Falcons falter, then rally past Seahawks 30-28

Published on NewsOK Modified: January 14, 2013 at 2:45 am •  Published: January 14, 2013
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ATLANTA (AP) — Matt Ryan won't have to answer that question anymore.

Neither will Tony Gonzalez.

They're both playoff winners.

Finally.

Ryan got over the postseason hump in his fifth season, guiding the Atlanta Falcons to an improbable comeback in the final half-minute for a 30-28 victory over the gritty Seattle Seahawks in an NFC divisional game Sunday.

If Ryan was feeling relief, imagine what was going through Gonzalez's mind. The 16-year veteran, in what is likely the final season of a Hall of Fame career, removed the only blotch from his brilliant record with his first playoff win.

No wonder he broke down in tears when it was over.

"I've cried after a loss. But never a win," said Gonzalez, who had been 0-5 in the postseason. "I thought it was over. Sixteen years. Six playoff games. I was like, 'Here we go again.' Especially with that big lead. I thought it just wasn't meant to be."

The Falcons (14-3) led 20-0 at halftime, and were still up 27-7 going to the fourth quarter. No team had ever blown such a daunting lead in the final period of a playoff game. But the Seahawks, led by Russell Wilson, nearly pulled off a historic win.

Wilson passed for two touchdowns and ran for another, then led a drive that looked like the game winner. He completed three passes for 50 yards, the last of them a short throw to Marshawn Lynch that the bruising runner took all the way to the Falcons 3. The rookie quarterback made it all possible with his legs, spinning away from blitzing linebacker Sean Weatherspoon to give himself extra time to throw.

On the next play, after the rattled Falcons were penalized for too many players on the field, Lynch powered over from the 2 to give the Seahawks (12-6) their first lead of the day, 28-27 with 31 seconds remaining.

The Falcons could've packed it in right there, but Ryan and Gonzalez went back to work.

First, Ryan hit a deep pass to Harry Douglas right in front of the Atlanta bench, a 22-yard completion to midfield. Then, with one timeout remaining, Ryan went to Gonzalez on a 19-yard throw over the middle. The Falcons quickly stopped the clock again, and Matt Bryant connected on a 49-yard field goal with 8 seconds left for the victory.

Atlanta will host the NFC championship game for the first time next Sunday against the San Francisco 49ers, another team that features a mobile quarterback. The defense hopes that facing Wilson will help prepare for Colin Kaepernick, who passed for 263 yards and rushed for 181 — a playoff record for a quarterback — in a 45-31 victory over Green Bay.

"Russell Wilson and Colin Kaepernick are mobile quarterbacks who throw the ball at extremely accurate levels," Falcons safety Thomas DeCoud said. "We can use this game as a cheat sheet to prepare for next week."

The Falcons overcame their reputation for choking in the playoffs, winning their first postseason game since the 2004 season.

"Nobody flinched," Ryan said. "We just kept battling, kept doing what we do. That's been the makeup of our team all season."

Ryan came into the game with an 0-3 mark in the playoffs, including a crushing loss to Green Bay two years ago when the Falcons were in the same position, the NFC's top-seeded team with home-field advantage in the playoffs.

Now, he'll no longer be asked why he can't win in the playoffs.