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Top Seattle sports stories of 2017: Seahawks hammer Lions in playoffs but season ends in Atlanta

Seahawks RB Thomas Rawls set a franchise playoff record for rushing yards against Detroit. (AP)

The 12 hosts of 710 ESPN Seattle have voted on the top Seattle sports stories of 2017. Each day we will count down to the top story of the year with an article by a different host. Today, Bob Stelton of Bob, Groz and Tom covers the third biggest story, the Seahawks picking up a playoff win over the Lions before falling to the Falcons in the NFC’s divisional round to end their 2016 season.

For me, just about anything involving the Seahawks becomes the biggest sports story there is – especially when we’re talking about the postseason. The mania that has surrounded the team since back-to-back Super Bowl appearances is unlike anything we’ve ever seen in this city. But with that kind of success comes expectations unlike anything we’ve seen as well.

Photo gallery: Seahawks beat Lions, lose to Falcons in playoffs

The 2016 regular season didn’t end with a ton of promise. Seattle went 4-3 in its final seven games and lost Earl Thomas for the remainder of the season to a broken leg suffered in Week 13 vs. Carolina. Despite all of that, the Hawks had the Lions at CenturyLink for a wild card game in January, and we saw what seemed like a Super Bowl version of the team. Smothering defense held Detroit to just two field goals, and the offense was explosive in a 26-6 win. Thomas Rawls ran all over the Lions’ defense for 161 yards and a touchdown. Russell Wilson was on point, going 23 for 30 with two TDs and no turnovers. There was more than enough reason to feel very confident about going into Atlanta to erase the demons of a two-point loss in the 2012 postseason.

The Seahawks opened that game with a fantastic 14-play, 89-yard TD drive that ate up 8:34 of clock. The problem was that Matt Ryan and the Falcons offense was just too much for a defense missing Thomas to contain. Atlanta put up 19 points in the second quarter and that was pretty much the beginning of the end. The Falcons put up 17 more points in the second half while Seattle struggled to get anything going in a 36-20 loss. Ryan ended the game going 26 for 37 with 338 yards and three touchdowns. Wilson and Rawls, who tormented the Lions the week previous, didn’t come close to repeating their performances. Wilson went 17 for 30 for 225 yards, two TDs and two interceptions, while Rawls for his part gained just 34 yards on 11 carries.

Not only did the Seahawks not exercise the demons of the 2012 playoff loss in Atlanta, they were dismantled on that very same field by 16 points. That was a moment that I think a lot of Seahawks fans realized that it may have been the last run we would see with that particular group of players. As age and salaries climb, change is all but certain.

A closer look at the Seahawks’ playoff games

O’Neil: What we learned from Seahawks’ playoff loss to Falcons

Seahawks burned by Falcons’ offense

Loaded backstory for Seahawks’ return to Atlanta in playoffs

Huard’s Chalk Talk: Baldwin’s TD catch from Wilson vs Lions

Wyman’s Football 101: Chancellor’s intimidation factor vs Lions

Seahawks’ secret weapon in win over Lions: Coach Earl Thomas

O’Neil: What we learned from Seahawks’ playoff win over Lions

Baldwin steals TD catch from Kearse in victory over Detroit

Seahawks get back to tried-and-true formula to beat Lions

 Paul Richardson makes unreal 1-handed TD catch