Atlanta Falcons head coach Mike Smith, general manager Thomas Dimitroff, quarterback Matt Ryan and future Hall of Fame tight end Tony Gonzalez can breath a sigh of relief.
Entering Sunday, the Falcons were 0-3 in the postseason during their first four years with Dimitroff, Smith and Ryan at the helm of Arthur Blank's franchise, and Gonzalez had never been on a team that won a playoff game during his illustrious career. After taking a 20-0 lead at the half, the Falcons answered a furious comeback by the Seattle Seahawks with one of their own, capping it off with Matt Bryant drilling a 49-yard field in the final seconds to give the Falcons a 30-28 win in Sunday's divisional playoff game at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta.
With the win, the Falcons will host the San Francisco 49ers next Sunday night.
The Falcons were in control at the start, opening the game with an 11-play, 54-yard drive that ended with a 39-yard field goal by Bryant to give Atlanta an early 3-0 lead. Ryan was intercepted on the Falcons' next possession, but Atlanta's defense would bail the Pro Bowler out when defensive tackle Jonathan Babineaux fell on a fumble at the Falcons' 39-yard line.
Ryan made several big throws on the following possession, including a 16-yard strike to Roddy White on a 3rd-and-14 play from the Seahawks' 33-yard line. On the following play, Ryan hit backup tight end Chase Coffman down the right sideline, setting the offense up at Seahawks' 1-yard line. Ryan found Gonzalez in the back of the end zone to extend the Falcons' lead to 10-0 with 3:12 remaining in the first quarter.
A promising Seahawks drive would stall near the Falcons' 40-yard line as Atlanta's defense forced a Jon Ryan punt. On the opening play of the next possession, Falcons running back Jacquizz Rodgers showcased his surprising power, running through an arm tackle attempt by 330-pound Red Bryant before steamrolling All-Pro safety Earl Thomas on his way to a career-long 45-yard run that energized the crowd at the Georgia Dome.
The Falcons would add a 37-yard field goal by Bryant at the end of that possession to extend their lead to 13-0 with over nine minutes remaining in the half. Seattle's offense would again show signs of life as rookie quarterback Russell Wilson hit tight end Zach Miller down the seam for 34 yards and then hit Golden Tate for a 16-yard pass play to drive inside the Falcons' red zone. After a three-yard run and six-yard catch-and-run by Lynch, the Falcons defense would twice stuff the Seahawks' on third- and fourth-and-one, causing a turnover on downs.
Ryan and running back Michael Turner would make the Seahawks pay for coming up empty.
Turner would break through the right side of the Seahawks defense for a 33-yard run. Ryan and White then hooked up for a 47-yard touchdown, with White running by All-Pro cornerback Richard Sherman, who would applaud White and the celebrating Falcons for the performance.
Down 20-0, the Seahawks would close out the half by driving all the way down to Falcons' six-yard line, but had burned their timeouts in the process, which proved costly when Wilson was sacked by Babineaux on a third down play with less than 10 seconds remaining. The Seahawks were unable to get another play off and entered the half with zero points on the scoreboard.
Seattle came storming back in the second half, beginning by driving 80 yards in nine plays, with Wilson shaking off an eight-yard sack by hitting Zach Miller for 19 yards and then Golden Tate for a 29-yard touchdown to cut the Falcons' lead to 20-7.
Atlanta would respond to that score with a 14-play, 80-yard drive that burned half of a quarter off the game clock before Ryan hit running back Jason Snelling on a shovel pass for a five-yard touchdown to extend the lead to 27-7. Seattle answered back with a quick eight-play, 80-yard drive where Wilson hit Tate for 24 yards and Miller for 26 yards before running the ball in himself from one yard out to trim Atlanta's lead to 27-14 with 13 minutes remaining.
Ryan then made his first mistake of the game, overthrowing a well-covered White down the left side, resulting in an interception by Thomas. Wilson would hit Rice for 24 yards and, one play later, dump the ball to rookie running back Robert Turbin, who would make a few defenders miss on a 30-yard catch-and-run down to the Falcons' 3-yard line. Wilson found a wide-open Miller for a three-yard touchdown to make it a six-point game with over nine minutes remaining.
Seattle's defense would force a three-and-out, resulting in the first punt of the day for the Falcons. The Seahawks and Falcons would exchange punts, with the latest giving the Seahawks possession at their own 39-yard line with just over three minutes remaining. The Seahawks drove down to the Falcons' 27-yard line before Wilson made an athletic play to avoid pressure, dumping the ball off to Lynch, who rumbled 24 yards to the Falcons' 3-yard line with 34 seconds remaining. Lynch would punch the ball into the end zone on the following play, but the Seahawks gave Ryan and the Falcons too much time to respond.
After a 34-yard kick return by Rodgers, Ryan hit Harry Douglas at midfield for a 22-yard gain. Following a Falcons timeout, Ryan and Gonzalez connected for 19 yards. Atlanta would use their final timeout to allow Bryant to attempt a 49-yard field goal, which sailed through the uprights with eight seconds remaining.
A miscue on the squib kick would give the Seahawks a shot at the end zone, but Wilson's "Hail Mary" attempt was intercepted by Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones in the end zone.
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