Atlanta 34 at Seattle 31
When you take the opening kickoff back 50 yards, you know this game is going to be lit. Well, as lit as an Atlanta Falcons game will get when it goes to the wire….again. But a good start no doubt. Andre Roberts gave the offense excellent starting field position and they used it. The first pass is a drop by Julio Jones. Then Tevin Coleman has a good 5-yard run. Justin Hardy ensured a 9-yard catch on a low pass by Matt Ryan but going to the ground and getting under the ball for a great catch, then follows that up with a 7-yard sideline catch. Then, early in the game, trickery begins. Mohamed Sanu and the 12 Gauge up the middle for 3 yards. Ryan goes right back to Sanu for the touchdown, which results in an incomplete pass with a Pass Interference call, so moves the ball to the 1-foot line. Then behind Dontari Poe and Ben Garland, Coleman easily goes in for the 1-yard touchdown. With 3 minutes off the clock, the Falcons are already on the board.
The ensuing kickoff tells you how the kicking game is going to go all day. Matt Bosher, nursing an ankle injury, kicks off and the Seattle Seahawks’ Tyler Lockett takes the kick back 57 yards. Bosher did lay a hit out on Lockett to slow him down before Desmond Trufant knocked him out of bounds. Vic Beasley and company are in the backfield as Russell Wilson quickly gets a pass off to Lockett for a 9-yard game before Deion Jones (who else) makes the first tackle for the Falcons defense. On a reverse pivot, Wilson releases the ball, a little behind Lockett and it hits Trufant in the chest, surprises him a little, but he gathers the ball in for the interception and returns it 44 yards, behind the excellent blocking of Beasley. Credit to Wilson for the tackle.
Ryan and company come back to the field and he lobs up a high pass for Jones, who, naturally, in double coverage, leaps up and comes down with both feet in on the sideline for a 16-yard gain. Coleman has a short run, insert the same plan as the first possession with a successful pass to Hardy, for a first down. At the 5-yard line, a low, errant pass is tipped and at least 5 Seahawk defenders tipped the ball before it finally fell to the ground. After a time out to recoop their thoughts, Coleman gets a couple of yards rushing, then Bean Talk. Sanu makes the one handed over a defender catch in the corner of the end zone look easy. Now, midway through the first quarter, the Falcons are up 14/0.
Back to the kicking game. Bosher hits the end zone, but Lockett brings it out to the 35-yard line. Once again, Bosher is in on the tackle with the assist going to Robert Alford. Some quick passes by Wilson, runs by Mike Davis, and a tripping penalty on the Falcons helps move the Seahawks down the field. Keanu Neal is taken off the field after one of those Keanu hits and is evaluated for a concussion. J.D. McKissic runs for 6 yards and is stopped by Damontae Kazee. Three Falcons are covering Doug Baldwin in the end zone causing a 3rd and 4. Wilson gets chased back out of the pocket, Grady Jarrett is held and gets the penalty call. Then the tripping penalty moves the Seahawks back down the field and on a 2nd and 3, Wilson finds Jimmy Graham in the end zone where he leaps and catches over De’Vondre Campbell for their first touchdown of the game.
The next Falcon drive was lack lustered, 7 plays, incomplete passes, penalties on both sides, and another Bosher punt to start the 2nd quarter. The Seahawks started on their own 23. Then because of Poe, they were at the 20. THEN because of a combined defensive line unit, they did not have the ball. On 2nd and 13, Takk McKinley busted through the line, and falling was able to pull Wilson down from behind. Meanwhile, Courtney Upshaw slides over Wilson knocking the ball out, and who was right there for the scoop and score? Adrian Clayborn. He may not have gotten the sack, but he did get the touchdown. Now, with 14:04 left to go in the 2nd quarter, it is 21/7 Falcons!
Once again, on the ensuing kickoff, Lockett has a big return and is stopped at the 39 by Kazee. The pressure continued through this drive. Wilson completed passes to Baldwin and Davis, with Trufant and Poole in coveraged, and Poe and Clayborn forcing even quicker throws. Driving deep inside the Falcons’ territory, the Tigers combine with Beasley chasing Wilson and Jarrett reaching him as he lobs a ball out of bounds. Neal has returned to the field and stopped Davis at the line of scrimmage. At 2nd and goal McKissick and Graham are both in with no backs. Brooks Reed is chasing the scrambling Wilson, while Clayborn reaches him and again, Jarrett hits/taps him as he releases the pass. Then one of the most memorable defensive plays of the day. It is 3rd and goal from the 2, big Jimmy Graham gets the pass and thinks he has an easy run in to the end zone. Instead, he meets an unmovable force in Keanu Neal. Neal crosses the end zone, circles around Alford and a receiver and hits Graham so hard at the goal line, Graham is knocked back out to the 1. There is an offensive holding call that moves the ball back to the 12. Wilson is now running for his life. Clayborn and Beasley both nearly sack him and as he lets the errant pass go, Jarrett is shoving him in the chest. The Seahawks settle for a field goal.
Just when you think the momentum is fully on the Falcons side, the turn over, the big stop and forced field goal. Now, the special teams strikes again. The Seahawks have a short kick, which bounces right past Roberts, who then touches it, Seattle recovers and have the ball at the 11. The defense trots immediately back on the field. The d steps up again, knocking the first pass out of Baldwin’s hands. Beasley trips Davis to slow him down for Trufant to make the stop. Neal and Poole combine to stop Graham at the goal line again. 1st and goal at the 1, takes them 4 tries, and the D stands up, until Seattle takes a time out, comes up with a perfect blocking scheme and Wilson walks in for the touchdown.
The next kickoff, the Falcons special teams was a little more prepared. Ben Garland received the kickoff and returned it 11 yards. The first play is a beautiful pass to Sanu, who is shoved out of bounds before the ball arrives. He gets the PI and the ball is moved up 16 yards. Then the collapse begins. Eric Saubert has a false start, moving the ball back. Coleman has a 4-yard run, then on a pitch back is stopped behind the line of scrimmage. Coleman then has a nice 15-yard pass, gaining most of those yards after the catch behind a good Hooper block. Sanu catches a big 21-yard pass at the 21 as the 2 minute warning comes. Unfortunately, the Falcons could not continue the quick movement and settled for a 44-yard Matt Bryant field goal.
Now, for the craziest drive of the game. Again, Bosher kicks off to the 2 and Lockett runs it out to the 41 where he is met by Kemal Ishmael. With 58 seconds on the clock, Wilson has quick passes to Graham for a 4-yard gain, out jukes Beasley for a big first down. Throws to McKissic in the end zone where Jones has perfect coverage and as McKissic’s hands went up, so did Jones’ and his finger tips knocked the ball out of alignment. Wilson overthrows Graham, then scrambling, way back in the backfield gets hit by Takk as he releases the ball, but Richardson did not have the first down. The field goal team comes on, they try the fake, but Jarrett sniffs it out, picks Luke Willson up, spins him around and lays him down for a 4-yard loss.
The teams go in for half time with the Falcons leading 24 to 17. Life is good.
The second half began with a Bosher kick and a return only to the 28, so that was a half time improvement. Wilson starts with a high pass to Thompson which Alford knocks out. Everyone is applying such great pressure to Wilson that he has a fake handoff to Davis, then throws a screen to Davis who gains 21 yards. On a 24-yard pass to Richardson that is tightly defended by Alford, he is called for the PI. Next play, Alford has a good pass knocked out. Then on 2nd and 4….here comes Grady!!! He slaps the hands of the right guard as he goes past for an 8-yard sack. After a short pass to McKissic, Seattle settles for another field goal.
Once again, just when you think the momentum is going one way, it flips to the other team. In 8 plays and under 4 minutes, the Falcons score another touchdown, on a 25-yard pass to a wide open Levine Toilolo. Ryan showed his scrambling ability by running and sliding for a 14-yard gain, with former Falcon Dwight Freeney in hot pursuit. Earl Thomas was called for a hit on a defenseless player, so the Falcons got the touchdown and an extra 15 yards on the upcoming kickoff.
Bosher kicks it out of the end zone. Immediately, Wilson connects with a wide-open Richardson for an 18-yard gain. Then fakes it to Lacy and runs 17 yards himself, as Campbell slips on the wet field. McKissic meets Takk again after a 4-yard gain. Takk almost gets to Wilson, while Beasley gets his hands on Wilson, meanwhile there is also an offensive holding penalty on the play. The D is really roughing up the offensive line. Clayborn, on a mission chases the elusive Wilson, who escapes his grip twice. Wilson outurns Jarrett and Beasley and slides out of bounds at the first down marker. The 1st and 10 has Wilson scrambling and over throwing Willson. Then 2nd and 10 has the pocket collapse with Ishmael and Derrick Shelby combining for a 12-yard loss. After another perfect Alford defended pass, Seattle settles for a 46-yard field goal.
The 3rd quarter ends with the first pass of the day to Taylor Gabriel, Coleman with a 5-yard stutter run, and a 7-yard reception by single covered Jones. Terron Ward has a first down catch then 9-yard run to open the 4thquarter. Then the typical 4th quarter meltdown begins. A side throw for 2 yards to TE Hooper, a false start by Andy Levitre, a short 5-yard pass to Gabriel leads to a 4th and 13 and a punt. Good news, the punt was fair caught.
The defense causes a quick 3 and out when Baldwin did not catch the 3rd down pass. Seattle challenged the play and lost a time out.
The Falcons quickly drive back down the field on the backs of Coleman and Ward, both earning their pay with stiff arms, breaking tackles. With a 3rd and goal, Coleman spins off the stacked up offensive line to the end zone. It is reviewed by the officials and determined that he was 6 inches short. Bryant makes yet another field goal.
Under 4 minutes to go in the game, the Falcons are up 34/23. Yet, the game is not safe with Russell Wilson on the other side. In a few plays, Wilson runs for a first down, finds Graham across the middle, McKissic shows off his running skills, and with the help of an accidental hit out of bounds penalty, Wilson finds Baldwin wide open in the end zone. Then Graham has an easy 2-point conversion in the corner of the end zone.
Now there are 3 minutes remaining, and the Falcons have a 3-point lead. They prepare for the onsides kick with the hands team up, but Seattle kicks it deep to Roberts. Coleman comes blasting up the left side behind FB Derrick Coleman. Then T. Coleman is tripped up behind the line. Immediately following the 2 minute warning, Wes Schwietzer gives up a big sack forcing another Bosher punt.
The punt is short, but bounces and the coverage team is there and Marvin Hall lays Lockett out. There was also an offensive holding penalty to back Seattle up a little more for their final stand. Trying to not give up the big play, the defense has a 3-man rush through the rest of the game. Graham gets 11 yards, Clayborn hits Wilson as he throws an air ball that is nearly hauled in by Poole. Then, Clayborn runs up causing Beasley to jump and give the Seahawks a free play. Trufant blocks a pass intended for Graham, then Wilson scrambles for another first down. With time dwindling, Wilson has an 8-yard toss to Richardson who is tackled by Alford and Neal, who try to wrestle the ball away. Since the Seahawks are out of time outs, Wilson has to spike the ball at the 34 with 7 seconds remaining on the clock. Blair Walsh attempts a 52-yard field goal, which falls a few feet short and the game is over. The Falcons have won and moved into 6th place in the NFC.
Injury News: Keanu Neal left the game temporarily, was evaluated and returned at least 98% as he was continuing to lay out Keanu type hits. Late in the game, Brian Poole was shaken and slow to get up, but was fine by Tuesday. Devonta Freeman remains in concussion protocol. Matt Bosher’s ankle caused him to miss practice on Wednesday.
Iron Falcon: Grady Jarrett ended with 2 tackles and a sack on the day, however, Jarrett was hugely effective once again. He was close or hitting Russell Wilson all day, causing errant or quick throws. Jarrett is the fastest 305 pounder you will see, is smart and quick to think and spot what is happening in front of him. And remember his sniffing out the fake field goal before the half. It was not merely a stop of Seattle getting the first down, but a complete read of the situation and stuffing the runner for a huge loss. And, huge boost going into half time.