The way the Falcons won this game was eerily reminiscent of their win against Chicago in 2008. For those of you who do not know how that game ended, it is available for download on iTunes (it was a classic game). Anyways, many people did not see Atlanta burying the Seahawks the way they did in the first half. Considering how many people thought that the Falcons would choke again, even fewer were not surprised by the 20-0 gap presented in the first half, and the 27-7 lead they had in the fourth quarter. However, Seattle was able to fight their way back in it with three touchdowns (two proceeding defensive stands and one an ugly Matt Ryan pick). Russell Wilson had his team up 28-27 with :31 left. Of course, that was a bit too much time for Matt Ryan and co. (with two timeouts to burn). Even though the Falcons were able to seal the deal, they have to feel a great deal of apprehension going into their match-up with the sizzling 49ers next weekend.
First of all, they surrendered 385 yards to a rookie quarterback. Wilson also threw for 2 touchdowns (and ran for another). He did throw one pick, but that was on the Hail Mary at the end of the game. By the way, how ironic would it have been if the Seahawks had advanced to the Championship game on the strength of a Hail Mary miracle (as Packers fans shake their heads). Anyways, the point is that the Falcons are lucky to get away from this game with a win. It isn’t too often that a team gives up a 20 point lead in less than a quarter and still finds a way to win the game. Furthermore, it is also rather concerning how many Seattle receivers were wide open in the middle of the field (behind the linebackers). Zach Miller absolutely ate up the zone coverage and Sydney Rice had a few open looks as well. Russell Wilson was also afforded a lot of time in the pocket to scan the field. When the pocket collapsed, he was able to escape to the outside and run for a chunk of yardage. This is exactly what will happen with Colin Kaepernick; the two present the same speed and escapability, as well as the ability to throw the ball down the field. This Atlanta defense will need to go to more man looks and not leave the middle of the field wide open. Perhaps going to a standard cover-1 with a linebacker buzzing underneath (or a spy) could help them a little bit more in next week’s match-up because after seeing this performance, it is clear that the Atlanta defense needs some help.
What was encouraging for Falcons’ fans was how their team was able to run the ball and stop the run. Atlanta ran for a combined total of 167 yards while allowing only 123 yards on the ground to one of the best rushing teams in the league. The 167 yards on the ground was the most the Falcons put up since Week 17 in the 2011 season where they ran for 251 yards. Holding the Seahawks to just 123 yards is surprising considering how their weakness seemed to be stopping the run. Give a ton of credit to Mike Nolan’s scheme. He made Russell Wilson try to beat them (which he almost did). Matt Ryan also looked pretty strong through the first three quarters. His ill-advised throw which lead to an Earl Thomas interception was pretty forgettable, but he redeemed himself in the final thirty seconds by leading his team to victory.
Basically, Falcons fans are probably split about how this game turned out. They could be overjoyed that their team won in a thriller, or they can feel nervous about playing a similar team in the 49ers next week. Either way, Atlanta moves on. Meanwhile, Seattle fans should feel good about this season. They are only going to get better as the years go on and do not be surprised if they make a deep run in the playoffs next year. Pete Carroll and Russell Wilson’s post-game press conference(s) reflects the optimism that lies around this team, and they obviously have a very bright future in this league.