Despite opening the door for a comeback, the Atlanta Falcons silenced their critics on Sunday with a 30-28 victory over the Seattle Seahawks in the NFL Divisional Playoff round. They proved they can win in the playoffs, and Matt Ryan got over the hump on a final game-winning drive. It was a story of two games, each taking place in a single half. A pedestrian start by Seattle put them too far behind, while the Falcons managed to hang on during a strong second-half push from the Seahawks.
An inability to stop Atlanta in the first half proved to be the Seahawks' downfall. Allowing 268 yards in the first 30 minutes, Matt Ryan led his team on four scoring drives, punctuated by big plays from running back Jacquizz Rodgers, and wide receiver Roddy White. Attacking the center of the field, the Falcons took the focus away from Richard Sherman and Brandon Browner; without impact plays from their talented cornerbacks, everything broke down. Seattle were unable to buy their pass rush enough time, and quick passes resulted in a clean Matt Ryan -- who was not sacked on the day.
Entering the second-half it was a new ball game. The Seahawks marched down the field, scoring on a 29-yard Russell Wilson pass to Golden Tate. It appeared the the halftime break was just what Seattle needed, but Atlanta answered immediately -- a five-yard pass to Jason Snelling proving that the first half home was too much for the Seahawks to dig their way out of. Sunday's game would have been a different story if the entire game was played like the second half, which could prompt questions about the NFL's scheduling that resulted in the West-Coast Seahawks playing in a 1 p.m. ET game.
As both teams traded body blows, it looked like Matt Ryan would be writing another chapter in his book of playoff woes. With just over ten minutes remaining in the forth quarter, he threw a costly interception to Earl Thomas -- the third multi-interception playoff game of his career. Seattle kept scoring, the Falcons were unable to stop them; fans in the Georgia Dome were stunned, questioning whether this could possibly happen again. A series of stalled drives allowed for more Seahawks' touchdowns, and the Falcons were stunned as Seattle got a touchdown with under a minute remaining. It took a huge Matt Ryan drive to set up a Matt Bryant field goal, and shake Atlanta's demons. The Falcons held on, and now move on to the NFC Championship game to face the San Francisco 49ers.
Fantasy Studs and duds
Tight end Zach Miller for the Seattle Seahawks caused havoc for the Falcons, finishing the day with eight receptions, 142 yards and a touchdown. He moved the chains regularly, and allowed the Seahawks to attempt their comeback.
Also for the Seahawks, the game's fantasy dud game in the form of Marshawn Lynch -- who struggled with the Atlanta front. Finishing with 16 carries for just 46 yards. Beast Mode scored a late touchdown, but it wasn't enough.
Both teams managed to stay healthy, and there are no lasting impacts from today's game.
Did they cover?
Given just a 2.5 point edge at home by OddsShark, the Falcons failed to cover with Seattle's late comeback attempt.
Jan. 20, 3 p.m. ET: San Francisco vs. Atlanta (Fox)