The playoff win that almost wasn't
I don’t know what will happen next Sunday, or Super Bowl Sunday if they make it that far, but I can tell you this about the Falcons - it’s never going to be easy.
Sunday’s game against the surging, red-hot Seahawks appeared to be a laugher. All week long the pundits were discounting the achievements of the 13-3, top seeded Falcons and anointing Seattle’s young upstarts as the team to beat. The Falcons built a sizable lead against the Seahawks and looked dominant. The crow sandwiches the pundits were looking at around halftime must have looked very unappealing.
And then Seattle, which apparently had finally adjusted to East Coast time, woke up and the Falcons were in full on - “Let’s not do anything to blow this” mode and they almost blew it.
I admit I was jumping off the bandwagon during the long, drawn out train wreck of a collapse. I was watching the social media sites blow up with remarks about the Falcons and chipped in with a few bon mots of my own (Vomit Rise Up!). The strangest thing happened though - and if you watched the game you saw it too - the Falcons were given enough time to have a (slim) chance at the end.
My wife was sitting beside me while I was watching the end of the game. She doesn’t know much about football and doesn’t really care. She looked at the screen at one point during my tirade of muttering and asked about what was going on.
“There’s 30 seconds left and then the Falcons are going to lose,” I said. “They had a 20 point lead and they blew it.”
Then I cheered. The Falcons were moving down the field. One more first down and they could conceivably kick a field goal.
They got it. I was waiting for Pete Carroll and the Seahawks to call a timeout to ice the kicker Matt Bryant and they did, after he was already in motion. This was great because he missed with the kick that didn’t count. I knew then that he would straighten it out and the Falcons would regain the lead.
I don’t know why they kicked an onside kick after the field goal. Perhaps it was to give the Falcons fans one more rollercoaster-like combination of nausea and euphoria. The result was that Seattle would have one chance for a Hail Mary pass, much like the one that led to them beating Green Bay earlier in the season. The pass connected with our own Julio Jones and Atlanta moved on.
This week everybody and their mama will anoint San Francisco as the favorites to advance to the Super Bowl. They will point to Atlanta’s inability to put Seattle away and they will point to San Francisco’s dominant offense that put up a ton of points on Green Bay this week and New England a few weeks ago. I am advising Falcons fans to be cautiously optimistic. The pressure for a playoff win is off their backs. San Francisco is beatable. Seattle’s quarterback Russell Wilson played well against the Falcons (incredible in the second half) but the Falcons won. If they can hold Colin Kaepernick, the 49ers quarterback, in check next Sunday, the Falcons may be going to the Super Bowl as possibly the first top-seeded underdogs in each round of the playoffs.
As each week of the playoffs has shown, it is hard to predict what will happen. Everybody who had Denver and Green Bay in the Super Bowl will have to wait until next year (and they’ll be disappointed then too).
Whatever happens next Sunday, you can be sure it will be a heck of a ride. You may want a barf bag next to the couch though.