Falcons survive defensive collapse

January 13, 2013 Atlanta: Atlanta Falcons kicker Matt Bryant celebrates his game winning field goal with 6 seconds remaining in the game against the Seattle Seahawks Sunday January 13, 2012 at the Georgia Dome.
Caption
January 13, 2013 Atlanta: Atlanta Falcons kicker Matt Bryant celebrates his game winning field goal with 6 seconds remaining in the game against the Seattle Seahawks Sunday January 13, 2012 at the Georgia Dome.

Credit: Brant Sanderlin, bsanderlin@ajc.com

Credit: Brant Sanderlin, bsanderlin@ajc.com

The Falcons gained a big lead in large part because of their defense and won the game in spite of it.

The Seahawks couldn’t score in the first half but then scored touchdowns on four of their first five possessions after halftime. The Falcons couldn’t stop them until Seattle failed to convert on two last-gasp plays in the final six seconds of a 30-28 defeat at the Georgia Dome .

When the Falcons prepare to face the 49ers in the NFC championship game on Sunday, they will be looking to plug holes in a defense that couldn’t hold a 20-0 lead.

“All year we’ve been talking about putting a 60-minute game together and we still haven’t got that done,” Falcons cornerback Dunta Robinson said. “But it’s still been good enough to go out and win. We’ve got to find a way to play much better and find a way to finish a lot better than we did tonight.”

Atlanta’s defense dominated the first half and then fell apart in the second.

In the first half Seattle gained 193 total yards and converted three of seven third-down chances. The Seahawks failed to score on two trips inside Atlanta’s 20: they ran for a loss of a yard on fourth down and the half ended after a sack.

After halftime the Seahawks gained 298 yards and only faced one third down. They had two touchdown drives that took less than 2:30 and scored touchdowns on all three of their possessions in the red zone.

Most of Atlanta’s defensive problems were caused by Seahawks rookie quarterback Russell Wilson. He hurt the Falcons over and over again by scrambling to buy time and either finding open receivers or running for yards.

“If he keeps doing that his whole career he’s going to be a problem,” Falcons safety William Moore said. “He’s the key to the whole Seattle team.”

Wilson passed for 385 yards and two touchdowns with no interceptions until Atlanta picked off his desperation pass on the final play. Wilson also ran for 60 yards, including a one-yard touchdown that was the first of three consecutive Seattle touchdowns in the fourth quarter.

Perhaps most worrying for the Falcons was that Wilson passed for 242 yards in the second half even though they knew Seattle would throw in an attempt to come back.

“We did not play very good coverage,” Falcons coach Mike Smith said, who attributed the problems to poor depth by linebackers and defensive backs in zone coverages. “Way too many passing yards (and) way too many yards with the quarterback scrambling as well.”

The Falcons never did figure out how the best way to slow Wilson in the second half.

At times Atlanta seemed content to keep Wilson in the pocket and play coverage. But several times Wilson stood unhurried in the pocket until his receivers got open.

Other times the Falcons rushed Wilson with an extra defender or two, only to see him slip away and make plays outside the pocket. Wilson’s one-yard touchdown run that cut the deficit to 27-14 came in that fashion.

Neither rushing Wilson aggressively nor containing him in the pocket worked for the Falcons.

“Our game plan was (to do) a little bit of both,” Robinson said. “We wanted to keep him inside the pocket. He’s going to be a great quarterback one day. He’s playing with a lot of confidence. You have to extend your play and cover a little bit longer. We did some plays, and others we didn’t.”

About the Author

ajc.com

Editors' Picks