The Atlanta Falcons looked every bit the NFL’s No. 1 rated offense, and the Seattle Seahawks had no answer in the NFC’s Divisional round matchup on Saturday afternoon, where the Falcons soared to a 36-20 victory over the ‘Hawks.
In a game that pitted Matt Ryan’s past playoff demons against Russell Wilson’s clutch play, this year’s edition of the 2012 divisional game looked much the same, with the Falcons controlling the pace.
Seattle struck first on an impressive 14-play drive, taking over eight minutes and ending with a Jimmy Graham seven-yard touchdown reception on the game’s opening drive. It silenced the Georgia Dome’s crowd, but only temporarily.
Atlanta immediately countered with a 13 play touchdown drive, which ended the first quarter on a Ryan TD pass to running back Devonta Freeman which tied the match 7 – 7. It was all Falcons after that.
Ryan was a sniper from the pocket, completing 26 of his 37 passes for 338 yards, 3 TD with no picks, and a 125.7 passer rating. It was the game the Falcons needed from their veteran gunslinger.
“For Matt and his preparation, he stayed on exactly the same path that he had been on during the regular season,” Coach Quinn said of Atlanta’s starting QB. “He was on like he has been the entire year.”
The Atlanta offense was stellar, converting 50 percent of their 12 third downs, and Ryan passed for 19 of the team’s 28 first downs.
Not only did Seattle fail to stop the momentum of Atlanta’s scoring drives, they failed to put drives together themselves. The offensive line for the ‘Hawks struggled, especially after the first quarter injury to standout rookie right guard Germain Ifedi. The rushing game disappeared at that point, and running back Thomas Rawls finished with only 34 yards on 11 carries.
Without a consistent running game, Wilson had to do much of Seattle’s work himself. He played gallantly, but his 17/30 passing for 225 yards, 2 TD and 2 Interceptions were not enough to keep the Hawks alive.
Despite the loss, the Seahawks were a team that looked neither defeated or downtrodden. In fact, they displayed much of the unfettered optimism which has been the hallmark of this young team.
“It feels more like the beginning than anything else,” said Seahawks coach Pete Carroll. “As we look down the road we have such[sic] the right mentality, you know, I can’t wait to see what happens.”
Wilson too hinted at the magic which precipitated the Seahawks dominating 2013 season, which culminated in their first Lombardi trophy. “Unfortunately, it wasn’t our night, but we believe next time we step out onto the field, it’s going to be our day,” he said.
The Atlanta Falcons won their 12th game, and will host the NFC Championship against the Green Bay Packers, who advanced after a 34 – 31 win over the Dallas Cowboys Sunday afternoon. It will be the last football game every played at the Georgia Dome.
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