By Brady Henderson
Twenty-five seconds is all that stood between the Seahawks and an improbable comeback win that would have put them in the NFC Championship Game.
The Falcons only needed 12 of them to gain 41 yards in two plays and position themselves for the winning field-goal attempt.
Here’s a look back at what happened on that final drive with the help of coach Pete Carroll, who joined “Brock and Salk” Monday morning.
Jacquizz Rodgers fielded the kickoff six yards behind the goal line, returning it to Atlanta’s 28. There were 25 seconds remaining, Atlanta needing to get inside Seattle’s 40 for a decent shot at the winning field goal.
It only took two plays to do so, as Ryan connected with Harry Douglas for 22 yards then Tony Gonzalez for 19. Just like that, the Falcons were on Seattle’s 31-yard line, setting up a 49-yard field-goal attempt.
The Seahawks certainly didn’t want to give up a long completion in this situation, but don’t accuse them of playing prevent defense. Seattle sent five defenders after Ryan on each of his two attempts.
“This was an aggressive, go-after-them two great calls, and unfortunately they had enough time to get the ball in there,” Carroll said.
Bruce Irvin, Greg Scruggs and Patrick Chukwurah were the down linemen on first down. Linebacker K.J.Wright rushed off the left end, while safety Winston Guy came up the middle. No one touched Ryan, giving him plenty of time to find Douglas near the left sideline. A perfectly-timed hit from cornerback Brandon Browner wasn’t enough to break up the pass.
“They had a nice route, they got the ball in behind [cornerback Marcus Trufant] over there on the sidelines; he was in zone sinking deep and they got a guy underneath him, he got behind him and they throw a great ball,” Carroll said.
The Seahawks had been bringing extra pressure all game, a necessity given the lack of pass rush they were getting from their defensive line. That pressure was a factor on Ryan’s first-quarter interception, when he threw an errant pass to Wagner as Trufant was bearing down on him. Trufant and Guy both had blitzed from the left side on that play.
It was those two coming off the left side again on second down of the final drive. This time, though, the Falcons picked it up. Ryan hit Gonzalez at Seattle’s 36, and Gonzalez shed linebacker Bobby Wagner’s tackle before picking up an extra five yards.
“They made two great plays and that’s all it took,” Carroll said.
Almost. Matt Bryant still had to hit the 49-yard field goal.
Carroll called a timeout as Bryant was lining up for the kick. Carroll said he argued for a delay-of-game penalty when Bryant went through with the kick after the timeout was called. He figured, based on a conversation he had with an official before the game, that Bryant wouldn’t be allowed what amounted to a practice kick in that situation.
“You take the ball and you throw the ball on the ground or you throw it off the field, that’s a delay-of-game penalty,” Carroll said. “So what’s the difference between that?”
Only eight seconds remained by the time Bryant split the uprights following the timeout. The Seahawks ran one play before Wilson was intercepted in the end zone on a desperation heave.
With that, the Seahawks’ season had ended after a disastrous 25-second stretch.