Seahawks vs. Falcons: Seattle's Biggest Winners and Losers from Playoff Loss
So close, but yet so far.
Seattle battled back and almost pulled off a stunning victory despite a complete inability to put points on the board in the first half.
It was a season in which the Seahawks arguably exceeded expectations, but fans will still walk away from this loss knowing that victory was in Seattle’s grasp.
Here are some of the key winners and losers from Seattle's disappointing playoff loss.
Winner: Russell Wilson
Admittedly, the gutsy QB could not get the offense going in the first half, and Seattle dug itself a very large hole.
However, there is a reason that fans have grown to love this tough rookie named Russell Wilson.
Statistically, Wilson had an excellent game, particularly in the second half. He completed 24-of-36 passes with 385 yards through the air and two touchdowns. He also ran for 60 yards.
Wilson will have an interception in the box score, but that is one of those numbers that needs an explanation, as he was picked off on a Hail Mary to end the game.
As usual, Wilson showed no fear. He kept grinding until the very last moment of the game. The future is bright for this young quarterback.
Loser: Pete Carroll
This is honestly a tough call because Pete Carroll and John Schneider rebuilt this team essentially from scratch. Along the way, both men were subjected to constant criticism, and many of their moves were scrutinized.
Carroll has made a living this season by being aggressive and not shying away from tough challenges.
Unfortunately, Seattle had some opportunities to get points in the first half, and it chose to stay aggressive. You could argue that this came back to bite the Seahawks at the end of a close game.
Instead of kicking two field goals, the Seahawks were blanked in the first half. How much better would the score have looked at 20-13 or 27-20 instead of 20-7 and 27-14?
Clock management was also very questionable in the final two minutes of the game. The Seahawks got the score, but they also let a lot of time tick off the clock.
I don’t blame Carroll for the timeout on the final kick. I think every coach would have done that.
Yes, the Seahawks battled back and almost pulled off a miracle. However, I have to argue that Seattle could have put itself in a better position earlier in the game.
Winner: Zach Miller
How big was Zach Miller in this game?
The talented tight end finished with eight catches for 142 yards and a touchdown. Miller made the most of his opportunities, as Wilson targeted him nine times.
For a runner like Wilson, a good tight end can be a huge asset once the QB gets outside the pocket and is looking for mid-range receivers.
Miller had an impressive 17.8 yards per catch in this game, and this could be a relationship that only grows over the next couple of seasons.
Miller has made some clutch catches in the last few weeks, and today was no different.
Loser: The Fans
This is the double-edged sword of being a sports fan.
Seattle is left for dead at halftime, but somehow claws its way back to take the lead with less than a minute in the fourth quarter.
The fans are suddenly hopeful. Can it be? Will this team miraculously pull out the victory? Is this truly a team of destiny?
Suddenly, the Falcons are on the 50, and Seattle fans have gone from jubilation to somber reality.
This is not going to end well.
The tough part of this playoff run is that Seattle did not have an opportunity to host a home game and use the full power of the CenturyLink Field crowd.
Next year, right?
Winner: Bobby Wagner
One of the brightest spots on the defensive side of the ball was Bobby Wagner, who has quickly become a leader on this young, athletic defense. Wagner finished with eight tackles to go along with a deflected pass and a first-quarter interception.
It isn’t unusual for a linebacker to be a leading tackler on your team, but Wagner has turned out to be a gem of the 2012 NFL draft. The second-round pick out of Utah State has turned heads this season, and he should be a key part of this defense for the next few seasons.
Look for Wagner and K.J. Wright to continue being a dynamic duo in the linebacking corps in 2013.
Loser: Marshawn Lynch
Fans had to be a little nervous when they saw the practice schedule of Marshawn Lynch this week.
Or, should we say, lack thereof?
Lynch struggled to get going in this game, finishing with 16 carries for 46 yards and a touchdown. He did have a great catch to set up the final touchdown and was able to punch it in (the fumble notwithstanding), but he just wasn’t the same bruising back that we have seen all season
Give Lynch credit for fighting hard until the very end, even if he wasn't 100 percent.
Beast Mode was not in full effect against Atlanta, but Lynch has had an incredible season.
Now, it is time to rest the back and get ready for 2013.
Winner: Defense (4th Quarter: 3 Possessions)
The vaunted Seattle defense did not exactly look dominant in the first half, as Matt Ryan was able to put 20 points on the board and make fans wonder if this might be a blowout.
Seattle gave up drives of 54, 61, 68 and 88 yards in the first half.
In the second half, the defense gave up another long drive. This time, it was 80 yards, and Atlanta held onto the ball for almost eight minutes.
In the fourth quarter, though, everything changed, and the defense looked dominant again.
In the first three drives of the quarter, Atlanta only had four, three and four plays, respectively. The three drives managed a total of 28 yards, and they ended in two punts and an interception.
For the second straight game, Earl Thomas made a quarterback pay.
If only the defense could have held on for one more drive.
Loser: Defense (4th Quarter: Last Possession)
Speaking of one more drive, what happened on that last possession? The defense that was so tough earlier in the final quarter allowed Matt Ryan to go right down the field and set up the game-winning field goal.
That is a very tough way to lose, particularly when you look at how the defense totally shut down the Atlanta offense throughout the fourth quarter.
Granted, the defense was dominant throughout the quarter, and it gave Russell Wilson and the offense an opportunity to win.
The unit just needed one more stop. Just one more.
But it was not meant to be.