Maybe only the Seahawks get away with this: dominating, acting up, yielding — then reviving.
More accurately, maybe only the Seahawks are allowed to get away with it.
Richard Sherman, irate over a blown coverage, screamed on the sidelines Sunday at his coaches and his teammates. An injured veteran not even active for the game, Kam Chancellor, tried to calm down the three-time All-Pro cornerback. He failed.
One quarter after that bad look, Sherman tipped a pass that clanged off the hands of Atlanta receiver Julio Jones’ hands to Seahawks teammate Earl Thomas for a crucial late interception. Thomas said the gift came from “an angel.”
And the Seahawks rallied to get back the lead they’d given up. Steven Hauschka kicked a 44-yard field goal with 1:57 left, after he’d missed his first one of the season and had a tying extra point blocked.
Then Sherman got away with one.
Sherman broke up a fourth-down pass to Jones while grabbing the All-Pro receiver’s arm and pulling — before the ball arrived. That ensured that the Seahawks beat the Falcons, 26-24, at a rockin’ CenturyLink Field.
“An extraordinary job by our team,” said the man who did not bench Sherman — even for one play after his rant — but praised his passion, coach Pete Carroll.
“You saw those guys rally together to make sure to calm everybody down to get back to business. And look how we finished. I think the last four plays exemplified the heart, and the hang-in-there and the tough and all that stuff.
“It was awesome.”
Russell Wilson stayed calm through all the chaos. He completed 25 of 37 passes for 270 yards. Six of those completions went to Jimmy Graham, on nine targets, for 89 yards.
And the Seahawks (4-1) stayed on top of the NFC West heading into next Sunday night’s game at Arizona.
The wild victory was Wilson’s 50th of his career, against 19 losses. He reached 50 wins faster than any other NFL quarterback.
Matt Ryan completed 27 of 42 passes for 335 yards and three touchdowns — and the interception that shouldn’t have been — for the Falcons (4-2), who had won four consecutive games to take the lead in the NFC South.
Ryan’s last pass had Atlanta coach Dan Quinn, Seattle’s former defensive coordinator, getting restrained by assistants from storming the field. Quinn was arguing there should have been a pass-interference call on Sherman against Jones on fourth down with 1:30 remaining.
As Ryan scrambled from pressure, he threw deep across midfield to Jones. Before the ball arrived, Sherman pulled down Jones’ right arm. That left the Falcons star having to try a one-handed grab.
Jones almost made it, but the ball fell to the turf. Sherman and Thomas celebrated. The home crowd made the press box shake.
Asked if he felt like he got away with one on that final play, Sherman said: “No. I feel like we won the game.”
Jones disagreed. Shocker.
“Before he took off he grabbed my right side and spun me around before I jumped up,” Jones said. “It was just a missed call.
“It’s over with. It’s done. We are on to the next right now.”
The Seahawks looked doomed with 4 minutes left. After Christine Michael’s 1-yard touchdown run cut Seattle’s deficit to 24-23, Atlanta blocked Hauschka’s point-after try.
Ryan had Atlanta moving to midfield yet again. But then Jones allowed the ninth pass his way to go off his All-Pro hands.
Sherman tipped the ball back to Thomas for the most well-timed turnover of the Seahawks’ season so far.
“It was one of those ‘Angels-in-the-Outfield’-type plays,” Thomas said. “You didn’t see the angel — but the ball popped into my hands.”
The free safety was magical all day. His two, huge hits in both halves — which separated Falcons from balls on third downs — ended Atlanta drives.
Wilson, still playing on a sprained knee and ankle, then made his most ridiculous, improvisation play of the month. Maybe season.
On third-and-3 outside the edge of field-goal range, Wilson got pressured by three Falcons. Just before he got drilled, he flipped the ball about 5 yards to Alex Collins, after the rookie running back missed his block.
Instead of fourth down at midfield while down by a point, Seattle had a first down at Atlanta’s 33. Three plays and seven yards later, Hauschka kicked his fourth game-winning field goal in six seasons with Seattle.
“That’s what I wanted,” Hauschka said. “Especially if some plays don’t really go your way earlier in the game, you really want that redemption.
“Not many teams are like this. There’s just mental strength throughout the locker room here that keeps us in these games. And it starts with coach Carroll. ...
“That’s how we are able to pull out games like this.”
The much-anticipated faceoff between Sherman and Jones had everything — including Sherman fighting with his coaches and teammates on Seattle’s sideline immediately following Jones’ 36-yard touchdown catch that cut the Seahawks lead to 17-10 early in the third quarter.
Sherman was not covering Jones on the play. The Falcons had Jones inside and sent him outside behind a teammate’s slant. Jones got free behind Kelcie McCray, the strong safety because Chancellor was inactive with a groin injury he got in Thursday’s practice.
“Kelcie hasn’t been in the defense long, and we tried to make an adjustment,” Sherman said. “Just a miscommunication.”
Sherman said it was a presnap audible call on which the defense had worked all week, that the Seahawks expected that route combination near the goal line from Atlanta.
Jones, the league’s leader in yards per catch (21.5) coming in, finished with seven catches for 139 yards. Four of those catches and 45 yards came when Sherman was covering him.
Seattle’s ensuing offensive drive was a poorly timed three-and-out when Wilson’s pass was too high for an open Tyler Lockett.
Atlanta moved 79 yards swiftly on the next drive to tie the game at 17-17 on Ryan’s 10-yard touchdown pass to Mohamed Sanu in front of McCray and inside cornerback DeShawn Shead. Sherman said that was just a good play by Sanu. No blown coverage.
Seattle’s offense continued to betray its defense during the Falcons’ uprising. Michael failed to get a first down on third-and-1, running left at the Atlanta 45. Seattle punted from there.
Starting at their 3-yard line, the Falcons went 97 yards like Seattle was the 32nd-ranked defense, not the league’s No. 1. Tight end Levin Toilolo got way open behind Sherman down the left sideline for a 46-yard catch and score.
Atlanta led 24-17 as quickly as you can say, “Richard Sherman boils.”
“They scored on blown coverages,” a still-simmering Sherman said after the game.
The Falcons gained 252 yards to Seattle’s 29 and outscored the Seahawks 21-0 in the third quarter. Yet Seattle still won.
On Sunday, the Seahawks’ fortune was as big as their fortitude.
“Without a little rain, there is no harvest,” Wilson said, his latest one of a steady stream of one-liners.
“I think the will to win, that’s what we have.”
Gregg Bell: @gbellseattle