By Allison Smith @FalconAlley
Seahawks 20 Falcons 36 (NFC Divisional)
Everyone talks about the loudest stadiums, the most hostile environments in which to play….well, I am proud to say, on Saturday, January 14, 2017, the Georgia Dome became one of those places. Possibly the last game ever to be played in the Dome, the crowd and the team gave it their all. We all left with no doubt, Atlanta loves football. The Brotherhood/Brothership has officially spread to us all.
The Atlanta Falcons hosted their first playoff game in the Dome since the 2012/2013 season. Coincidentally, against the same Seattle Seahawks team as January 2013. And, to the same result, although this time, the game thankfully was not as close.
The first quarter went by before I even knew it. Just over half way through, Seattle had taken their opening possession and a Jimmy Graham catch gave them a 7-0 lead. Graham gave us the “Shhhh” sign and we were not quiet again. Then Atlanta took the rest of the fast moving quarter to take the ball to the 13. Luckily, the quarter ended, the teams switched end zones, and MY end zone was able to cheer for two plays, the second ending in a 7 yard Julio Jones touchdown, tying the game at 7 all with 14:14 left in the second quarter.
Now, the game gets interesting. That pesky Devin Hester makes a triumphant return to Atlanta. Hester, who broke Deion Sanders’ return record in Atlanta, but was released after an injury ridden season, has clearly been getting in “running and avoiding tacklers shape”. This return was for 50 yards. He had additional returns in the game for 80 yards, 27 yards, 17 yards, and 78 yards. All of us were screaming to stop kicking to Hester as we know how he can, and loves, to run. Hester did give the Seahawks a boost several times in the game, but the Falcons fierce defense buckled down and did not let every big return result in a score.
As small as it seemed at the time, possibly the play of the game was when Center, Ben Garland, who has not snapped a ball this season, was in on defense and still managed to score. What? Seattle QB Russell Wilson was sacked in the end zone by Garland, giving the Falcons a 2 point lead. That bit of craziness was all the Falcon Faithful needed. The ensuing punt led to an 18 yard return for Eric Weems, a quick 37 yard pass from Matt Ryan to Taylor Gabriel then ending in a 35 yard field goal by always reliable Matt Bryant, giving the Falcons a 12/10 lead. By the end of the half, Ryan had tossed his 2nd touchdown of the day to Tevin Coleman and the Falcons lead 19/10 at the half. And the “MVP” chants rang throughout the Dome.
As the team left the field, the crowd was roaring and clapping with full confidence for a win. Atlanta native, Ludacris kept us going at half time with “Turn Down For What” and “All We Do Is Win” with the crowd happily singing along with pride.
Ryan came out in the 3rd quarter throwing to the ever electric Julio Jones for a big 39-yard gain. After several more aggressive plays, the Atlanta craziness began. The near perfect Pro Bowl Center Alex Mack fumbled the snap, Ryan sees and recovers the ball, and still manages a hand off to Coleman for a 7-yard gain. Two Devonta Freeman runs later, Free was in the end zone.
Late in the game the defense provided another “it just doesn’t happen” crazy play. Wilson threw up a short pass that was tipped by several Falcon defenders. It was bounced and it was bobbled. Jalen Collins and Deion Jones both had hands on the ball, and while it looked like it would surely fall to the ground, the Defensive Rookie of the Year candidate Jones, once again, kept his focus on the ball, gained possession and returned the intercepted ball for 28 yards. This was ‘the clincher’ play of the game. With just over 2 minutes left, the Falcons were able to run out the clock without concern of additional Seahawk scoring.
Some fun stats of the game.
Ryan completed 26 passes for 338 yards, (190 in the first half) and 3 touchdowns. Coleman and Freeman combined for 102 rushing yards and 102 receiving yards. Coleman lead in rushing while Freeman lead in receiving yards with a long 53-yard reception. Turbo Taylor had 71 yards on 4 catches, while Jones caught 6 passes for 67 yards. Once again, Ryan threw to 8 receivers, many for over 10 yards a toss. Ryan was sacked 3 times, one causing a fumble, which was recovered by the quick footed Chris Chester.
Due to a poorly fielded punt late in the second quarter, the Falcons began a drive on their 1-yard line. In true “Ice” fashion, in 9 plays and just under 3 minutes, the Falcons drove down for the Coleman touchdown. This season, the Falcons had 11 scores on drives that began inside their own 10-yard line, no other team had more than 6.
Deion Jones and Ricardo Allen both had interceptions on the day. Keanu Neal led the team in tackles with 9, while Collins and Brian Poole had 4 a piece. The ever elusive Wilson was sacked three times on the day, by Garland for the safety, Jonathan Babineaux and Brooks Reed for losses of 6 and 7 yards respectively.
Granted, the Falcons won this Divisional Playoff Game handily, this was one of the most electric games I have ever attended, with the least number of opposing fans in attendance. Atlanta did their Falcons proud by really turning out to support the team.
Injury Report: DE Adrian Clayborn went out early in the first quarter with a bicep injury, that has now turned into a season ending injury. Courtney Upshaw will set up for Claybo. Julio Jones did not return late in the game due to his foot injury, but according to Head Coach Dan Quinn, Ju will be “ready to rock” on Sunday as he is a “young whippersnapper.”
Golden Talon: Another awesome Brothership win. I have to spread this Talon to the Offense, the Defense, and to the Fans. Short of a couple of small stumbles, the O and D played nearly a perfect game against a very tough and experienced Seattle team. The Fans surely caused some issues for the Seahawk offense, even if we couldn’t bring cold and snow into the Dome.
#RiseUp @FalconAlley Owt
Featured image courtesy: Allison Smith/nflfemale
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