The NFL Playoffs opened back up when the Divisional Championship Round began, with the Seattle Seahawks visiting the Atlanta Falcons in the Georgia Dome. The Falcons entered the game as the Southern Division Champion with an 11-5 record, while the Seahawks went 10-5-1, winning the West Division title. Pre-game odds-makers picked the Falcons as a 6.5 point favorite to win the game.

Atlanta (with the #1 offense in the league) often defers the ball to their opponent as they did in this game. With their high-powered offense, the Falcons hoped the Seahawks would start slow on offense, allowing the Atlanta defense to force a punt.

If that was to happen, Atlanta had every confidence they could score, forcing the Seahawks to almost immediately play from behind.

Wilson no match for Ryan

Seahawk quarterback Russell Wilson had other plans. Slow and methodica like a typical Seattle grinding offense, Wilson took the Seahawks down the field, scoring on a seven yard touchdown pass from Wilson to tight end Jimmy Graham. Over eight minutes had ticked off the clock before Atlanta ever touched the ball. Falcon quarterback and MVP candidate Matt Ryan showed why opposing teams fear the Atlanta offense on the Falcons first drive of the game.

Ryan took his time, marching the Falcons down the field with a good mix of runs to passes. The end result: a seven yard touchdown pass to Julio Jones.

Two drives with over a quarter of the game gone, and each team had only had the ball one time. With the score tied 7-7, playoff football was looking good. In what some say is the last NFL game in the Georgia Dome.

Smash-mouth football

The atmosphere of game appeared that it would continue to be a close, hard-fought battle until the end.

Head Coach Pete Carroll and his Seahawks have had great success in recent years slowing games down to a grind. The Seahawks then impose their will on their opponents. The Seahawks have won a Super Bowl, and have lost a Super Bowl in the Carroll era, playing hard-nosed football.

The second quarter seemed to bog down into Seattle style of football.

Following an Atlanta safety of Wilson, the Falcons added a field goal to take a 12-10 lead with six minutes left in the first half. Seattle’s offense quickly went three and out, giving Atlanta back the football on the Atlanta one yard line. Seahawk fans were hoping for some defensive magic, but they did not get it.

Two long drives by the Falcons

That 99 yard touchdown drive at the end of the first half gave the Falcons a 19-10 lead, and fundamentally changed the outcome of this game. Quite possibly this drive changed the future of the Seahawks team. While Seahawk smash-mouth football might work if you have a Marshawn Lynch, and your opponent is right in front of you. Not having Lynch to hand the ball off to probably will not work.

The first half ended 19-10 with Atlanta leading. Atlanta got the ball first to start the second half, Ryan and the Falcons drove down the field, scoring a touchdown to go up 26-10. The Falcons just went 99 yards, and then 75 yards on consecutive drives for touchdowns. No longer was the Seahawk defense bigger, faster, and tougher than their opponent.

Ryan too good for Seattle

The teams traded points in the 4th quarter until the clock ran out, with the Falcons holding a 36-20 advantage. The loss possibly ended the Seahawks “Legion of Boom” for Pete Carroll and his players. The Falcons are obviously a team on the way up. The offense is a machine, the defense is getting better every game, and Matt Ryan is a clear choice going forward to be the MVP of the NFL.