Atlanta Survives Late Rally
Charles E. Sutton | 1/14/2013, 3:34 p.m.
Tony Gonzalez broke down in tears. Matt Bryant pumped his fist in jubilation. Matt Ryan breathed a sigh of relief.
The Atlanta Falcons finally proved they could win a postseason game.
Following a fourth quarter meltdown, the Falcons pulled off a comeback that the city of Atlanta won't soon forget. Ryan completed two long passes and Bryant boomed a 49-yard field goal with eight seconds left, raising the NFC's No. 1 seed to a shocking 30-28 victory over Russell Wilson and the gritty Seattle Seahawks in a divisional playoff game Sunday.
Atlanta (14-3) blew a 20-point lead in the fourth quarter, allowing Seattle to take the lead for the first time all day when Marshawn Lynch scored on a 2-yard run with 31 seconds left and Ryan Longwell converted on the extra point for a 28-27 lead.
No team has ever lost a playoff game with that type of lead in the fourth quarter.
Ryan, playing through his struggles in three prior playoff losses and two interceptions against the Seahawks, connected with Harry Douglas on a 29-yard pass in front of the Falcons bench, and Atlanta Coach Mike Smith quickly called a timeout. Then Ryan hooked up with his favorite target, Tony Gonzalez, an all but guaranteed Hall of Famer playing in what could have been his last game.
The All-Pro tight end grabbed the 19-yard pass, and Smith called his final timeout with 13 seconds left. Rather than risk another play and have the clock expire, he sent Bryant into the game for the field goal attempt.
Just before the ball was snapped, the Seahawks called a timeout and Bryant's kick drifted right of the upright. The kick turned out to be a practice attempt. The next one split the uprights as Bryant ran in the opposite direction, until he was ultimately mobbed by his teammates.
Bryant made his third game-winning kick of the season. But this one was by far the most important, with so much at stake.
Wilson passed for two touchdowns and ran for another, doing everything he possibly could to pull off the most unlikely of comebacks for the Seahawks (12-6). But Seattle's defense, which is one of the league's best and had totally dominated the Falcons in the fourth quarter, went to a softer coverage which allowed Atlanta to move into field goal range.
Atlanta had just enough time to stage a comeback of its own.