The Seahawks edged the Atlanta Falcons at CenturyLink Field yesterday 26-24 after withstanding a furious comeback to take control of the NFC West at 4-1.
The Seahawks led the Falcons 17-3 at halftime and it looked like the NFL’s best offense, led by quarterback Matt Ryan, was going to be the latest high-flying offense to be grounded by the Legion of Boom and friends. The defensive line, led by Michael Bennett and Cliff Avril, who forced a fumble on a sack, was getting to Ryan with impunity, both of the Falcons’ talented running backs, Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman, were nonfactors, and Hawks running back Christine Michael was gashing the Falcons’ defense.
Everything appeared to be going as planned. But then Ryan and company, who led the league in most offensive categories, got their chance. In the third quarter, Ryan lit up the Seahawks’ secondary. He found all-world wide receiver Julio Jones on a busted coverage for a 36-yard score, then bombed a deep pass to blocking tight end Levine Toilolo. A third touchdown pass in the third quarter gave the Falcons the lead.
A missed field goal by Steven Hauschka due to a faulty hold and a blocked extra point attempt erased a possible four points from the scoreboard, but the Seahawks still found a way to win thanks to that defense. Richard Sherman, you may have heard, was upset after the LOB’s defensive lapses lost them the lead. He could be seen yelling at anyone in his way on the sideline. Then his teammates cheered him up a bit, and he went right back to trying cover Jones.
In the end it came down to two failed drives by the Falcons, who had a chance to win late in the fourth quarter. Jones bobbled a pass under duress and tipped a pass to Earl Thomas for an interception, and Ryan’s fourth down long pass to Jones fell incomplete. Whether or not Sherman made contact with Jones (look at my Twitter feed to see Jones’ illegal hands to the face of Sherman before the throw), the Seahawks held on by tightening up the defense, stopping two drives that could have been game winners for the Falcons in the fourth quarter.
Russell Wilson won his 50th game by tossing 270 yards, but the defense, after giving the Falcons life in this game, took it away late.