Falcons escape with 30-28 victory over Seahawks

SEATTLE -- The Falcons could not exhale until Seattle kicker Steven Hauschka’s 61-yard field goal attempt fluttered to the ground – short and wide left – on Sunday at CenturyLink Field.

After building a 20-point lead, the Falcons escaped with a 30-28 victory thanks to two diametrically different halves against the Seahawks.

In the first half, the Falcons, the defending NFC South champs, looked like Super Bowl contenders. The run game working. Matt Ryan was on target with his passes as he had fine protection. Even, the pass defense was on point for much of the first half.

In the second half, the run game was shut down and the defense started leaking pass yardage and touchdowns with several botched coverages and not much of a pass rush.

With the victory, the Falcons improved to 2-2. Seattle dropped to 1-3.

“Winning on the road in the NFL is not an easy proposition,” Falcons coach Mike Smith said. “That was definitely the case today.”

The Falcons were dazzling in the first half as they marched out to a 24-7 lead.

The offense was in near perfect balance as they had 22 running plays and 21 pass attempts to help keep the Seahawks off balance. Ryan was connecting on passes and running backs Michael Turner and Jacquizz Rodgers were hitting holes with authority.

The offensive line, which had been criticized for giving up 13 sacks and 21 quarterback hits in the previous three games, protected Ryan well and did not allow a sack all game. However, the Seahawks did get four quarterbacks hits.

On the first possession of the third quarter, Ryan connected with wide receiver Julio Jones for a 45-yard gain. The drive stalled and Matt Bryant made a 50-yard field goal to put the Falcons up 27-7.

Everthing went sideways for the Falcons from there.

The Falcons, perhaps looking ahead to their rematch with the Green Bay Packers next Sunday at the Georgia Dome, went into a defensive coma.

“I felt like in the second half we kind of relaxed a little bit,” said wide receiver Roddy White, who had two fourth-quarter dropped passes. “We didn’t execute like we wanted to. It cost us. I’m just happy that he missed the kick and we got a win.”

Seattle quarterback Tarvaris Jackson, working out of their no-huddle offense, nearly led the Seahawks all the way back. He threw for a career-high 319 yards and three touchdowns as the Falcons had several breakdowns in coverage.

On his 8-yard touchdown pass with 8:13 to play, Ben Obomanu was wide open on the right side of the defense to make it 30-28.

The Falcons ensuing drive stalled and they had to punt.

The Seahawks, who had used two of their timeouts earlier, had the ball at their 15 yardline with 1:49 to play. They drove to the Falcons 43 and sent Hauschka out to attempt a 61-yard gamewinner  with 13 seconds left.

“We did a lot of things right today,” Smith said. “We challenged our guys to start fast and I think that we were able to do that. We didn’t finish strong like we needed to.”

The Falcons can now point to the Packers, who defeated them 48-21 in the divisional round of the playoffs last season on their way to winning the Super Bowl. The Falcons were the No. 1 seed in the NFC for the playoffs last season.

“I’d be lying to you if I didn’t tell you we didn’t remember it because it was embarrassing,” tight end Tony Gonzalez said. “They are a good football team. That’s why they won the Super Bowl. I’m not going to take anything away from them.”

The Falcons know they’ll need a much better effort against the Packers, who defeated Denver 49-23, to remain unbeaten (4-0).

“We just have to make sure that we come out there ready to go because they are playing really good football right now,” Gonzalez said. “It’s one of those things like when Philly came to town. We’ve got to bring our ‘A game’ and good things will happen.”

At least their "A game" will be well rested.