ATLANTA An hour after the Seattle Seahawks painful 30-28 loss to the Atlanta Falcons, finished by Matt Bryants 49-yard field goal in the final seconds, Red Bryant was still seething.
This is going to make us tough, Bryant said. Its going to make us hungry. Well be looking forward to next year, and well come out of the gate swinging. We know what type of team we are, and we know what it takes to win.
So weve got to swallow this one, and hopefully well be back next year. And be able to go farther.
The road loss in a divisional playoff game spoiled Seattles hopes for a rubber match with division rival San Francisco in the NFC title game.
Instead, the Falcons will play host to the Niners on Sunday for the right to represent the NFC in the Super Bowl.
The Atlanta kickers late-game theatrics overshadowed another masterful performance by Seattle rookie quarterback Russell Wilson, who rallied his team just as he has done all season. The Seahawks fell behind for a second straight week, this time trailing 20-0 at halftime the teams largest deficit of the season.
But coach Pete Carroll said there was no panic from his players at halftime.
I cant imagine that anybody expected that we were going to have a chance to get back into that game, except for the guys in that locker room, he said. And they knew we were going to have a chance to get back into that game. They felt it the whole time.
Wilson threw for 250 of his career-high 385 yards in the second half, leading the Seahawks on four touchdown-scoring drives of 80, 80, 62 and 61 yards.
Wilson finished with 24 completions from 36 passes, two of them for touchdowns, and one meaningless interception at the end of the game. The performance surpassed the franchise record for passing yards in a postseason game.
Wilsons mark eclipsed Matt Hasselbecks 341 yards passing against St. Louis on Jan. 8, 2005.
He also broke the NFL mark for postseason passing by a rookie, set in 1937 by Sammy Baugh (335).
Wilson started the go-ahead drive with three minutes to go and Seattle down 27-21. The Seahawks started on their own 39, and in four quick plays, he had Seattle in scoring position.
Marshawn Lynchs 2-yard touchdown run, followed by a Ryan Longwell go-ahead extra point, gave the Seahawks a 28-27 lead with 31 seconds to play.
But as Seattle had done against Arizona, Detroit and Miami in the fourth quarter of regular-season games, the defense couldnt make it stand.
The Falcons got a big return from Jacquizz Rodgers out to the 28. Then Atlanta quarterback Matt Ryan connected with receiver Harry Douglas for a 22-yard gain on a sideline route, putting the Falcons at midfield.
On the next play, Ryan found tight end Tony Gonzalez down the middle for 19 yards, putting the Falcons in field-goal range at Seattles 31.
Carroll called a timeout to ice the kicker, but it had no effect. Matt Bryant drilled the winner with 13 seconds to go, giving Mike Smith his first playoff win as a head coach to snap an 0-for-3 skid.
I think everyone in this locker room felt the pressure and to not play our best in the third and fourth quarter and come back and win is something, it was huge, Atlanta center Todd McClure said. If anyone in here tells you any different theyre lying the quarterback and head coach had to be feeling it the most.
The Falcons will play for the NFC title for the third time in franchise history. And Ryan earned his first playoff win in five seasons.
Ryan threw for 250 yards on 24-of-35 passing. He threw three touchdowns passes and two interceptions. The Seahawks did a decent job of limiting Atlantas three playmakers: tight end Tony Gonzalez (six catches for 51 yards), and receivers Julio Jones (6 for 59) and Roddy White (5 for 76, including a 47-yard touchdown).
However, the Falcons surprisingly leaned on their running game, gaining 167 yards the most rushing yards Seattle allowed since a 24-21 loss in Week 12 at Miami (189 rushing yards).
Michael Turner finished with 98 yards on 14 carries, and Rodgers totaled 64 yards on 10 carries.
We tackled so poorly against both guys, Carroll said. We had a whole thought of getting underneath (Turner) because hes such a monster of a body youve got to tackle him low and get him at the legs. And he kept blasting through us. And Jacquizz did the same thing a couple times.
Eric D. Williams: 253-597-8437