NFL Nation: 2012 Divisional Rapid Reaction Seahawks-Falcons


Thoughts on the Seattle Seahawks' performance during their 30-28 defeat to the Atlanta Falcons in the NFC divisional round Sunday:

What it means: The Seahawks lost a heartbreaker after their fourth-quarter pass defense faltered once again, a recurring theme for Seattle. The Seahawks had taken a 28-27 lead with 31 seconds remaining. But they couldn't stop the Falcons from moving quickly into position for the winning field goal with eight seconds left. The team will have to address that aspect of its performance in the offseason.

What I liked: The Seahawks kept pushing and took the lead despite trailing by 20-0 and 27-7 margins in the second half. Russell Wilson completed 24 of 36 passes for 385 yards with two touchdowns and one interception (on a Hail Mary as the game ended). Zach Miller had eight receptions for 142 yards and a touchdown. Golden Tate had six receptions for 103 yards and a score. Wilson was outstanding in the second half despite getting less help than anticipated from Marshawn Lynch and the running game.

Rookie middle linebacker Bobby Wagner picked off a pass. Cornerback Richard Sherman batted down multiple passes in the secondary. Seattle's wide receivers also made a few impressive plays, including Tate's touchdown reception. Seattle had a good plan for the Falcons' screen game, which had been among the best in the NFL.

What I didn't like: Seattle was sloppy in its execution and decision-making. Getting zero points from two red zone possessions in the first half proved costly. Seattle failed to convert a fourth-and-1 when opting for a fullback handoff instead of giving the ball to Lynch. Later, the first-half clock ran out when Wilson took a third-down sack with no timeouts remaining. Getting six or 10 points from those chances would have changed the game for Seattle.

Blowing the 28-27 lead with 31 seconds left was inexcusable, but part of a pattern. The Detroit Lions came back to win in similar fashion against Seattle. Chicago came back to force overtime. Something needs to change for Seattle in those situations. The team led the NFL in points allowed this season, but couldn't finish.

Lynch held in check: Lynch scored the go-ahead touchdown, but this was a rough day for him. He carried 16 times for 46 yards (2.9 per carry). Lynch had missed practice time with a foot injury, but he started and was expected to perform as usual. The Falcons seemed ready for him. Also, Lynch did not seem 100 percent. Wilson was able to carry the load, but it would have been nice for Seattle if the ground game remained an option.

Receivers in check: Roddy White's 47-yard touchdown reception was big for the Falcons. Overall, however, the Seattle secondary limited the damage from Atlanta's talented wideouts. Julio Jones had six catches for 59 yards. White had five catches for 76 yards.

Rough day for Carroll: The fourth-and-1 call wasn't the only one putting Pete Carroll and the Seattle coaching staff at risk for criticism. Carroll also called timeout right before the Falcons missed the winning field goal try. The second try was good. Carroll appeared to be arguing with the officials after the timeout. I'm not sure what was going on there, but overall, Seattle did a poor job with clock management and some of the other detail-oriented aspects that tend to reflect coaching.

What's next: The Seahawks are finished. They'll watch division rival San Francisco visit the Falcons in the NFC Championship Game.

ATLANTA -- Thoughts on the Atlanta Falcons' 30-28 victory over the Seattle Seahawks in the divisional round on Sunday at the Georgia Dome:

What it means: We finally get to stop hearing how coach Mike Smith and quarterback Matt Ryan can’t win in the postseason. They did it. The Falcons, who didn’t always play at a high level even when they were winning in the regular season, played something pretty close to a perfect first half, and that was enough to hold off a second-half rally by Seattle. This game came with enormous pressure because the Falcons were 0-3 in the postseason in the Smith-Ryan era, but the Falcons handled that pressure magnificently. Now, it no longer can be said that they can’t win big games.

A little perspective: The win was the first in the playoffs for the Falcons since they defeated the St. Louis Rams in the 2004 season.

The miracle: It never should have come down to it after the Falcons led 20-0 at halftime, but they trailed 28-27 with 25 seconds left. Ryan completed a couple of quick passes, and Matt Bryant won the game with a 49-yard field goal.

What I liked: The performance of Atlanta’s defense in the first half. Coordinator Mike Nolan cooked up a masterpiece. I thought the Falcons would have trouble with the running/passing of Russell Wilson and the power running of Marshawn Lynch. They didn’t. The defense turned in a brilliant performance with linebacker Sean Weatherspoon and defensive tackle Jonathan Babineaux leading the way. Babineaux’s sack of Wilson at the end of the first half prevented the Seahawks from taking a little bit of momentum into halftime.

What I didn’t like: Atlanta’s defensive performance in the second half. The Falcons very nearly squandered the lead.

What else I liked: The way offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter used the running game as a supplement to the passing game. The Falcons are a pass-first team now, but there were times during the season when Koetter, perhaps acting on orders from Smith, tried to force the running game. That didn’t happen Sunday. Even against Seattle’s vaunted secondary, the Falcons rode the passing game. That opened the way for a few nicely timed big plays from the running game.

Play of the day: For five seasons, I’ve been laughing at people who say Ryan doesn’t have a strong arm. Can we finally put that myth to rest? If you didn’t see it live or catch it on the highlights, please go take a look at his touchdown pass to Roddy White with 4:16 left in the second quarter. Officially, the play went for 47 yards. But Ryan threw the ball well more than 50 yards in the air.

Reason for worry? Defensive end John Abraham left the game with an ankle injury and did not return. It’s unclear how serious the injury is. Aside from Abraham, the Falcons don’t have a pass-rusher of any consequence. If he’s going to miss the NFC Championship Game, the Falcons must get very creative with their blitz packages to generate any sort of pass rush.

What’s next: The Falcons will host the San Francisco 49ers in next week’s NFC Championship Game.

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