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Falcons Dominate Last Game At The Georgia Dome (Maybe)
With 36-20 Win Over Seahawks

(live blog from the Georgia Dome)
-
from FootballAtlanta.com - Click Here

 By Don Stone - Football Atlanta

   Its the final football game ever at the Georgia Dome. I've been taking it all in. "Well, won't see that again...won't be there again. After 197 events attended in this building, it still seems hard to believe. Kind of like when I turned in my Ford Windstar when they had the clunker trade in program early in the Obama administration. It will ran and I had a lot of memories in the 107,000 miles and seven years that I had it. But, a new car seemed nice, too after all that time.
  In this case, the Georgia Dome is hardly a clunker. Its still in great shape after 25 years. Most NFL cities would love to have a stadium like this and play in far older facilities. But, I don't think anyone will be complaining next fall when we step into the new Mercedes Benz Stadium next door. In fact, as I sit here in the press box, they're showing a video tour of the new stadium on the screen now. Looks amazing. Still, thanks for the memories.
  And, to be fair, the Dome may still have one last hurrah in it. If the Falcons beat Seattle here as they're expected to do and Dallas loses tomorrow to Green Bay as they're not expected to do, then the NFC Championship Game shifts from Texas to Atlanta.
  But, first things first. The Falcons are fully capable of beating the Seahawks if they play up to their capabilities. They did lose to them in Week 6 in Seattle, barely, 26-24. Most will point out to the penalty on Richard Sherman that wasn't called as he held Julio Jones' arm to close out the game. If the penalty had been called, or even if Jones had caught the ball without the penalty, Atlanta would have been in field goal range to come away with a win. But, the loss inspired the team letting them know that they were good enough to beat some of the best in the NFL.
  Before the season started, I wasn't sure the Falcons could get to their 8-8 record from 2016. After all, they had both teams from the Super Bowl on their schedule along with Seattle, Green Bay and Kansas City. But, along the way, they shocked a lot of us, beating both Carolina (twice) and Denver, coming on top against Green Bay and except for a last minute interception by Eric Berry in the end zone, they had the Chiefs beaten as well.
  The result is an 11-5 record with a first round bye leading to today's rematch with Seattle.
  To slightly throw a blanket on local fans' optimism, the last four wins have been against teams with a combined 19-34 record including two of the three worst teams in the NFL in the Rams and 49ers...both of whom have hired new head coaches.
  But, they did what they were supposed to do.
  My view and many others is that Atlanta's offense, the best in the league with a 35 point per game average, will be too much to handle. Then there is the Seahawks' road record. They were 3-4-1 on the road this season, but 8-1 at home. The defense plays well in both but the offense seems to have problems away from the northwest. They scored 3 points in a loss at Los Angeles, 17 in another loss at New York, a 6-6 tie at Arizona. Only 20 at New Orleans, 5 at Tampa Bay and 10 at Green Bay. They did pull off a few road wins at New England and San Francisco but only get 25 in each of those games.
   And, they'll be playing today without star safety Earl Thomas. Atlanta, meanwhile, is healthier than its been in months. Except for the players who were lost for the season like Desmond Trufant and Jacob Tamme. Austin Hooper and Taylor Gabriel, injured earlier, are back.
   So, there's nothing left to do but play the game.
  The Falcons won the toss and deferred to the second half. After a holding call on the kickoff, Seattle had the ball at their 11. Adrian Clayborn sustained a bicep injury and missed the rest of the game. The 71,155 crowd was at college game loud. Thomas Rawls got a pair of quick rushes for 7 and nine before Russell Wilson sprinted for 14 to the Atl47.  RG Germaine Ifedi hurt his ankle on the play. On a third and seven Wilson hit Doug Baldwin for 18 yards to the 26. Rawls picked up another first down at the 15. Speedy former Falcon JD McKissic caught one for five bringing up another third down at the seven. On the next play, Falcon nemesis Jimmy Graham caught one on the goal line to give Seattle an early 7-0 lead. The impressive methodical drive took 14 plays in 89 yards in 8:34. Already more than they scored total in three of their road games.
  Atlanta's first drive began at their 25 with a DeVonta Freeman 8 yard rush. Freeman found nothing in the middle and changed directions for a first down at the 35. On a  third and seven, Matt Ryan hit Jones for a 8 and a first down at the 45. Jones beat Sherman again for 12 into Seattle territory at the 40. A left side screen pass to Hooper got 10 to the 30. Tevin Coleman carried it for five. A defensive holding call gave them a first at the 20. A toss to Freeman picked up 7 as the first quarter quickly came to an end using up just 30 minutes of actual time.
  Coleman took a toss and shook a tackle to gain six for a first and goal at the 7. On the next play, Julio grabbed a short pass from Ryan and put up Atlanta's first points to tie the game at 7. An equally impressive drive took up 13 plays and 75 yards in 7:12. Early indications are that it will be a fast moving high scoring game.
  Another former Falcon, Devin Hester, just picked up a few weeks ago ran it out to the 45. Wilson advanced the ball 33 yards on a pass to Paul Richardson at the Falcons 19. Defended but never touched by Keanu Neal the receiver on the ground. So, Richardson got up and ran it the rest of the way for another score. But replay reversed it and put it back at the 19. Brooks Reed sacked Wilson for a 7 yard loss to the 26. Wilson hit Graham for 11 at the 15 and that's where it stopped. Steven Hauschka got them three from 33 for a 10-7 lead. Could have been worse.
  Atlanta again had the ball at their 25 but went three and out. Hester took the kick at the 13 and scooted free for 60 yards to the Atl26 before a holding call undid the great runback. With the ball at the 6, effectively a 68 yard penalty. The defense swarmed over Rawls for a two yards loss to the four. On the next Wilson tripped over his own player and fell back into the end zone with Ben Garland falling on him for a safety sack putting the score at 10-9.
  Eric Weems took the kick out 18 yards for great field position at the 43. Gabriel flashed across the center of the field and sprinted all the way to the Sea20 for a 37 yard gain. Ryan held the ball too long and was sacked by Michael Bennett for a third and 14 from the 24. Matt Bryant came in to give Atlanta its first lead from 35 yards. Falcons 12, Seahawks 10.
  One area of concern has been the returns of Hester. This time, he couldn't take it out of the end zone moving it out to the 30 after a 5 yard penalty. Richardson caught one for six. They could only get three more as the kicking team came in and planted the rolling ball at the one.
  A game that started like a shootout hand been taken over by the defenses.
  Jones got them out of the hole with an 8 yard catch followed by a short pass to Coleman for a first down at the 14. Mohamed Sunu got his first catch for a nice 22 yard gain behind Jeremy Lane at the 36 at the two minute warning. Ryan kept the drive going with a shot to Gabriel for 18 to the Sea46. Another in the same spot to Sunu to the 34 with just over a minute. Julio got in the fun as he fell down to make a catch, got up and moved it 20 to the 14. Dan Quinn took his first time out at 0:59.  Ryan went through his progressions and found Coleman just before he fell out of the left side of the end zone. Atlanta was up 19-10. The drive went 9 plays and 99 yards in just 2:55. Since being down 7-0, Atlanta had outscored Seattle 19-3.
  Hester couldn't get far on the kick with a holding call putting the Hawks at the 8 with just 48 seconds left in the half and that's where it ended.
  The Falcons offense had found a rhythm in the second quarter with 19 points and had the ball to start the third quarter from their 25. On the first incompletion, DB DeShawn Shead fell to the ground untouched with a knee injury and had to be helped off the field. His return questionable. A potential big loss on the Seattle secondary. Jones beat Sherman again for 12 to the 39. On a third and 10, Aldrick Robinson got his first catch for 12 to the Sea49. A handoff to Coleman netted 15 to the 34. Coleman rushed for 7. Justin Hardy got his first catch for 7 to the 20, the 10th player with a reception so far. Freeman came in and got six. Another Seahawk, Bennett was hurt on the play.
  An off sides call made it first and goal at the 7. Coleman bounced off a defender to the half yard line. Coleman tripped but fell forward into the end zone for a 26-10 lead. Hester was stopped at the 12 on the punt.
  Rawls started with an 11 yard gain to the 36 followed by an 8 yard pass to Jermaine Kearse. A penalty on the defense gave them a first down at the 36. Richardson pulled down a 40 yard catch to the Atl28. On a third and 10, Wilson flipped it to Alex Colllins for 12 and a first down at the 12. No more as Hauschka hit from 26 to pull to within two scores 26-13. The penalty cost Atlanta 3 points.
  Still a long way to go. Atlanta needed a bigger cushion to offset a potential comeback like the one the Seahawks had earlier in the season. In that one, Atlanta scored 21 unanswered third quarter points only to see Wilson lead his team back with 9 in the final quarter to win. Luke Wilson and Brandon Williams both were out with concussions for Seattle.
  Freeman caught a short pass, broke free and ran for 53 yards to the Sea16. After a second dropped pass by about the only Falcon who had not caught a pass, Levine Toilolo, Ryan was sacked for a third and 15. The tight end became the 11th Falcon to catch a pass for an 8 yard gain to the 13 as the third quarter ended. Bryant got back the three points with a 31 yarder for a 29-13 lead.
  Hester took the ball and kneeled putting it at the 25. A false start made it second and 15 at the 20. Pete Carroll took his first time out. Wilson could only make it to the 31 before being leveled by Keanu Neal. The 58 yard punt was caught at the 20.
  Atlanta would try to pad its 16 point lead but a pair of incompletions brought up a third and 10. A ball that Hardy caught was ruled out of bounds but challenged by Quinn. He got the call instead of having to punt, the Falcons had a first down at the 31. But a Ryan sack was fumbled but recovered by Atlanta's Chris Chester. A bad 33 yard Matt Bosher punt only made it to the 33.
  Under pressure, Wilson scrambled for a first down to the 46. Baldwin shook a Brian Poole tackle for another first down into Falcons territory at their 41. The elusive QB kept it for 11 more to the 30. The defense finally got him with a Jonathan Babineaux sack for a third and 16 at the 36. But  again under pressure, Wilson threw it up and into the hands of Ricardo Allen at the 9 who returned it to the Sea46. Starting to feel safe with a 16 point lead and just over 8 minutes to go. But, why not find a nail and pound it in the coffin.
  Toilolo got another catch for 18 to the 27. Coleman picked up six more on the ground. You could feel it in the air and the crowd could barely contain itself with another first down at the 15 with just under six and ticking. Continued to eat clock and yardage, Freeman took it to the 10. The nail was raised with a Sunu catch for a first and goal at the three. Sunu slammed it shut with a catch in the end zone for a 36-13 lead at 3:40.
  But the Seahawks tried to kick the coffin open as Hester took the kickoff 78 yards followed by a Baldwin 31 yard catch for a score just to keep everyone from resting easy. 36-20 with still 3:21 to go. Sunu put a dent in their dreams by pulling down an on side attempt at the Sea49.
  It appeared that no one had left wanting to take in the possible final three minutes of an old friend. A holding call moved the ball to the 44. Two ineffective handoffs to Freeman caused Carroll to take his second time out at 3:05.
  Seattle got the ball and hit a 58 yard bomb to Richardson to the 22. It was overturned as incomplete. The second successful Quinn challenge. The ball went back to the 20. Wilson hit for a first down at the 36. Then, the final seal in that coffin came with a Deion Jones interception to the 15. Freeman moved it for a first and goal at the two as the two minute warning finally arrived.
  All Ryan had to do was run out the clock. After making it to the half yard line, they could have punched it in. But, out of respect for his former team, Quinn chose to have his QB take a knee a few times to seal the deal.
   ''He stayed on exactly the same path he had during the regular season,'' said Quinn of Ryan who threw for 338 yards and three touchdowns. ''He was on it.''
  Fans were concerned about the health of Julio Jones, who had left the game early with a foot injury and did not return.
  However, Quinn said after the game there was "no concern at the moment," and that the star receiver could have returned if the game was closer. "Iíll have more information on that later, but itíll be sore. But heís certainly somebody thatís able to battle through. So, I anticipate him being ready to rock next week."
  The pattern of home teams dominating in this year's playoffs continued. The previous weekend, the four home teams had won by margins of 13, 18, 20 and 25 points. This one was 16 but it wasn't that close and could have easily been more.
  Atlanta is going to the NFC Championship Game for the fourth time in its history. Fans will be rooting for Green Bay to Beat Dallas. If that happens, the Georgia Dome gets one more game. If the Cowboys do as expected and beat the Packers, then the Falcons travel to Dallas next week one win away from the Super Bowl.
 

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