Two plays turned the tide in Falcons’ loss to Seahawks

Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson completes a first-down pass under pressure from Atlanta Falcons defensive end Dante Fowler during the second half Sunday, Sept. 13, 2020 in Atlanta.  (Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@ajc.com)
Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson completes a first-down pass under pressure from Atlanta Falcons defensive end Dante Fowler during the second half Sunday, Sept. 13, 2020 in Atlanta. (Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@ajc.com)

Credit: Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@

Credit: Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@

It took only two plays to change the course of the Falcons' 38-25 loss to the Seattle Seahawks.

On the opening series of the second half, with the Falcons trailing 14-12 but putting Seattle in a third-and-3 situation, linebacker Deion Jones burst through a lane to bring down Seahawks running back Chris Carson for a loss of 2 yards. This brought up a fourth-and-5 from the Falcons' 38-yard line, with the defense seemingly in a good position to get off the field.

Instead of opting for a a 56-yard field goal try or pooch punting it, Seahawks coach Pete Carroll told his offense to run another play. And the gamble paid off. As soon as quarterback Russell Wilson took the shotgun snap, he turned to his left and saw receiver D.K. Metcalf streaking wide open down the left side of the field and away from Falcons cornerback Isaiah Oliver.

From there, Metcalf ran under and caught a perfectly thrown ball from Wilson for a 38-yard touchdown.

ExploreMark Bradley: Another year, another opening flop for Falcons

“It was a man-to-man defense, single-high,” Falcons coach Dan Quinn said. “There was nothing too different about that play.”

That play put the Seahawks up 21-12 at the 9:40 mark of the third quarter.

Down by nine, the Falcons, on their ensuing drive, ran the ball twice for only 4 yards. On the next play, quarterback Matt Ryan hit tight end Hayden Hurst underneath for only a 4-yard pickup. It appeared to be a quick three-and-out for the Falcons, which then sent the punt team on the field.

But Quinn and special teams coordinator Ben Kotwica called a fake punt, as long as the punt unit received the appropriate look. The punt team got the look and kept the play as called. The snap then went to safety Sharrod Neasman, the Falcons' upback on the punt team, who ran for the necessary yardage on the play.

However, Neasman took a hit from safety Marquise Blair and fumbled the ball. Seahawks receiver Freddie Swain recovered, which gave the Seahawks great field position at the Falcons' 36-yard line.

ExploreSteve Hummer: An opener unlike any other

That play occurred at the 7:53 mark, with only a minute and 47 seconds elapsing.

From there, the game was in Seattle’s hands. Five plays after the costly turnover, Wilson found tight end Greg Olsen for a 7-yard touchdown to put the Seahawks up 28-12.

“The flow of the game’s going to go how it goes,” defensive tackle Grady Jarrett said. “Our job is to go out there and do our job, regardless of circumstances and be able to respond to any situation, and get after the passer. It is what it is.”

Those two plays — the 38-yard score and the fumble on the fake punt — changed the complexion of the game. A defensive stop would have put the Falcons in position for a potential go-ahead drive. Even when they trailed by nine, the fourth-down fake punt conversion would have continued to keep the game within striking distance.

Those two plays altered the flow of the offensive game as well. The Falcons opened the game with three consecutive running plays to Gurley, with the rushing attack having some success early on.

At the half, Gurley had 10 carries for 51 yards and a touchdown. After the two carries he got before the fake punt fumble, Gurley was only able to get two more carries in the game. His second-half rushing total was four carries for 5 yards.

ExploreMichael Cunningham: Defense still in a makeover

There was another play that put the Falcons in a bind early on Seattle’s opening possession. The Seahawks faced a third-and-23 from their own 49-yard line. After the snap, Wilson looked down the field and threw a deep pass toward receiver Tyler Lockett’s direction. Safety Ricardo Allen was in coverage against Lockett and made contact, which drew a 41-yard pass interference play.

Instead of fourth down, Seattle continued the drive at the Falcons' 10-yard line. Two plays later, Wilson hit Carson for a 3-yard touchdown pass.

After the game, Allen objected to the interference call.

“I didn’t think it was a pass interference,” Allen said. "I thought I was in good position. He came into me to make contact. When he made contact with me I looked back over the shoulder for the ball before the ball was even there. I thought when I swiped and looked back over my shoulder while in contact with him, I thought the referee was going to say that it was fair play. (Lockett) even came up to me the next drive saying I couldn’t get to it so I had to run into you. I knew I played it right.

“That was a big part of the game. (Third-and-23) and you throw a hanger up there and get a free down. I didn’t like it. I didn’t like it at all, to tell you the truth. If I mess up a play I’ll get up here and straight up say it. On that one I thought I was in the good but it didn’t come out the way I wanted to in the game. I have to take it and get better.”