DANNY ONEIL

Seahawks burned by Falcons’ offense, knocked out of playoffs with 36-20 loss

Jan 14, 2017, 5:06 PM | Updated: 7:54 pm
The Seahawks' offense couldn't keep it with Atlanta's in Saturday's 36-20 playoff loss. (AP)...
The Seahawks' offense couldn't keep it with Atlanta's in Saturday's 36-20 playoff loss. (AP)
(AP)

ATLANTA – It wasn’t the start that sunk Seattle.

Not this time.

The fact that Atlanta finished with 36 points – tied for the second-most ever allowed by Seattle in a playoff game – that was the reason Seattle drowned on the road in the divisional playoffs for the second consecutive season.

Falcons 36, Seahawks 20.

Take a breath Seattle, this one is going to leave a mark. Because not only did the Falcons have more touchdowns (four) than punts (two), but Atlanta opted to take a knee inside the Seattle 5 to close out the Seattle game.

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It was a touch of mercy for the Seahawks’ defense, the unit that has been this team’s calling card for the past four years but was never able to make a stand against the league’s top-rated offense.

The Falcons had three touchdown drives of 75 yards or more. On their final possession of the first half, they drove 99 yards in nine plays without facing so much as a third down. Matt Ryan threw for 338 yards and three touchdowns.

The Seahawks’ offense wasn’t bad this game. In fact, it was pretty good by its own standards. It scored a touchdown on its opening drive, something Seattle hadn’t done since Week 3 vs. San Francisco, but Jimmy Graham’s 7-yard touchdown reception midway through the first period turned out to be a high point.

Seattle didn’t reach the end zone again until Doug Baldwin’s 31-yard touchdown catch with just over 3 minutes left in the fourth quarter, at which time the Seahawks were trying to climb out of a 23-point hole.

Russell Wilson finished with 225 yards passing, and while he was picked off twice, both of those came in the fourth quarter when Seattle was desperate. More tellingly, Wilson was Seattle’s leading rusher with 49 yards.

The Seahawks had chances in this game. There was an 80-yard punt return by Devin Hester that was negated by a holding penalty against Kevin Pierre-Louis in the second quarter. There was a pass that cornerback DeShawn Shead nearly picked off that he could have returned for a touchdown, too. Frank Clark stripped the ball from Matt Ryan in the fourth quarter only to have a Falcons fall on it.

But none of that changed the fact that Seattle’s defense never did dig in its heels against the Falcons and Seattle lost on the road in the divisional playoffs for the second consecutive year, losing a rash of players to injury in the process.

Right guard Germain Ifedi suffered a leg injury in the first quarter and while he returned for a possession in the second period, he was out after that. Shead suffered a knee injury in the third quarter that knocked him out of the game, too.

FIRST QUARTER

No punts in the first quarter.

That’s a novelty for a Seahawks’ game. So is the fact that Seattle scored points. The Seahawks had been shut out in the first quarter of their five previous road playoff games under Pete Carroll. The Seahawks also hadn’t scored a touchdown on their opening drive of any game this season since Week 3 against San Francisco.

Well, all Seattle did with the opening drive was march 89 yards, consuming more than half the period and converting three third-down opportunities, the last one coming on a 7-yard touchdown pass to Jimmy Graham on third-and-2.

Atlanta responded with a 13-play drive of its own, which consumed more than 7 minutes of clock, though the Falcons didn’t reach the end zone until the second play of the second quarter.

Sea – Jimmy Graham 7 pass from Russell Wilson (Steven Hauschka kick) at 6:26 (Drive: 14 plays, 89 yards, 8:34). Score: Seahawks 7, Falcons 0.

SECOND QUARTER

The Seahawks were one flag away from having the ball at the Atlanta 7, poised to build on a 10-7 lead.

Instead, a holding penalty against Kevin Pierre-Louis negated an 80-yard punt return by Devin Hester. Rather than having the ball first-and-goal at the Atlanta 7, the Seahawks had the ball first-and-10 at their own 7, a switch of 86 yards.

It got worse. Quickly.

Thomas Rawls was stopped for a 4-yard loss on the first play of the drive, and then Russell Wilson got his feet tangled with guard Rees Odhiambo, falling backward into the end zone where he was touched down by the Falcons’ Ben Garland for a safety.

It kept getting worse, too. The free kick gave Atlanta the ball near midfield, and the Falcons drove 40 yards to set up a field goal.

Atlanta punctuated the first half with a 99-yard drive that was impressive for just how easy it was. The Falcons navigated those 99 yards in nine plays, which rook up less than 3 minutes without ever facing so much as a third down before Tevin Coleman caught a pass wide open for a 14-yard touchdown.

The Seahawks punted once in the first half yet trailed by nine points, and about the best thing you could say was that Seattle trailed by more than twice as many points four years ago in its previous playoff game in Atlanta.

Atl – Julio Jones 7 pass from Matt Ryan (Matt Bryant kick) at 14:14 (Drive: 13 plays, 75 yards, 7:12). Score: Seahawks 7, Falcons 7.
Sea – Hauschka 33 field goal at 11:20 (Drive: 6 plays, 40 yards, 2:54). Score: Seahawks 10, Falcons 7.
Atl – Safety. Wilson tackled in the end zone at 9:22. Score: Seahawks 10, Falcons 9.
Atl – Bryant 35 field goal at 6:06 (Drive: 5 plays, 40 yards, 3:16). Score: Falcons 12, Seahawks 10.
Atl – Tevin Coleman 14 pass from Ryan (Bryant kick) at 0:53 (Drive: 9 plays, 99 yards, 2:55). Score: Falcons 19, Seahawks 10.

THIRD QUARTER

Atlanta got possession to start the half and faced third-and-8 or more twice on its own half of the field. The Falcons converted both of those third-down plays and then drove for their third touchdown of the game. Each of those drives spanned 75 yards or more.

The Seahawks were prepared to punt away the ball on their ensuing possession only to have the Falcons penalized on the punt for lining up over the center. The resulting first down sustained what was a field-goal drive that provided a lifeline for the Seahawks.

Atl – Devonte Freeman 1 run (Bryant kick) at 9:12 (Drive: 14 plays, 75 yards, 5:48). Score: Falcons 26, Seahawks 10.
Sea – Hauschka 26 field goal at 3:03 (Drive: 14 plays, 80 yards, 6:09). Score: Falcons 26 , Seahawks 13.

FOURTH QUARTER

Atl – Bryant 31 field goal at 14:57 (Drive: 7 plays, 62 yards, 3:06). Score: Falcons 29, Seahawks 13.
Atl – Mohamed Sanu 3 pass from Ryan (Bryant kick) at 3:40 (Drive: 8 plays, 46 yards, 4:36). Score: Falcons 36, Seahawks 13.
Sea – Doug Baldwin 31 pass from Wilson (Hauaschka kick) at 3:21 (Drive: 1 play, 31 yards, 0:19). Score: Falcons 36, Seahawks 20.

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