hawk Daddy and sidekick made the trip.

  • Zach Miller makes one of his 8 receptions in the game.

  • Zach Miller runs for yards after the catch near mid-field.

  • RB Jacquizz Rodgers gets stuffed by LB Leroy Hill.

  • RB Michael Turner leans for yards as LB Leroy Hill holds on to the big backs legs.

  • DB Richard Sherman swats at the deep ball and WR Harry Douglas is unsuccessful in an attempt to make the spinning catch.

  • WR Julio Jones runs for 21 yards before being brought down by a hustling K.J. Wright.

  • WR Julio Jones runs for 21 yards before being brought down by a hustling K.J. Wright.

  • RB Jason Snelling slips through for a 5 yard touchdown.

  • WR Golden Tate hauls in the pass from Wilson for a 24 yard gain.

  • WR Sidney Rice gets stopped immediately by DB Asante Samuel after a catch for 12 yards .

  • RB Robert Turbin is upended short of the goal line.

  • QB Russell Wilson coasts in from 1 yard out.

  • Falcons WR Julio Jones gets taken down for a loss of 1 yard.

  • WR Sidney Rice makes a grab along the sideline for a 24 yard gain.

  • RB Robert Turbin eludes the tackle of Robert McClain.

  • John Abraham chases after QB Russell Wilson.

  • The Falcons close the hole on RB Marshawn Lynch quickly.

  • Falcons LB Sean Weatherspoon squares up on RB Marshawn Lynch in the flat.

  • Falcons LB Sean Weatherspoon and CB Dunta Robinson combine to tackle RB Marshawn Lynch.

  • Golden Tate breaks three tackles for a 19 yard gain.

  • Marshawn Lynch heads up the field for a 24 yard gain.

  • Falcons CB Chris Hope knocks RB Marshawn Lynch out of bounds at the 3 after a 24 yard gain.

  • Falcons SS William Moore jars the ball loose a split second after RB Marshawn Lynch broke the plane of the goal line for the score.

  • Falcons kicker Matt Bryant delivers a 49 yard game winning field goal in the final seconds.

  • Falcons punter and holder Matt Bosher throws a fist in the air signalling the 49 yard field goal is good for the win.

  • Falcons congratulate Matt Bryant after the game winning field goal.

  • Matt Bosher attempts a squib kick that is recovered by the Seahawks at the Atlanta 48 yard line.

  • Matt Ryan offers a few consolation words to rookie QB Russell Wilson after the game.

  • Matt Ryan offers a few consolation words to rookie QB Russell Wilson after the game.

  • QB Russell Wilson jogs off the field with an eye toward the future.

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