Falcons Beat Seahawks on Last Second Field Goal

7:54 AM, Jan 14, 2013   |    comments
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ATLANTA - This is a different bunch of Atlanta Falcons, all right, one lucky bunch as they stand two wins from hoisting a Lombardi Trophy different after surviving a furious second-half Seattle Seahawks comeback to finally get over their postseason hump.

Maybe it's fitting that they had to withstand another, oh-so-close postseason meltdown to exorcise their 0-for-3 playoff demons (since 2008) on Matt Bryant's 49-yard field goal in a 30-28 divisional-round escape for the ages.

It took five years and a harrowing, Russell Wilson-led comeback from 27-7 for quarterback Matt Ryan and coach Mike Smith to shed three year's worth of playoff frustration and national doubt like an 800-pound silverback lifted off their shoulders.

BOX SCORE: Falcons 30, Seahawks 28

Ryan's three-touchdown passing backed by a rugged run game and rock-solid defense stopped the gritty, fifth-seeded Seahawks. But only after Ryan hit Harry Douglas for 22 yards and then hit Tony Gonzalez for 19 yards to set up Bryant's game-winner with 8 seconds to go. Receiver Julio Jones played free safety, intercepting Wilson's 48-yard Hail Mary heave into the end zone to end the game.

A clearly emotional Gonzalez wandered onto the field after the final whistle, enjoying the first playoff victory of his 16-year career.

The top-seed Falcons will host the San Francisco 49ers in next Sunday's NFC Championship Game inside the Georgia Dome after getting their first playoff win since 2004 in dramatic, implausible fashion.

Those three Ryan touchdown passes seemed fitting - one to help erase each of his previous three playoff failures as he finally claimed postseason redemption.

Coming in, Ryan had thrown for an average of just 194.7 yards with three touchdowns and four interceptions for a 71.2 passer rating in his three, one-and-done postseason eliminations.

This time, Ryan fired for 250 yards and three touchdowns to overcome his two interceptions.

Wilson didn't flinch in rallying his team to outscore the Falcons 21-7 in the second half.

In the span of four minutes, Seattle scored two touchdowns, the second coming on Wilson's 3-yard scoring pass to tight end Zach Miller with 9:19 left. Safety Earl Thomas intercepted Ryan's deep-shot sideline pass for Roddy White at the Seattle 38-yard line.

Four plays, 62 yards later, Wilson had them in the end zone and Falcons fans chewing on their finger nails, fearing another exit with the margin cut to 27-21.

It was ultra-confident Falcons receiver Roddy White, though, who knew this breakthrough was coming for a 14-3 team that insisted all week they were a more dynamic and mature group than those eliminated by Arizona quarterback Kurt Warner, Green Bay's Aaron Rodgers and New York's Eli Manning in previous Januarys.

The Georgia Dome crowd detonated in a jet-engine roar with chants of "Roddy! Roddy! Roddy!'' after four-time Pro Bowl receiver White made an electrifying diving, 47-yard touchdown catch when he torched 6-3 cornerback Richard Sherman.

That eye-popping touchdown was exactly what White told USA TODAY Sports would go down.

"We've got some good plays, some things we can take advantage of, especially we're going to do some double moves on those guys, make them start and stop because they struggle with that,'' White told USA TODAY Sports Friday. "Those guys (tall Seahawks corners) want to grab and push you to the sideline and make you work that kind of way.

"Me and Julio (Jones) are going to be a lot more physical this game. ... We've talked about it all week - about basically just going out there and taking the fight to them.''

In a key, first-half sequence, defensive coordinator Mike Nolan's unit rose up to make a huge, second-quarter stop when safety William Moore stuffed running back Michael Robinson when Seahawks coach Pete Carroll went for it on fourth-and-1 from the Atlanta 11.

In last year's 24-2 wild-card loss to the New York Giants, the Falcons failed on a pair of fourth-and-1 sneaks.

It seemed fitting that in Atlanta's breakthrough that a fourth-and-1 stop should serve as their turning-point stepping stone.

The Falcons set the more physical tone from the start, out-muscling a big, strong, fast top-ranked Seattle scoring defense.

That was most evident when 5-6, 196-pound second-year tailback Jacquiz Rodgers went "Beast Mode,'' jacking up Seahawks safety Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor on his 45-yard, second-quarter, tackle-breaking run.

Rodgers upstaged the original "Beast Mode,'' Lynch to set up Matt Bryant's second field goal for a 13-0 lead.

What Ryan did this time was rebound from a potential, 'Here-we-go-again' moment following his first-quarter interception by linebacker Bobby Wagner when Gonzalez appeared to break off a route.

After linebacker Sean Weatherspoon forced a Lynch fumble that Atlanta recovered, Ryan continued to let it fly.

When he fired that perfect, 47-yard rocket White laid out for in the end zone to put the Falcons up, 20-0 with 4:16 left in the first half, Ryan had completed 8 of 11 for 109 yards with two touchdowns since his interception.


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