EditorsNote: fixes “Shaquill” in notes
Falcons hang on defeat Seahawks
SEATTLE — Atlanta quarterback Matt Ryan threw two touchdown passes, and Seattle came up short on a game-tying field-goal attempt with two seconds left as the Falcons held on to defeat the Seahawks 34-31 on Monday night.
Down by 11, the Seahawks tried to rally late. Quarterback Russell Wilson connected with Doug Baldwin on a 29-yard touchdown and tight end Jimmy Graham hauled in Wilson’s two-point conversion pass to get the Seahawks within a field goal with three minutes left.
The Falcons needed one first down to put the game away, but Seahawks defensive end Sheldon Richardson sacked Ryan on third-and-1, setting the stage for another potential Seahawks fourth-quarter comeback.
Seattle got within field-goal range and gave Blair Walsh, who was perfect on the day, a chance to send the game into overtime with seven seconds to go. However, his 52-yard field-goal attempt fell short, and Atlanta escaped with the win.
“What an absolute team win from the guys tonight,” said Falcons head coach Dan Quinn, formerly the Seahawks’ defensive coordinator. “To play in this environment with the crowd tonight was going to be tough. Those were competitive, tough teams, we were going to battle for it in the biggest way. We talked about that connection between offense and defense and special teams, almost like a relay team, passing that baton to the next group, to go after it again.”
The Falcons added a rare loss to Seattle’s impressive primetime record and improved to 6-4, staying in the playoff picture with six weeks left in the season. Seattle, also 6-4, missed an opportunity to tie the Los Angeles Rams for first place in the NFC West.
“It seemed like a lot of plays early,” Seattle head coach Pete Carrol said. “As it does, it comes down to some crucial situations, and we have to come through and make the conversion that we need, and we didn’t quite get it done.”
It wasn’t necessarily pretty, but the Falcons capitalized early on field position and great plays by their defense to jump in front. Atlanta was able to hold the lead from start to finish.
The win leaves the Falcons two games behind the New Orleans Saints in the NFC South and gives them the edge over the Seahawks should any tiebreaker between the two be necessary.
Ryan finished 19 of 27 for 195 yards.
“We battled for four quarters, which was good, made enough plays to get it done in an environment that’s tough to come out and win in,” Ryan said.
Wilson was 26 of 42 for 258 yards with two touchdown passes and one interception. He also produced 86 yards and a touchdown on seven carries.
The narrative entering the game was about the Seahawks’ depleted defense, which was down five starters entering the game and lost cornerback Shaquill Griffin to a concussion on the second play. Seattle showed their depth, holding Ryan to fewer than 200 passing yards, ending his 64-game streak of reaching the 200-yard mark.
By game’s end, the discussion was about Atlanta and its ability to win in a different way. The Falcons committed to the run more-so than usual. Tevin Coleman started in place of injured running back Devonta Freeman and finished with 43 yards and a touchdown on 20 carries.
“You’ve got to keep running the ball, and you’ve got to execute it at a high level on every snap when you do it,” Ryan said. “If you don’t, you’re going to have some tackles for losses. But when you do, there’s opportunities to get behind their front set and get into the secondary. I thought our guys did a good job with that in the second half.”
The first half was a back-and-forth affair.
Atlanta looked to pull away from the outset as it capitalized on a 50-yard kickoff return from Andre Roberts and a defensive pass-interference call on Jeremy Lane in the end zone to set up a 1-yard touchdown run from Coleman.
On Seattle’s first possession, Atlanta cornerback Desmond Trufant — a Tacoma native and University of Washington alum — nearly had a pick-six if it weren’t for Wilson chasing him down to make the tackle.
“The ball came and kind of hit my pads and then I looked up and it was right there,” Trufant said. “I should have scored but, you know, I let him tackle me. It’s all good though.”
Ryan found Mohamed Sanu for a 2-yard touchdown a few plays later.
Seattle responded on its next drive when Wilson connected with Graham for his third touchdown in three games.
Although Seattle’s defense was able to force the Falcons to punt on their next possession, it was the Atlanta defense that scored the next points.
“I had a sense this game was going to come down to the ball,” Quinn said. “So for us to be plus-two in the turnover margin was a factor.”
Falcons defensive linemen Takkarist McKinley and Courtney Upshaw teamed up for a sack-fumble on Wilson, and defensive end Adrian Clayborn — coming off a five-sack performance last week — scooped and scored from 10 yards out to put Atlanta up 21-7 early in the second quarter.
“I just knew I had to get inside. That was our rush plan, and I saw the ball loose,” Clayborn said. “I just ran with it. It did go slow motion. I thought he was down, but I had to make sure so I walked into the zone.”
Seattle climbed back with a Walsh field goal and a 1-yard touchdown run from Wilson to make the score 21-17.
“We kept hanging in there, we kept answering back, we kept answering back, guys made some great plays tonight. Unfortunately, they made one more play than us,” Wilson said.
A Falcons field goal put Atlanta ahead 24-17 going into halftime.
NOTES: Seattle’s 94 penalties were 10 more than any other NFL team entering Monday night, despite playing one fewer game. The Seahawks were penalized nine times for 106 yards against Atlanta. ... Seattle CB Shaquill Griffin left the game with a concussion on the second play of the game. CB Byron Maxwell, signed just six days ago, replaced him. ... Seattle RB Mike Davis started after being on the practice squad for the first 10 weeks of the season. ... Seattle allowed 14-plus points in the first quarter at home for the fourth time during the Pete Carroll era. ... Atlanta S Keanu Neal left the game in the first quarter with a head injury but returned and made a huge hit to prevent Seahawks TE Jimmy Graham from scoring. Seattle ultimately settled for a field goal.