January 14, 2013

NFC playoffs: Falcons thwart comeback

Atlanta’s Matt Bryant kicks the winning field goal with 8 seconds left after Seattle rallies from a 20-point deficit.

By PAUL NEWBERRY The Associated Press

(Continued from page 1)

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Falcons kicker Matt Bryants (3) celebrates after kicking a 49-yard field goal with 8 seconds left to give Atlanta a 30-28 win over the Seattle Seahawks in Sunday’s NFC divisional playoff game.

Photos by The Associated Press

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Atlanta quarterback Matt Ryan (2) shook off losses in his three previous playoff games, making two key passes in the final 31 seconds to set up Matt Bryant’s winning kick.

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According to STATS, it would’ve been the greatest fourth-quarter comeback in NFL playoff history.
Not so fast.

Ryan led the Falcons back, wiping out his 0-3 mark in the playoffs, including a crushing loss to Green Bay two years ago when the Falcons were in the same position as the NFC’s top-seeded team.

“The one thing I’ve learned during my five years in the league, and specifically in the postseason, is that it’s hard,” Ryan said.

Now, he’ll no longer be asked why he can’t win in the playoffs.

“That’s going to be nice,” Ryan conceded. “But our goal is not to win one playoff game. Our goals are still in front of us. We still have two more games to go. That’s the mind-set I have. That’s the mind-set this team has.”

Wilson’s last throw, a desperation heave into the end zone, was intercepted by Falcons receiver Julio Jones.

Gonzalez, who had never won a playoff game in his 16-year career, broke down in tears after Bryant’s kick went through the uprights.

“I’ve never cried after a win,” said Gonzalez, who has stated repeatedly that he’s “95 percent” sure this is his final year. “I was thinking, ‘Here we go again. I guess it wasn’t meant to be.’”

It was.

The Falcons finally lived up to their excellence during the regular season since Smith, Ryan and General Manager Thomas Dimitroff took over in 2008, instantly reviving a franchise that seemed down and out after Michael Vick’s dogfighting case. Atlanta has won 56 regular-season games over the last five years, more than any team except New England, but had a reputation for choking in the postseason.

Check that off the list. Atlanta is one win away from the second Super Bowl appearance in franchise history.

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Atlanta Falcons tight end Tony Gonzalez, right, celebrates his touchdown with Harry Douglas in the first half of Sunday's NFC playoff game against Seattle at Atlanta.


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