Kevin C. Cox
The Seahawks used Russell Wilson's athleticism and some poorly timed Matt Ryan throws to complete the comeback. But Atlanta found a way to win, hopefully destroying the 'bad sports town' rhetoric for good.
All week, the story was how bad a sports town Atlanta is. How Matt Ryan can't win the big game. How Mike Smith's playcalling hinders the team. How the defense can't step up and close it out.
Atlanta wasn't going to keep quiet. They were, as SB Nation's Jason Kirk put it, uniting while everyone else piled narratives up against them.
The point is Atlanta, more and more, is this place that's not for white people over there and for black people over here. There will always be parts of the city forbidden to people who look a certain way, but this city is becoming the melting pot of the melting pot.
And I'd bet there's no major gathering place in America more consistently black-and-white than the Georgia Dome on NFL Sundays.
When the Falcons went up 20-0, things seemed good. When Atlanta answered Seattle's opening second-half drive touchdown with a score of its own to make it 27-7, the Falcons looked to be in control. But a long drive made it 27-14, and Matt Ryan threw a pick on the next possession, giving Seattle critical field position and a touchdown two plays later.
Oh no, here we go again.
Atlanta's next two drives ended with one first down and two punts, and Seattle had a chance to take the lead for the first time with three minutes to play.
Russell Wilson went right down the field, and with :31 left, Marshawn Lynch ran in a two-yard touchdown run. After the extra point, Seattle led 28-27.
But Tony Gonzalez wasn't going to let this happen. Not with his -- and Matt Ryan's -- first career playoff win this close. Not with the Georgia Dome rocking. Not with a chance to kill the narrative forever. Gonzalez's catch over the middle of the field at the 31-yard-line gave Atlanta a chance to win the game with a field goal. To exorcise the demons for good.
Naturally, after missing the iced practice kick, Matt Bryant drilled the one that counted.
"After 16 years never winning a playoff game," Gonzalez said on Fox, "I've never cried after a win, I was thinking, 'here it goes again, guess it wasn't meant to be.' But for us to come back the way we did, I'm so proud of our guys. Everybody stepped up when they had to. We made the plays. [...] I'm just so happy, I can't even explain it."
Take your 'bad sports town' rhetoric and get out of Atlanta. The Falcons are going to the NFC Championship.