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Falcons Storm Past Seahawks Into NFC Championship – Divisional Recap

Falcons Seahawks Recap Evan Gearing via


The Atlanta Falcons booked their spot in the NFC Championship game and moved a step closer to their Super Bowl dreams with a convincing 36-20 victory over the Seattle Seahawks at the Georgia Dome on Saturday.

Their opponent will be the Green Bay Packers, who held off a late comeback from the Dallas Cowboys to win 34-31 on Sunday.


It’s a testament to how good the Falcons’ offense has been this year that scoring 36 points against one of the best defenses in the league can be considered par for the course. No team has scored more points against the Seahawks this season, and the Falcons ended the game with Matt Ryan taking a knee in the red zone.

Ryan’s work in the offseason looks to have paid off. With the complexities of Kyle Shanahan’s scheme having been mastered, he has a confidence in his receiving corps that wasn’t there last year and it’s paying dividends. With 8 receivers making catches, the Seahawks struggled to cope.

One of the key areas in Ryan’s improvement has been his ability to avoid pressure. He’s no longer a statue in the pocket having to deal with big hits behind a substandard offensive line. While Pro Football Focus noted that Jake Matthews struggled on occasion, allowing a sack, a hit and a hurry, it’s a solid unit that affords Ryan a level of comfort and complements his improved ability to avoid pressure and roll out of plays to throw on the run.

Despite being limited with a toe injury, Julio Jones consistently got the better of Richard Sherman in the 1st half, finishing the game with 6 catches for 67 yards and a touchdown. He might be limited as a deep threat when not completely healthy, but he’s still powerful and an incredible route runner. While there were a couple of occasions during the season when his hands let him down, he looks to have returned to his usual self, reeling in any ball that comes his way.

In Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman, the Falcons have potentially the most well-rounded and dynamic backfield in the league and they delivered again with a series of big plays. Following on from a season that saw him struggling with fumbles, Coleman has developed into a reliable receiver and red zone threat with the burst to break a big play at any moment.

Freeman excels in every phase of the game and looks to have benefited from the reduced workload, being named to his second consecutive Pro Bowl. On a big third down conversion he looked to have an almost telepathic understanding when he found Freeman with a delicate lob moments before a blitz got to him. Freeman juked his way past Steven Terrell on his way to 53 yards on the play, putting kicker Matt Bryant firmly within field goal range.


The defense looks to finally have an identity. They hustle, they work hard, they’re fast and they’re physical. While they struggle to generate consistent pressure and suffer lapses in coverage on occasion, the speed at which they play and the high-scoring nature of the offense presents them with playmaking opportunities.

Expected to take another step in his second season at the position, free safety Ricardo Allen looked overwhelmed early in the year and it looked as if the Falcons would find themselves prioritizing the position in the offseason. In the second half of the year, however, he’s looked much more confident and assured. His late interception was symbolic of the player that he has become – his instincts combining with his natural leadership and willingness to take control when needed.

While it has so often been Keanu Neal who has set the tone with his hard-hitting style, undrafted rookie Brian Poole showed why he continues to see playing time at nickel cornerback. With the Falcons leading 29-13, Russell Wilson looked to scramble on third down to keep the drive going. Poole had different plans, however, lighting Wilson up short of the marker with a huge hit in front of his joyful teammates on the sideline.

After taking home the award for most sacks in the regular season, fans would have been forgiven for thinking that Vic Beasley would feast on a poor Seahawks offensive line. Instead, it was a trio of role players who stepped up, with Brooks Reed and Jonathan Babineaux getting to Wilson.

Perhaps the biggest momentum shift came from backup offensive lineman Ben Garland, though. Garland, who played defensive tackle in college, has seen a handful of snaps in that position throughout the season. While he isn’t going to get a full-time role, he’s shown an ability to penetrate that has earned him more looks. Lining up against third round guard Rees Odhiambo, he capitalized on Wilson being tripped, exploding into the backfield and sacking him for a safety.

Losing defensive end Adrian Clayborn, who has arguably been the team’s best defensive lineman, to a torn bicep will hurt when it comes to slowing down Aaron Rodgers, who has been performing exceptionally in the last few months. They Falcons will hope that they can get more consistent play from the likes of Brooks Reed, Ra’Shede Hageman and Courtney Upshaw in order to force him out of his comfort zone.


After a nervy opening drive in which the Seahawks moved the ball at will on their way to a Jimmy Graham touchdown, the Falcons looked the better team. After gaining the lead, they were rarely in any danger of losing it and were able to take their foot off the gas late in the game.

Special teams coach Keith Armstrong will be unhappy at the way that former Falcon and future Hall of Fame returner Devin Hester was able to make big plays and will surely have addressed it in meetings, but the damage was eased considerably by costly penalties incurred by the Seahawks and the Falcons were able to get away with it.

Up next for the Falcons is the last ever game in the Georgia Dome and a chance for Matt Ryan to show why he’s in the running for MVP as they square off with Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers.