The Atlanta Falcons jumped out to a 20-point fourth quarter lead and looked set to get their first playoff win of the Matt Ryan era. It would shut up the doubters and end any talk that that the team was full of chokers. All was well in Falconsland.
But just when things were looking good, Russell Wilson put the Seattle Seahawks on their back and put the Falcons squarely in choke territory. They gave up their lead and were on their way down, but a late drive, and a 49-yard Matt Bryant field goal in the waning seconds earned the Falcons a crazy, wild win and sent them on to the NFC Championship Game.
The first half couldn't have gone better for the Falcons. They struck first on a chip shot field goal by Bryant, then Ryan found Tony Gonzalez in the end zone to give them a 10-0 first quarter lead. Atlanta then added 10 more points in the second quarter and took a 20-0 halftime lead over a Seahawks team that looked sloppy, sluggish and completely out of their depth.
Seattle showed some life to start the second half, scoring on a 29-yard touchdown pass to Golden Tate, but Atlanta answered that with a touchdown of their own. Ryan found Jason Snelling for six and at 27-7, the game was in the bag, right?
Wilson, who started to find his groove in the second quarter and really got comfortable in the third quarter, went absolutely bonkers in the fourth quarter. He scampered into the end zon from a yard out two minutes into the final period, then threw to a wide open Zach Miller a few minutes later and in the clink of an eye, the Seahawks trailed just 27-21.
The Atlanta choke was on. They were one touchdown away from falling in epically embarrassing fashion and Wilson made sure that touchdown would come. Seattle took over with three minutes to go and in just 2:29, he took them 60 yards to give the Seahawks a lead with just 31 seconds to go.
But with everyone putting the nail in Atlanta's coffin, the Falcons mounted a response and they did it in just two plays. First Ryan spotted Harry Douglas for 22 yards, then he connected with Tony Gonzalez for 19 more. That set up Bryant for a 49-yard field goal, which he missed. Luckily for him, Pete Carroll called timeout just before the snap and he got a second chance. This time, he nailed it and Atlanta was up 30-28 with eight seconds to go.
Inexplicably, the Falcons chose to go with a very short squib kick that more resembled an onside kick. That left the Seahawks close enough to try a hail mary, but Julio Jones snagged the ball in the end zone to put the cap on the game. The Falcons tried to give the lead up, and did, but Ryan and Bryant saved them. It wasn't pretty, but any road to the NFC Championship Game is a good one, pretty or now.