SEATTLE — Only 23 seconds were needed to deflate the elated.
The Seattle Seahawks had scored 21 consecutive points to take a one-point lead over the Atlanta Falcons on the road during their NFC divisional playoff game last season.
Noting the final seven points of the 21-point run, the official play-by-play read: “M.Lynch right guard for 2 yards, TOUCHDOWN.”
The capitalization used in play-by-play listings was fitting in this case. It was an emphatic, soul-stirring touchdown.
That made the Falcons’ field goal 23 seconds later to beat the Seahawks, 30-28, and end their season such a throat punch.
“That’s a heartbreaker,” Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson said.
Sunday, the Seahawks will try to do what they couldn’t last season and win at the Georgia Dome against the Falcons (2-6).
The playoff loss is lodged in Seahawks coach Pete Carroll’s brain, where he stores other high-end disappointments.
“Well, I’ve always had certain games that I don’t want to forget because they kind of keep me going, and this is one of them,” Carroll said.
Considering how little time was left in Atlanta, that defeat has sidled up next to USC’s 2006 Rose Bowl loss to Texas. Carroll’s Trojans had won 34 consecutive games before Vince Young’s touchdown with 19 seconds to go pushed the Longhorns in front.
The loss to the Falcons sticks with safety Kam Chancellor for a different reason.
Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan completed two consecutive passes — one for 22 yards then another for 19 — putting the Falcons in field-goal range at the Seattle 31 on their final drive. Matt Bryant’s 49-yard field goal was good with 8 seconds remaining.
“Just mad,” Chancellor said of his feelings walking off. “Mad … as a secondary I know we were mad because we weren’t in man coverage. We wanted to play man coverage on the last few calls.
“Felt like we didn’t go down with a fight at the end because we sat back a lot. That was probably the only thing that was going through my head.”
Cornerback Richard Sherman had similar feelings.
“Frustration — frustration because we won, we won and the score didn’t say that we won,” Sherman said. “We won, and the scoreboard said differently. Just like everyone thought the Buccaneers won last week, but the scoreboard said differently. It’s funny how that works, right?”
Last week’s reversal, when the Seahawks came back from a 21-0 hole at home, showed a change.
In 2012, Seattle didn’t close games late, particularly on the road. Arizona scored with less than five minutes remaining to win the opener. Detroit scored a touchdown with 20 seconds to play. Miami kicked a field goal as time ran out.
Then, of course, the Atlanta playoff game.
“That was kind of the exclamation point of it, that we let some games get away,” Carroll said.
This season, outside of the loss to Indianapolis, the Seahawks have pushed past opponents in the fourth quarter. They won in overtime after massive fourth-quarter rallies against the Houston Texans and Tampa Bay.
In downtown Atlanta on Sunday, less drama is expected. The Seahawks are one of four road teams favored to win this weekend.
The counter to that is the Bucs entered CenturyLink Field 0-7, and the Seahawks had several problems before winning in overtime. St. Louis was 3-4 when Seattle had to stop the Rams on a fourth-and-goal play from the 1-yard line to win.
Those wins reside on a separate, happier list for Carroll. He hopes to add a simpler victory Sunday.
SEATTLE SEAHAWKS (8-1) AT ATLANTA FALCONS (2-6)
10 a.m., Georgia Dome
TV: Ch. 13. Radio: 710-AM, 97.3-FM.
The series: Seattle leads, 8-5. The last time the teams met in the regular season (Oct. 2, 2011), the Seahawks lost, 30-28, in Atlanta.
What to watch: The Seahawks are just trying to find a rhythm. Each week, they win. Each week, there are numerous problems in the process. The newest is an inability to stop the run. Sunday, they will face the league’s worst rushing attack, though the Seahawks will be without defensive end Red Bryant. Seattle has plenty of depth to make up for Bryant’s absence. The Seahawks also have problems on the offensive line this week, once again going down three starters. Center Max Unger will not play after experiencing concussion symptoms last Sunday. Capable backup Lemuel Jeanpierre will start in his place. Seattle is on the road and in another situation where it’s a heavy favorite. Maybe this is the week it plays a complete game and offers up a blowout of an inferior team.
The pick: Seahawks, 34-17.
No. Name, Pos., Ht., Wt., Year
3 Russell Wilson, QB, 5-11, 206, second
Wilson was banged around last week but says he feel “great.”
24 Marshawn Lynch, RB, 5-11, 215, seventh
Seahawks will want him to keep rolling.
61 Lemuel Jeanpierre, C, 6-3, 301, fourth
Jeanpierre is back in at center because Max Unger is out.
89 Doug Baldwin, WR, 5-10, 189, third
After a couple of drops early last week, he had a strong performance with Sidney Rice out.
99 Tony McDaniel, DT, 6-7, 305, eighth
McDaniel will be part of the group to help replace Red Bryant, who is out because of a concussion.
No. Name, Pos., Ht., Wt., Year
21 Desmond Trufant, CB, 6-0, 190, first
Ex-UW star from Wilson High is already Atlanta’s best corner.
39 Steven Jackson, RB, 6-2, 240, 10th
Jackson will try to get the league’s worst running game going.
50 Osi Umenyiora, DE, 6-3, 255, 11th
Falcons’ sacks leader could have a good day against Seattle’s backup tackles.
84 Roddy White, WR, 6-0, 211, ninth
White is dinged up but is expected to play this week.
88 Tony Gonzalez, TE, 6-5, 247, 17th
Old Man River still has it.