The Falcons could not close the deal.
Holding precariously to a one-point lead, the Falcons had a costly turnover in the final minutes that set up Seattle’s game-winning field goal in a hard-fought, 26-24 loss before 69,071 boisterous fans at CenturyLink Field on Sunday.
The Seahawks improved to 4-1, and the Falcons dropped to 4-2.
“We’ll learn a lot from it,” Falcons coach Dan Quinn said. “From having penalties and turnovers, that made it very difficult for us.”
The Falcons, who had their four-game winning streak snapped, appeared to have a big play on a fourth-and-10, but a pass intended for Julio Jones hit the ground with 1:17 left in the game.
Quinn was screaming on the sideline for a pass interference call on Seattle cornerback Richard Sherman, but no flag was thrown. Replays showed Sherman grabbed Jones’ right arm and held on as the Falcons’ receiver leaped for the ball.
“Before I took off, he grabbed my right side and spun me around before I jumped up,” Jones said. “It was just a missed call. It’s over with. It’s done. We are on to the next one right now.”
Quinn didn’t want to risk getting fined for criticizing the officials.
“As you go through the last play, usually one (play) doesn’t define it,” Quinn said. “We’ll look at it and see where it goes. We certainly had other opportunities in the game to go capitalize and finish, but (we) won’t let it come down to one (play) for us, or at least comment on that.”
Here are five things we learned:
1. Late Thomas interception. Holding a 24-23 lead, the Falcons were trying to run out the clock when Matt Ryan’s pass intended for Jones was intercepted by free safety Earl Thomas with 3:48 to play.
The pass was out in front of Jones, who got his hands on it. Sherman popped the ball up to Thomas.
“I have to throw a better pass,” Ryan said.
Jones took the blame for the interception.
“It was just a little bit (out in front), but the kind of guy I am, I can make those plays,” Jones said. “I should make those plays.”
The Seahawks drove into field-goal range for Steven Hauschka, who made a 45-yard field goal with 1:57 left in the game.
Hauschka had missed a 29-yard attempt, and later had an extra-point attempt blocked by Ra’Shede Hageman that would have tied the game at 24.
2. Ryan rallied the Falcons. After a poor first half which saw the Falcons held to 86 total yards, Ryan caught fire in the third quarter.
He directed three consecutive touchdown drives of 75, 79 and 97 yards to erase a 17-3 halftime time deficit and the Falcons took a 24-17 lead.
Jones caught a 36-yard touchdown pass to cap the first drive. Mohamed Sanu had a 10-yard scoring grab and tight end Levine Toilolo broke free for a 46-yard touchdown catch up the left sideline.
Ryan completed 27 of 42 passes for 335 yards and three touchdowns and one interception and had one key fumble.
“It’s disappointing,” Ryan said. “It’ didn’t start the way we wanted to in the first half, but I thought we responded really well in the second half. We continued to battle. We just didn’t finish the way we wanted to.”
3. Pass protection: The Falcons gave up a three sacks in the first quarter, including a sack-strip by defensive end Cliff Avril. The ball was recovered by Seattle’s Tony McDaniel. On the next play, Seattle running back Christine Michael scored on a 9-yard run.
On the Falcons’ ensuing possession, Avril got his second sack when he went over the top of a low cut block by running back Devonta Freeman and landed in Ryan’s lap. Rookie defensive tackle Jarran Reed got a sack when he stopped Ryan from trying to escape the pocket.
Seattle finished with four sacks and 13 quarterback hits.
4. Big plays timely. The Falcons entered the game with 29 plays of 20 yards or more, tops in the league.
Seattle’s defense, which dominated the first half, did not give up a gain of 14 yards or more in that half.
The Falcons finally hit a big play on their first possession of the third quarter, when Ryan dropped a pretty pass to Jones for a 36-yard touchdown.
After the defense stopped the Seahawks, Ryan completed a 24-yard pass to Jones to open the next drive. Seven plays later, Ryan tossed a 10-yard touchdown pass to Sanu. Matt Bryant’s point after tied it at 17.
Jones had just two catches for 24 yards at halftime. The Falcons moved him around the offensive formation in the third quarter. He erupted for five catches for 115 yards.
5. Injury update. Falcons cornerback C.J. Goodwin sustained a hamstring injury and did not return to the game.
Wide receiver Taylor Gabriel took a hit from Thomas in the second quarter and didn’t return after suffering an apparent concussion.
Seattle defensive end Michael Bennett left the game with a knee injury.
Falcons defensive end/tackle Derrick Shelby sustained a right foot or ankle injury with 6:19 left in the game. It was announced as a calf injury. He had a boot on his right foot in the locker room after the game and was using crutches.