ATLANTA – A great second-half comeback fell just short for the Seahawks on Sunday, as Matt Bryant's 49-yard field goal lifted the Atlanta Falcons to a 30-28 victory and into next week's NFC Championship game.
The Seahawks, down 20-0 at halftime, took a 28-27 lead with 31 seconds to play at the Georgia Dome on Marshawn Lynch's 2-yard touchdown run. But the Falcons then used Matt Ryan completions of 22 and 19 yards to get Bryant close enough for his game-winner.
Russell Wilson, the Seahawks' rookie QB, was just short of phenomenal in directing the 28-point second-half comeback. He finished with 385 passing yards.
The Falcons now will host the San Francisco 49ers the NFC Championship game next Sunday. The 49ers advanced with an impressive 45-31 victory over the Green Bay Packers on Saturday night.
The loss ended the Seahawks' playoff run in the divisional round for the fifth time. It also happened in 1984, 1988, 2007 and 2010.
But this season included the Seahawks' third-highest regular-season victory total (11), as well as the second road playoff win in franchise history.
The Seahawks made it 27-14 on the fifth play of the fourth quarter as Wilson faked a handoff to Marshawn Lynch on second-and-goal, rolled to his left and ran into the end zone. The 1-yard run capped an eight-play, 80-yard drive that began in the third quarter and featured Wilson's 24-yard pass to Golden Tate and a 26-yarder to Zach Miller.
The Seahawks got the ball back when All-Pro free safety Earl Thomas intercepted Matt Ryan's pass that was intended for Roddy White at the Seahawks' 38. And, wait for it … Wilson then led the Seahawks on a four-play, 62-yard drive that took less than two minutes and ended with his 3-yard TD pass to Miller to make it 27-21. Wilson was 3 of 3 for 57 yards on the drive.
The Seahawks then tied the score on a 2-yard TD run with 31 seconds left, and took the lead on Ryan Longwell's PAT. But Bryant kicked his 49-yard field goal with eight seconds left.
The Seahawks were completely outplayed in falling behind 20-0 in the first half.
The Falcons took the opening kickoff and drove 54 yards in 11 plays to a 39-yard field goal by Matt Bryant. It appeared the Falcons would score a touchdown, but All-Pro cornerback Richard Sherman closed quickly to tip away a Matt Ryan pass to Roddy White in the end zone on third-and-3.
The Falcons then capitalized on a Marshawn Lynch fumble to drive 61 yards in eight plays to Ryan's 1-yard TD pass to Tony Gonzalez to make it 10-0 with 3:10 left. Ryan hit his final three throws on the drive for 33 yards.
Coach Pete Carroll had been concerned all week about containing Gonzalez, the Falcons' Pro Bowl tight end, and for good reason. Gonzalez beat linebacker Leroy Hill on 16-yard completion to setup the Falcons' TD, then scored it by beating strong safety Kam Chancellor in the back of the end zone.
Lynch's fumble, his second in two weeks, wasted an interception by rookie middle linebacker Bobby Wagner and set up the Falcons' TD. Lynch also fumbled at the 2-yard line in last week's game against the Redskins.
The Falcons ran their lead to 13-0 on a 37-yard field goal by Matt Bryant with 9:13 left in the half. The kick capped an 11-play, 68-yard drive that began in the first quarter with a 45-yard run by Jacquizz Rodgers to the Seahawks' 42.
The Seahawks then drove to the Falcons' 11, as Russell Wilson and tight end Zach Miller hooked up on a drive-opening 34-yard completion to the 36. But Robert Turbin was stopped for no gain on third-and-1 – from a three-wide, shotgun formation – and fullback Michael Robinson lost 1 yard on the fourth-down carry.
The Falcons struck quickly, as White beat Sherman to make a falling grab of a 47-yard pass in the end zone to cap a three-play, 88-yard drive that made it 20-0 with 4:16 left in the half.
The Seahawks drove to the Falcons' 6 in the closing seconds, but Wilson was sacked on third down and the clock ran out before they could snap the ball on fourth down.
Miller caught three passes for 63 yards in the quarter, which was about all the Seahawks did right in the first half.
The Seahawks took the second-half kickoff and drove 80 yards in nine plays to Russell Wilson's 29-yard touchdown pass to Golden Tate. Wilson also ran for 17 yards and 2 yards, on third-and-1; and passed 19 yards to tight end Zach Miller in the drive.
But – and you knew this was coming – the Falcons came right back to chew up half the quarter with a 14-play, 80-yard drive to Matt Ryan's 5-yard shovel pass to Jason Snelling for a touchdown that made it 27-7 with 2:11 left. Ryan was 8 of 10 for 70 yards – to five different receivers – in the TD drive, as the Falcons converted on third-and-5 and third-and-9.