Reaction: Falcons too much for Seahawks in 36-20 NFC Division playoff-round loss
Russell Wilson gets sacked for a safety against Atlanta (Dean Rutz / The Seattle Times)
Russell Wilson gets sacked for a safety against Atlanta (Dean Rutz / The Seattle Times)

Reaction: Falcons too much for Seahawks in 36-20 NFC Division playoff-round loss

After a Seahawks’ record-setting 161-yard rushing performance for Thomas Rawls in Seattle’s 26-6 Wild Card victory over the Lions last week, it was apparent early, Atlanta would be getting more of the same in the NFC Division round. If the Falcons had any shot of sending their fans home happy, Atlanta would need to find an answer to shut Rawls and company down.

But turns out, the Falcons in fact did have something for Seattle as Atlanta used a tenacious defense and a ball-controlling offense run by Matt Ryan to earn a convincing 36-20 victory over in the Seahawks in what may be the last game played at the Georgia Dome.

Seattle fell victim of to excessive penalties negating big plays, injuries and an inability to slow down the leagues No. 1 offense.

Matt Ryan showed his MVP caliber status completing 26 of 37 passes on the day for three scores and 338 yards against a defense without their key play-maker in center field, the injured free safety Earl Thomas.

Russell Wilson threw for 220 yards with 17 completed passes on 30 attempts to go with his two touchdowns and two INTs. Thomas Rawls was limited to only 34 yards on 11 carries and was actually out-gained by QB Wilson and his 49 yards on the ground.

Seattle continued to shoot themselves in the foot with penalties and could not escape the loss of key players in the secondary against a team that relies so heavily on the passing game like Atlanta.

The game

After Atlanta won the toss and elected to defer, the Seahawks wasted no time getting on the board as Seattle efficiently drove the field on a 14-play, 89-yard, 8:34 drive that primarily utilized the resurgent running game and ended with a Russell Wilson to Jimmy Graham 7-yard TD grab.

But Atlanta would not be deterred as Matt Ryan led the NFL’s leading offense right-back down the field with an impressive 13-play Falcon response. The drive ended with a Ryan to Julio Jones 7-yard TD grab of their own. On the play, a questionable offensive holding non-call to free Jones for the looked to have been ignored by the refs, but not the Seahawks defenders as Richard Sherman was seeking the flag that did not come.

Just like that, the first quarter was over and the game was tied 7-7 after two offensive possessions.

Seattle’s Stephen Hauschka put the Seahawks up 10-7 with a 33-yard boot that ended a  6-play, 40-yard drive.

Atlanta was force to punt on their next possession after 6 plays.

Turning point

Devin Hester took that punt and returned it 80 yards but the play was called back due to a holding penalty on Seattle’s Kevin Pierre-Louis.

That hold proved to be the turning point in the game because the Seahawks were forced to start that possession on their own seven yard line.

After Seattle’s first play went backwards three yards, the next ended in a safety when Russell Wilson’s foot was stepped on and the QB fell backwards into the end zone where he was touched down for the safety. Seattle now led 10-9 and was forced to boot the ball back to the Atlanta offense.

The Falcons moved ahead for the first time in the game with a successful Matt Bryant 35-yard field goal on a drive that stalled on the Seahawks’ 17 yard line.

Trailing 12-10, Seattle was forced to punt after a 3-play drive and the John Ryan boot was a good one that ended 60 yards later and was downed on the Atlanta 1-yard line.

But if any team in the league is not fazed by staring drives close to their goal it would be the Falcons. Atlanta has scored 10 times on drives this year that started inside their own 10 yard line.

And true to form, the Flacons calmly, efficiently moved 99 yards down the field in 9 plays and found pay dirt Matt Ryan hit Tevin Coleman for a 14-yard grab in the left corner of the end zone as the receiver got open and secured the pass as he fell to the ground in bounds. With the score, Atlanta took a 19-10 into the half.

Second half

On the opening drive of the half, Seattle lost a key defender cornerback DeShawn Shead and the Falcons took advantage as Atlanta moved right down the field with a nice mix of pass and run finishing a drive with a Devonte Freeman 1-yard dive into the end zone. Matt Bryant’s extra point attempt was good and Atlanta extended their lead to 26-10.

The teams then traded field goals with Seattle’s Stephen Hauschka converting a 26-yard kick to cap a nice 14-play drive that consumed six minutes of clock but stalled at the Atlanta eight.

Atlanta responded with a Matt Bryant 31-yard kick that pushed the lead back up 29-13

Russell Wilson was intercepted on the following possession as the QB was forced to take chances working against the clock and Atlanta turned the INT in to 7 points when Ryan hit Mohamed Sanu for three yards and a 36-13 lead with 3:40 to go in the game.

Seattle added a score as the Seahawks took advantage of a 78 yard kickoff return from Devin Hester that set the ball up on the Atlanta 31 yard line. One play later, Wilson connected with Doug Baldwin for a 31-yard score. Seattle trail once again by only two scores 36-20 but unfortunately would get no closer.

Russell Wilson was intercepted once again and Atlanta ran out the clock thus ending Seattle’s season.

Game Notes

  • Russell Wilson is now 2-3 in the playoffs on the road.
  • The Falcons were negtive-41 in point differential in the fourth quarter this season. That stat bode well for Seattle as the Seahawks trailed 29-13 to start the fourth but Atlanta managed to score 10 points in the quarter to put the game out of reach and all but force Seattle to abandon the run which was so successful for them against Detroit.

Injury report

Seattle lost lineman Germain Ifedi due to injury on the opening drive when rookie right guard’s ankle was rolled-up on and was replaced. The guard did return but when out the Seattle offense struggled to stay consistent.

On the opening drive of the second half, Seattle lost a key defender when cornerback DeShawn Shead went down while in coverage on a non-contact injury as the corner fell to the ground while breaking on the receiver while in coverage. Shead left the game and did not return.

SSU player of the game

Devin Hester was signed prior to the game agains the Lions to give Seattle a little something-something in the return game. Against the Lions, Hester was limited to mainly calling for fair catches and taking care of the ball. Against the Falcons, Hester demonstrated the form of old as the return specialist accounted for 194 yards on 5 kick returns. But Hester’s biggest return was negated by a penalty that eliminated an 80-yard run that would have set the Seahawks up at the Atlanta seven when the team was leading 10-7.

Next up

Next up for Seattle is what will be in the short-term a very disappointing off-season as the Seahawks can now hang-up the gear and enjoy some recovery time.

Big picture, Seattle made it to the NFC Division round for the fifth-straight season, won a home playoff game and fell to the NFL’s top offense, an 11-5 NFC South wining team in their home stadium.

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Born in the Motor City. Raised a hella-sports fan of Detroit sports. Now calls the great Pacific Northwest home. Believes you gotta' support the home team(s).