By Brady Henderson
A few notes and thoughts on the Seahawks' 30-28 divisional-round loss to the Falcons at the Georgia Dome.
The lead. The Seahawks' season is over along with their six-game winning streak after a defensive collapse spoiled what would have been a miraculous comeback, even by this team's standards. Dreadful clock management, poor run defense and a questionable fourth-down decision helped Atlanta take a 20-0 lead into halftime, but Russell Wilson led four second-half touchdown drives, including the go-ahead score with less than a minute remaining. This improbable comeback should have added to Wilson's growing legend. But like it did against Chicago, Seattle's defensive allowed a last-second field goal. Unlike that game, Wilson and the offense didn't have much of a chance to respond.
The bad. Just about everything that happened in the first half. The Falcons scored on four of their five first-half possessions. Their running game, not a strength during the regular season, was effective whether it was Michael Turner or Jacquizz Rodgers carrying the ball.
Seattle blew prime scoring opportunities in the first half, first when Marshawn Lynch fumbled in Atlanta territory. That was his second lost fumble in the last two weeks. Later in the first half, a failed fourth-down run on Atlanta's 11 turned the ball over on downs. And the Seahawks couldn't score at the end of the first half despite running six plays in the red zone. Wilson inexcusably took a sack on third down. Seattle wasn't able to run its next play before officials ruled that time expired.
Lynch's touchdown with 31 seconds left in the fourth gave the Seahawks a 28-27 lead, but Matt Ryan put Atlanta in field-goal position with 22- and 19-yard completions. Matt Bryant connected from 49 yards out.
Fourth-down decision. Pete Carroll spoke last week about the formula he uses to avoid making what he once called "hormonal" decisions on fourth down. Despite that, Carroll eschewed a short field goal on fourth-and-1 from Atlanta's 11. Fullback Michael Robinson was stuffed in the backfield, turning the ball over to the Falcons. Marshawn Lynch was not on the field for that play. Carroll appeared to be attempting to call a timeout before the ball was snapped. This decision looked even worse once Seattle lost by two points.
Clemons' absence felt. The Seahawks were more aggressive than normal with blitzes in an attempt to manufacture a pass rush without Clemons. That worked when Marcus Trufant and Winston Guy pressured Ryan into a first-quarter interception, but other than that the Seahawks were not able to capitalize. Clemons, aside from being Seattle's best pass rusher, was also stout against the run. The Falcons seemed to be running at his replacement, rookie Bruce Irvin.
The Falcons did not punt until the second half.
The good. Wilson rebounded from a shaky first quarter en route to his first 300-yard passing performance of the season. He helped rally Seattle from a 20-0 hole, engineering second-half scoring drives of 80, 80, 62 and 61 yards. He capped two of those drives with touchdown passes and ran for a score on another. Wilson finished 24 of 36 for 385 yards and an interception on a Hail Mary heave at the end of the game.
After coming up huge for the Seahawks against Washington, Zach Miller had his finest game as a Seahawk. He caught eight passes for 142 yards and a touchdown.
Earl Thomas picked off a pass for the second straight week. This one looked similar to his interception against Washington as he raced to his right from the middle of the field to pick off a deep pass near the left sideline.
Early and often, Atlanta surprisingly went after Richard Sherman, Seattle's All-Pro cornerback. Sherman fared well with one notable exception. He broke up three passes in the first half alone, including one in which he showed tremendous closing speed to prevent Roddy White from scoring a touchdown. White later beat Sherman for a long touchdown.