Let me tell you one thing I hate about watching Seahawks football in the playoffs. When they lose they don’t just lose. They raise it into some kind of an art form. In 2003 the Seahawks lost on a pick-six in overtime to the Green Bay Packers. In 2006 the Seahawks held a 10-point fourth quarter lead to the Chicago Bears, blew it, and lost on a Robbie Gould walk-off field goal in overtime. Add Sunday’s game to the list of heartbreakers. The Seahawks defense could not hold the Atlanta Falcons offense with 25 seconds left in regulation and a Matt Bryant field goal erased the 2nd biggest comeback in NFL playoff history. Atlanta wins. Atlanta plays San Francisco for the NFC championship next week. Seattle heads home and starts thinking about 2013. It’s simple as that. As a fan I have held myself together after this loss way better than in past postseason heartbreakers. Maybe it hasn’t settled in just yet. Maybe I’m just more mature and can handle these games better. Nevertheless I am extremely frustrated in our defense and I am extremely disappointed overall. I have broken my analysis and thoughts down into 3 parts; the first 3 quarters, the first 14:29 of the 4th quarter, and the final 31 seconds of the season.
The First 45: After getting off to a slow start in Washington last week I was prepared to be calm and not to worry if the same thing were to happen against Atlanta. It did. The Falcons jumped out to a 10-0 lead after the first quarter and in the second quarter after Matt Bryant’s second field goal of the day, the Seahawks had the ball deep in Atlanta territory and rather than kicking a field goal to cut the lead to 13-3, Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll elected to go for it to gain some offensive momentum. On 4th down and 1, the Falcons stacked 8 men in the box, assuming a quick handoff. They were right on the money. The Falcons stuffed Michael Robinson on the fullback dive for a loss of one and a Seahawks turnover on downs. There is no doubt in my mind they saw that play on film, as the Seahawks have ran it in their last two games. Matt Ryan then connected with wide receiver Roddy White for a 47-yard touchdown on Atlanta’s next drive with 4:16 left in the half. This was a 10 point swing and gave the Falcons a 20-0 lead, the largest deficit for the Seahawks all season long. On the Seahawks next possession the Seahawks drove deep into Falcons territory but due to poor clock management and a mistake by Russell Wilson taking a sack on 3rd down, the Seahawks ran out of time and went into the half trailing 20-0.
The Seahawks got the ball to start the second half and went right down the field and scored on a Russell Wilson touchdown pass to Golden Tate. 20-7 Atlanta. That score was huge for the Seahawks because without it I firmly believe Atlanta would have taken the ball and scored again making it a 4-score game early in the second half. Instead, the Seahawks were able to put their first points on the board and this drive sparked some serious offense momentum to come later on in the game. In an ideal situation, the defense can piggy back on the momentum being brought by the offense but they proved they still had trouble stopping the powerful Atlanta offense early in the second half. After Tate’s touchdown the Falcons drove 80 yards in 7:36 culminating in a 5-yard pass from Ryan to Jason Snelling. 27-7 Atlanta. After this scoring drive everything seemed to change. Little did we know that the Seahawks would come back from the 2nd largest deficit in NFL playoff history.
The Next 14:29: The tables turned in the fourth quarter thanks to great offensive play and a couple big plays by our defense. Big catches by Golden Tate and Zach Miller along with a couple solid runs by Robert Turbin set up a Russell Wilson touchdown run to cut the lead to 27-14 Atlanta. Earl Thomas then came up with a big interception on the Falcons next possession and to be honest I had a feeling that we were going to come back. Nothing was certain, but I could see our defense was drastically improving. If they kept it up and the offense stayed steady, I thought we would be in great shape to come back. Wilson found Miller in the endzone with 9:13 left in the game and the Seahawks cut the lead to one score; 27-21 Atlanta. After an Atlanta 3-and-out and a Seahawks drive which stalled at midfield, the next crucial play was a 3rd and 8 on Atlanta’s next drive. Ryan fired to his right and the ball was low and ahead of Roddy White, forcing the Falcons to punt and would give Seattle the chance to take the lead with a touchdown. The key plays on this final Seattle drive in my mind were a 19-yard pass to Golden Tate, and a 24-yard pass to Marshawn Lynch on a 3rd and 5 to keep the drive alive. That Lynch catch-and-run put the ball inside the Atlanta 5-yard line with under a minute to go. Lynch punched it in on the next play and with 31 seconds left, the Seahawks held their first lead of the game, 28-27.
Hindsight is 20/20 but I wish there was a way the Seahawks could have taken another 15 or so seconds off the clock. With a one point lead, 31 seconds left, and 2 Falcon timeouts available, I immediately thought back to the Chicago game in week 13. Nothing is guaranteed, I thought. One blown coverage and it could spell trouble. That game against the Bears should have never gone to overtime. Bad defensive coverage allowed Brandon Marshall to catch a long pass to put the Bears in field goal range. They tied the game but the Seahawks held on to win in overtime. The Miami and Detroit games also flashed in my mind, as in these two games all we needed was our defense to protect the entire length of the field to hold on for the win. They couldn’t in either game and we lost both.
The Final 31 Seconds: This should really be “the final 26 seconds” since Atlanta started their final drive from the Seattle 28-yard line after the kickoff and that is how much time was left after the kickoff. Matt Bryant’s season-long field goal was from 55 yards out, meaning if he got to about the 37-yard line, the Falcons would have been in field goal range. By these numbers, the Seahawks had 26 seconds to protect 35 yards. Play number one was a 22-yard completion to Harry Douglas and an Atlanta timeout with 19 seconds left. The Seahawks now had to protect 13 yards with 19 seconds left. The next play is a 19-yard completion to Tony Gonzalez, putting Atlanta into field goal range. How in the world can you play as soft of coverage to let two Falcons receivers catch 20-yard passes each in a 13 second span? This is so perplexing it gives me a headache and just adds to the heartbreak that is now settling in as I write this. Matt Bryant lined up for the field goal to give Atlanta the lead back and Coach Carroll called a timeout to ice the kicker. The ball was snapped anyway and Bryant hooked the kick wide right. Carroll was seen upset on the sideline because he didn’t think Bryant should have been able to kick the ball before the actual kick. This was no doubt a mulligan and Bryant made sure his second kick would be more accurate. Unfortunately it was. The kick sailed right down the middle and in a 23 second span, the Seahawks went from epic comeback and a date with San Francisco to trailing once again. Atlanta 30-28. With 8 seconds left the Seahawks were given a gift. Bryant’s squib kick was batted and covered by Mike Morgan of the Seahawks and with 6 seconds left with the ball at mid-field, the Seahawks had a chance for a miracle. After a quick sideline pass to Doug Baldwin, Russell Wilson heaved a Hail Mary into the endzone. I thought to myself “what are the chances of having two Hail Mary’s go our way in one season?” The thought was too good to be true. The Falcons subbed in wide receiver Julio Jones to play defense and the Hail Mary was intercepted by Jones in the endzone. Game over. Season over. Seahawks lose in heartbreaking fashion to conclude their season once again.
Random Thoughts: I really thought we had this game. I was ready to book airfare and buy tickets to San Francisco for the NFC Championship game next week. Instead, I have to save my money for road trips in 2013… I started to get a little tired of Richard Sherman on Sunday. He played great defense for the majority of the game but do you really need to run your mouth and give the psycho gesture after EVERY pass defensed? I love you Sherm, but that was a little much in my opinion… Good broadcast by FOX this week… Rob Riggle’s picks segment during the FOX pregame show was the funniest of the season in my opinion. I wasn’t surprised at all when he picked the Seahawks to win since he has personal ties with Coach Carroll… The Seahawks will pick 25th in the first round in the 2013 NFL Draft… Looking at our opponents next season I think we can easily challenge for 12+ wins, win the NFC West, and be legitimate contenders for home-field advantage in next year’s playoffs… Here’s a quick draft chat. I hope we can draft either a tall wide receiver or a young run-stuffing defensive tackle in the first round, like a young Alan Branch… I was disappointed with the play of Bruce Irvin today. Opposing offensive lines did a good job this season of pushing Irvin to the outside and making him a non-factor and Atlanta was no different on Sunday. That gives Bruce something to work on and improve at during the offseason… I liked the blitz packages with Earl Thomas, Marcus Trufant, and Winston Guy that defensive coordinator Gus Bradley dialed up on Sunday. I just wish we would have done more of it. It is a gamble but seemed to work when enabled on Sunday… Zach Miller really impressed me today. He had the best game of his Seahawks career; 8 catches for 142 yards and one touchdown… I wanted this one so bad. It really stings knowing we were 31 seconds away from playing for the NFC title and a berth in Super Bowl XLVII. How we weren’t able to stop the Falcons offense in such a short period of time is beyond me. Back to the drawing board to get ready for 2013.
Well folks the season has unfortunately come to an end. Thank you to everyone who took their time to read my blog this season. I genuinely appreciate your support and feedback. I will say though that even though this is a wrap on the 2012 season does not mean that this is a wrap on the blog. Over the next few days I will put together a list of my top-10 moments from this season in a season review post. I hope to have it published sometime next weekend. After that I’ll take a break until after the Super Bowl but I’ll hop on if any Seahawks news breaks between now and the Super Bowl. Once again thank you so much for reading. Go Hawks!