ATLANTA – A recap of the Seahawks’ 30-28 loss to the Falcons in their divisional playoff game at the Georgia Dome on Sunday:
PLAYER OF THE GAME
Russell Wilson. In the end, the Seahawks came up short. But there would not have been the dramatic comeback without the resilient efforts and calm-as-they-come leadership of the rookie quarterback who was deemed by many to be “too short” to play in this league. It was so impressive that he should change the spelling of his last name to Will-son, because he did everything in his power to will his team into the NFC Championship game.
“The kid is going to be amazing,” veteran fullback Michael Robinson said. “He’s going to do nothing but get better.”
What Wilson did in this game, on this stage and after the Falcons had taken a 20-0 halftime lead, was pretty amazing, too.
He was 3 of 3 for 59 yards in the nine-play, 80-yard drive to open the second half that ended with his 29-yard TD pass to Golden Tate. He was 4 of 4 for 69 yards on the eight-play, 80-yard drive on the Seahawks’ next possession that ended with his 1-yard TD run. He was 3 of 3 for 57 yards on the four-play, 62-yard drive to was setup when All-Pro safety Earl Thomas intercepted a pass and ended with Wilson’s 3-yard TD pass to Zach Miller. He was 3 of 4 – proving that he is indeed human, on occasion – for 50 yards in the seven-play, 61-yard drive that ended with Marshawn Lynch’s 2-yard TD run and gave the Seahawks their momentary lead.
Put it all together and Wilson had a career-high 385 passing yards while completing 24 of his season-high 36 passes to finish with a passer rating of 109.1. Oh, and he also was the Seahawks’ leading rusher with 60 yards on seven carries.
“Our quarterback did a great job today leading us back,” Robinson said. “We couldn’t have done it without him.”
In the end, it wasn’t quite enough. But without the way Wilson played in the second half, there would not have been all the handwringing about the way this one ended.
“I think you saw with Russell Wilson’s development, how far he can take us,” Miller said. “Obviously he’s a franchise quarterback. He’s a guy that wins game for you. We saw that today. He should have been credited with a comeback win today.”
Miller. The Seahawks’ tight end said he felt something pop in his foot on the team’s first series of the game, and his self-diagnosis was a torn plantar fasciitis.
“I kind of knew what it was,” Miller said. “I’ve done it on my other foot before, so I know I can play with it.”
His return was listed as questionable, but return Miller did. With a vengeance. Before this one was over, he had caught eight passes for 142 yards and a touchdown. In a game that featured the Falcons’ trio of Tony Gonzalez, Roddy White and Julio Jones, as well as teammates Golden Tate and Sidney Rice, no one caught more balls for more yards that the sore-footed Miller.
“Zach Miller did a tremendous job today, and all season,” Wilson said. “He’s a true fighter. He makes great catches. He’s runs great routes. He’s a great blocker. He’s a tough, tough player. He’s unbelievable.”
It wasn’t just that Miller had eight receptions, it’s when he had them. It was Miller who caught Wilson’s first two completions – for 23 and 8 yards – after the Seahawks’ first two possessions resulted in a three-and-out and a lost fumble. It was Miller who opened the next possession with a 34-yarder. He later added a 20-yarder and a 9-yarder on the final series of the half, when Miller was one of most productive players in an offense that was struggling. In the second half, Miller had a 19-yarder on the drive to the first touchdown. Then there was a 26-yarder on the drive to the second touchdown. The next drive ended with his TD catch.
All from a tight who was playing on a bad foot.
REDEPMPTIVE PLAYER OF THE GAME
Matt Ryan. You might have heard, the Falcons’ QB was oh-for-his-career in the postseason. Despite winning 56 regular-season games in five seasons, it was his 0-3 record in the playoffs that was the talk of this town all week.
Ryan finally silenced it, throwing for three touchdowns while completing 24 of 35 passes for 250 yards. But when his team needed him most, with 31 seconds to play and the Seahawks up 28-27, the QB they call “Matty Ice” was just that as he passed for 22 yards to Harry Douglas and 19 yards to Tony Gonzalez to setup the Falcons’ game-winning field goal.
PLAYS OF THE GAME
Offense: Roddy White’s falling grab of a 47-yard pass from Ryan for the Falcons’ second touchdown. There were seven touchdown plays in this game. But this one came with style points. First, because White beat All-Pro cornerback Richard Sherman, who broke up three other passes during the game. Then there was the effort that went into it. But also because it gave the Falcons their 20-0 halftime lead.
Defense: William Moore’s stop of Robinson on a fourth-and-1 play from the Falcons’ 11-yard line in the second quarter. Down 13-0, and after Robert Turbin had been tackled for no gain on third-and-1, the Seahawks went to Robinson – who converted 6 of 7 third-and-1 situations during the regular season to rank among the league leaders. But not this time, because of the play the Falcons’ safety was able to make.
“They did a great job,” Robinson said. “One of our staple plays. They brought extra D-linemen in; they set the safety off the edge. We didn’t have enough blockers for them.”
Honorable mention to Thomas’ interception, which stopped a Falcons drive just as it was getting started and set up the Seahawks’ third touchdown.
Special teams: When you kick the game-winner to send your team into the NFC Championship game – as hosts of the conference title game – it has to be you. So Matt Bryant it is, who hit a 49-yard field goal with eight second to play. The kick put the Falcons back up by two after the Seahawks had taken a one-point lead with 31 seconds remaining.
The Seahawks had more yards (491-417) and more first downs (28-24) than the Falcons, but two fewer points.
The Seahawks season ended in the divisional round of the playoffs for the sixth time. It also happened in 1984, 27-20 to the Dolphins in Miami; 1988, 21-13 to the Bengals in Cincinnati; 2006, 27-24 in overtime to the Bears in Chicago; 2007, 42-20 to the Packers in Green Bay; and 2010, 34-24 to the Bears in Chicago.
Rookie middle linebacker Bobby Wagner had a game-high seven solo tackles and an interception.
Playing without sack leader Chris Clemons, the Seahawks went without a sack for only the second time this season.
Lynch averaged 6.5 yards per carry during the team’s six-game winning streak, but a Falcons defense that had allowed an average of 4.8 yards per carry during the regular season held him to 2.9 (46 yards on 16 carries).
Ryan Longwell, who just joined the team on Wednesday, kicked four PATs.
YOU DON’T SAY
“We felt like this was our year. And next year we’re going to feel like next year is our year. That’s one thing about a Pete Carroll-coached team, we’re not going to lack in confidence and we’re going to come to fight for 60 minutes.” – Robinson