If Matt Bosher is a religious man, he should thank whatever higher power he prays to that he did not cost his team, the Atlanta Falcons, their home date for the NFC Championship with the San Francisco 49ers.
Bosher and the Falcons survived a withering comeback from the Seattle Seahawks to win 30-28 in the NFC Divisional Playoffs. Bosher, though, came much closer to giving the game away than any Falcons fan would care to remember.
In fact, Bosher's second-half kicking game was so sketchy, the Falcons will have to account for it in their game plan for the 49ers.
In the first half of the Falcons' thrilling, gut-check victory, a win that took Matt Ryan off the "can't win the big one" list until further notice, Bosher was not particularly busy. He hit three of his four kickoffs for touchbacks, and he held Matt Bryant's field goals and extra points successfully.
So far, so good. But he had not punted yet, and with the Falcons cruising 20-0 in the Georgia Dome, it seemed possible that he would not have to.
In the second half, though, when the game's momentum began turning, Bosher was called upon to punt twice.
Both times, he hit 42-yard line drive kicks straight down the center of the field to the Seahawks' dangerous return man, Leon Washington. One of the punts bounced 10 yards in front of where Washington was waiting for it, straight into his arms.
Bosher's two second-half punts netted an average of 30 yards, and neither one helped the Falcons swing the field-position battle back into their favor as the 20-0 halftime lead evaporated and then eventually disappeared.
Bosher got a clean hold down on Bryant's game-winning field goal, the importance of which cannot fairly be understated. Ask Tony Romo how easy it is to get a hold down on a kick in the playoffs if you are unfamiliar with that.
Then, incredibly, with the Falcons clinging to a 30-28 lead with eight seconds left, Bosher did the unthinkable.
Bosher's squib kick was mishit so horribly, it struck one of the Seahawks' up men and gave Seattle the ball on their own 46-yard-line with six seconds left.
In other words, plenty of time for Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson to hit a 20-yard pass and set up a potential game-winning field goal from veteran Ryan Longwell.
Bosher was bailed out when Wilson checked down to a six-yard pass, setting up the Hail Mary that Julio Jones intercepted to ice (sorry) the victory for the Falcons.
It never should have come to that, though.
If Bosher, a second-year pro, had hit his punts with authority, or placed his squib kick more accurately, the Seahawks may not have had either time or an opportunity to steal the game at the end.
Think it doesn't matter, that this is a lot of words about nothing?
The early line from thespread.com has the Falcons as a three-point underdog at home against the 49ers. Field position will be beyond important if the Falcons hope to beat the odds and earn a trip to the Super Bowl.
The punter has a lot to do with that.
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