Falcons deliver in clutch

011313 ATLANTA : Falcons veteran center Todd McClure lets out a victory yell on the sidelines following kicker Matt Bryant's game winning field goal for a 30-28 victory over the Seahawks in their NFL divisional playoff game at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta on Sunday, Jan. 13, 2013. CURTIS COMPTON / CCOMPTON@AJC.COM
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011313 ATLANTA : Falcons veteran center Todd McClure lets out a victory yell on the sidelines following kicker Matt Bryant's game winning field goal for a 30-28 victory over the Seahawks in their NFL divisional playoff game at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta on Sunday, Jan. 13, 2013. CURTIS COMPTON / CCOMPTON@AJC.COM

Credit: Curtis Compton, ccompton@ajc.com

Credit: Curtis Compton, ccompton@ajc.com

Todd McClure couldn’t believe it. The Seattle Seahawks’ go-ahead touchdown was going to stick another postseason dagger into the Falcons.

“You’re thinking in your head, ‘Alright, all this work is going down the drain,’” said the Falcons center who is also the sole player on the roster who played in the team’s last postseason win eight years ago.

In 23 seconds, it all changed. Kicker Matt Bryant’s 49-yard field goal, enabled by three clutch plays, rescued the Falcons from a fifth consecutive playoff loss and sent them to the NFC Championship game.

“The emotions were unbelievable,” McClure said. “I can’t describe it. I’m just glad we were on the winning side.”

Bryant, the man who finished the drive, also started it. Shortly after Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch’s 2-yard touchdown run and the extra point gave Seattle a 28-27 lead with 31 seconds to go, Bryant walked the sideline, talking to every offensive player he could find.

“I told the O-line, I told Matt (Ryan), I told all the receivers, like, ‘You know what? We’ve done this before,’” Bryant said.

Jacquizz Rogers fielded the kickoff six yards deep but took it back to the 28-yard line, trading six seconds of game clock for an extra eight yards compared to a touchback.

  • 1st-and-10 from the Falcons 28, 25 seconds left. "First thing Matt said coming into the huddle was, 'No matter what, everybody just do their job," wide receiver Harry Douglas said.

On the first play, Douglas was the first option, sprinting to midfield and turning to the sideline. Wide receiver Roddy White ran deep, taking a cornerback with him. Tight end Tony Gonzalez had a short route, attracting underneath coverage.

Said Douglas of his 22-yard catch: “I knew I had a little opening in the hole and Matt put the ball there.”

  • 1st-and-10 from the 50, 19 seconds left. "I don't know exactly what it looked like, but I know guys were fighting and holding on," McClure said. "I know I was thinking in my head: Don't let your guy get there. Don't let your guy be the guy."

Ryan dropped back and, with the pocket collapsing, drove a downfield strike to Gonzalez for a 19-yard gain. Seahawks linebacker Bobby Wagner was matched up with Gonzalez, who lined up in a bunched formation on the right side and ran straight downfield.

“As soon as I turned around, that ball was on its way,” Gonzalez said. “I give Matt all the credit on that play.”

  • 1st-and-10, Seahawks 31, 13 seconds left. "I've got to stay down, kick through the ball, down and through, is what I tell myself," Bryant said.

The Seahawks tried to freeze Bryant with a timeout just before the snap. As is their custom, snapper Josh Harris, holder Matt Bosher and Bryant went through with the kick anyway, which sailed right.

“It was a timing thing that I was able to adjust on the second one,” Bryant said.

On the kick that counted, Bryant practically bisected the uprights.

“Obviously, it’s a big kick, but it’s another kick,” Bryant said. “It’s just down and through.”

Harris snapped the ball cleanly to Bosher, who put it down for Bryant. This isn’t entirely new territory for Harris. A rookie from Auburn, he snapped the ball for the last-second game-winning field goal in the Tigers’ national championship victory over Oregon in January 2011.

Harris grew up a Falcons fan in Carrollton. He was 9 when Morten Andersen (and snapper Adam Schreiber) sent the Falcons to the Super Bowl in January 1999, the only field goal that tops Sunday’s in Falcons history.

“Most of the time, (there’s) a big pile-up, I don’t get to see it. But I got to see this one,” Harris said. “That was a great feeling.”

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