published Monday, October 3rd, 2011

Atlanta survives Seattle scare

SEATTLE -- Matt Ryan was left with that stomach-churning, helpless feeling.

After doing everything right in a brilliant first half, Atlanta's star was stuck standing on the sideline and watching Seattle line up for an unlikely field goal that would cap a massive Falcons meltdown.

Ryan threw for 291 yards and a touchdown and came up with key scrambles all day to keep Atlanta's offense moving. But he had to wait out Steven Hauschka's miss of a 61-yard attempt with 13 seconds left as the Falcons escaped with a 30-28 win over the Seahawks on Sunday.

"When you're not on the field and have to watch the defense go down, it's always nerve-racking," Ryan said.

Atlanta badly needed a victory to keep up with everyone else in the loaded NFC South. The Falcons nearly let a 27-7 lead slip away over the final 28 minutes.

"I'm sure as you watch the highlights through tonight you're going to see there were a number of teams that had similar leads and had maybe different outcomes, but you never have enough points on the board in the National Football League," Atlanta coach Mike Smith said. "Any lead can turn back at any time, and again I think that they did a very good job in there in the second half. It was a tale of two halves, and we were fortunate enough to win."

Ryan picked apart Seattle's secondary in the first half. Michael Turner bulled his way for a pair of touchdowns, and Atlanta's defense kept the Seahawks floundering when they had the ball. Ryan hit on 13 of his first 15 attempts and had 164 yards passing by halftime.

Turner had touchdown runs of 21 and 1 yards, Tony Gonzalez caught a 1-yard TD on Atlanta's opening possession, and Matt Bryant kicked three field goals, the second of which gave Atlanta a 27-7 lead early in the third quarter.

Rookie Julio Jones caught 11 passes for 127 yards.

But the biggest plays for Atlanta came after Seattle trimmed the lead to 30-28 on an 8-yard touchdown pass from Tarvaris Jackson to Ben Obomanu with 8:13 left.

Atlanta didn't get points on the drive but converted three times on third down. One came on a penalty and another on a completion to Gonzalez. But the biggest conversion came with 4:05 left when Ryan ran for 10 yards.

The first down ran an extra two minutes off the clock before Atlanta was forced to punt, and Seattle was forced to take over with 1:49 remaining at its 15 with just one timeout remaining.

Ryan finished with another 26 yards rushing -- more than Seattle starting running back Marshawn Lynch -- and the Falcons were 9-of-16 on third down.

"You have to do what you have to do. Certainly not the way that we design things or not my intention when the ball is snapped," Ryan said. "Sometimes that's the way it shakes out. A couple of times in the second half Seattle had really good coverage and guys locked up and fortunately they don't have a spy or anything like that for me."

Jackson threw for a career-high 319 yards and had his first three-touchdown game since throwing four TDs at Arizona in December 2008.

Atlanta gave up 234 yards of offense to Seattle in the second half.

"A few games started off good, but we've got to be able to finish, and this game came close," Atlanta's John Abraham said. "[It] should have been, not saying a breeze, but it should have been a little more comfortable at the end."

When he took over with 1:49 left, Jackson quickly got Seattle near midfield. The Seahawks caught a break with 41 seconds to go when referee Walt Anderson was buzzed to review the previous completion to Doug Baldwin and stopped the clock.

Sidney Rice was later flagged for a false start. The 5 yards proved huge, as a completion to Zach Miller got Seattle to the Atlanta 43 with 16 seconds remaining, but Jackson was hurried on third down and threw incomplete.

Instead of going for it on fourth down, Seattle coach Pete Carroll sent out Hauschka for a 61-yard attempt that was short and wide left.

Hauschka's career long is 54 yards.

"It was definitely makable, but it was a tough kick. It was into the wind. It wasn't real warm out there so the ball wasn't going as far as it could," Hauschka said. "At altitude or in warm weather, that's a different kick than it was today. It was definitely makable, and I'm glad we got a shot to win the game there at the end, and the next time we'll make it."

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