Grades: Bryant earns A in Falcons' win
JAN 13, 2013 5:51p ET
- His tippy-toe touchdown reception in the first quarter, extending Atlanta's lead to 10-0.
- The 19-yard catch in the waning seconds, paving the way for Matt Bryant's game-winning kick.
- The emotional images of Gonzalez holding back tears after the Falcons' harrowing victory. Prior to Sunday, Gonzalez (six catches, 51 yards, one TD) had registered the most games in NFL history without a playoff win.
Coffman's balletic 16-yard catch in the first quarter, prefacing Gonzalez's touchdown, was something to behold. In fact, it inspired a number of Tweets from Cincinnati media (and presumed Bengals fans), with many openly wondering how/when Coffman (three total catches in 2010 and '11) had acquired such grace as a receiver.
From the end of the second quarter to the beginning of the fourth — roughly a 19-minute span — the Falcons allowed consecutive drives of 58, 60, 80, 80 and 62 yards, resulting in three Seahawks touchdowns. That's not a recipe for championship football. It's usually not one for winning football during the playoffs, either.
Bottom line: Yes, Atlanta looked strong in certain spots on Sunday, but the club should also feel fortunate that Seattle squandered one major scoring chance in the first half — when Wilson incurred a rare "rookie moment" and allowed a sack to thwart a potentially easy field goal as the clock expired. The Falcons were very lucky to enjoy a 20-0 halftime advantage.
From a compartmental standpoint, the Falcons' pass rush (two sacks, four QB hits) had a reasonably productive outing. However, the blitz-inspired near-sack on the Seahawks' final scoring possession — which ended up as a Wilson-to-Marshawn Lynch reception for 24 yards (putting the ball at the 3-yard line) — had the appearance of a back-breaking play at the time.
On the plus side, Atlanta's defense should be commended for holding Lynch — who was riding a career-best streak of five games of 100-plus rushing yards — to just 46 on the ground (83 total).
Bryant nailed three kicks of 37, 39 and 49 yards, with the last clinching the Falcons' playoff victory. But his day didn't go without some controversy: Immediately before his game-winning field goal, Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll had called a timeout (verified by television), essentially icing the Atlanta kicker.
Before Bryant's kick, at least three whistles preceded his progression after the snap. But he attempted the freebie anyway . . . and missed to the right.
My take: In today's "blame-game" society, Bryant must have heard the whistles long before his first try. So, you cannot assume that he would have missed the REAL kick (if no Carroll timeout).
And yet, that's exactly how things will be portrayed in the Sunday and Monday postmortems. Oh well.
Seattle's always-dangerous Leon Washington collected only 61 incident-free return yards on Sunday — a wonderful coup for the Atlanta special teamers.