Ballgame over, Seahawks win and advance to the NFC Championship Game with a 28-27 win over the Atlanta Falcons storming back from 27-7 down in the fourth quarter to stun the home crowd.
That would have been the headline on a bleak Monday morning in January 2013 after yet another early postseason exit for the Falcons.
But Pete Carroll called timeout to ice the kicker. Matt Bryant got another kick. He split the uprights, and the Falcons won 30-28. Carroll’s attempted mind games on one of the greatest kickers in NFL history blanketed the news.
Almost five years later, Pete Carroll made another ill-advised special teams decision in a crucial game against the Atlanta Falcons.
The result was the same.
Pete Carroll’s decision to attempt a fake field goal instead of seizing three points from a 35-yard field goal in the waning moments of the first half circled back to hand his team a deflating 34-31 home defeat.
Atlanta’s narrow win at CenturyLink Field takes both teams to a 6-4 record, but of much more significance, the former is now above the playoff line, while the latter is staggering below it after two losses in three weeks.
Matt Ryan’s all-time record streak of 64 consecutive games with at least 200 passing yards met its end on Monday night, but he still managed to march his offense up and down the field on a Seattle defense that was on the back foot from the start.
A 50-yard kickoff return by Andre Roberts was a springboard for the Falcons to claim an early 7-0 lead, and then a Desmond Trufant interception set the visitors up to double their advantage on a fantastic catch by Mohamed Sanu in the end zone.
Russell Wilson hit Jimmy Graham for a scoring strike make it 14-7 Atlanta, but the two touchdown lead was restored on a strip sack return for a touchdown by Adrian Clayborn.
Despite the punch in the mouth from the Atlanta defense, Seattle responded by scoring 13 of the next 16 points in the game, trimming the Falcon lead to a mere 24-20.
Even a very efficient touchdown drive that also ate up clock wasn’t enough for Dan Quinn’s Falcons to hold off the charging Seahawks, as the teams traded field goals before a 75-yard drive that only elapsed 49 seconds from Seattle made the score a razor-thin edge of 34-31.
The climax came after the Falcons failed to lock the game up on offense, and their defense needed one more stop of Russell Wilson’s relentless offense. A frenetic finish gave the Seahawks one final chance to force overtime, but Blair Walsh’s field goal came up short, and special teams was the deciding factor in another classic between Atlanta and Seattle.
Atlanta’s Best Takeaway: Given the circumstances, that game was about as well-played as it possibly could have been from the Atlanta offense. Even if it wasn’t at 100%, Seattle’s defense is still packed to the brim with talent and playing in an environment visiting teams seldom escape in one piece from.
The Falcons had eight offensive possessions excluding two kneel downs at the end of the second and fourth quarters respectively. They picked up points on five of eight, and three of them found the end zone.
Outside of their early season domination of the Green Bay Packers, Monday night was the closest Atlanta’s offense has looked to their unstoppable one from 2016. It had a steady diet of Julio Jones, but also didn’t force-feed him the ball. Eight different Falcons had a reception, and nine were targeted.
Wrinkles such as a tight end throw back worked to perfection on Atlanta’s final touchdown, and the space creation strongly resembled last season.
For the first time in months, instead of looking like a car stuttering down the road and struggling to stay upright, it was a well oiled machine.
Atlanta’s Worst Takeaway: The offense looked like it did for much of 2016, but unfortunately so did Atlanta’s defense in the closing stages of the game. Russell Wilson is a tough customer, but allowing a 75-yard drive in 49 seconds when you have a lead to protect in the final frame is inexcusable. The Falcons saw more yellow with seven penalties for 69 yards, an issue that has plagued the squad all season.
After forcing two turnovers that directly turned into 14 points in the first half, the Falcon defense lacked a signature moment in the second half, and they were a whisker away from letting a 34-23 lead in the final four minutes slip away.
Seattle’s Best Takeaway: If there was any doubt about it entering the game, Jimmy Graham is now clearly hitting his stride. He led all Seahawk pass catchers with 11 targets, turning that into seven catches for 58 yards and a touchdown.
His involvement in the offense hasn’t been where it should have been for much of the season. He had a combined nine receiving yards in Seattle’s first two games, and didn’t record a touchdown until his fifth contest of 2017. People have been crying out for the big man to get the ball more, and over the last few weeks those prayers have been answered.
A clicking Jimmy Graham means a serious threat for opposing defenses in the middle of the field, and another huge home run hitter in Doug Baldwin on the outside. If you sprinkle a little Paul Richardson and Tyler Lockett into that, Seattle might have enough of a passing game to mask their shortcomings out of the backfield.
Seattle’s Worst Takeaway: Pete Carroll will be crucified for faking a field goal with seven seconds left in the first half. But the Seahawks had the ball inside the Atlanta 20 six times on Monday night, and only came away with a touchdown on two of those red zone trips.
The Seahawks had 16 snaps inside the 20 excluding plays where they attempted a field goal, and 11 of those were pass plays. Darrell Bevell also called four pass plays inside the 10.
One of Seattle’s red zone scores came when Russell Wilson decided to tuck the ball and run it himself on 4th and goal in the second quarter. He’s a natural open field runner and has the ability to disguise the play fake well. The defense has to stay honest with him, because Jimmy Graham is a lethal red zone weapon when he is on the form he is now.
It has become a regular occurrence in Seattle to see Russell Wilson running for his life on a broken play after his offensive line fails to keep him from being flushed out of the pocket. We know he can run.
I think some designed quarterback runs in the red zone might be the cure to Seattle’s woes in scoring position.
Do you have any thoughts on Atlanta’s season being saved, their offense being back on track, or designed run plays for Russell Wilson? Leave a comment below or tweet us @ReadAmFootball.