Matt Ryan, Falcons Hold Off Seahawks 34-31 as Blair Walsh Misses Game-Tying FG

Scott Polacek@@ScottPolacekFeatured ColumnistNovember 21, 2017

SEATTLE, WA - NOVEMBER 20:  Kicker Blair Walsh #7 of the Seattle Seahawks makes a 37 yard field goal during the third quarter of the game against the Atlanta Falcons at CenturyLink Field on November 20, 2017 in Seattle, Washington.  (Photo by Steve Dykes/Getty Images)
Steve Dykes/Getty Images

The Seattle Seahawks experienced the losing side of a Blair Walsh missed field goal Monday.

Walsh, who famously missed a potential game-winning kick as a member of the Minnesota Vikings in a January 2016 playoff showdown with the Seahawks, came up short on a game-tying attempt in the final seconds of Monday's 34-31 loss to the Atlanta Falcons at CenturyLink Field.  

His 52-yard kick had the accuracy but bounced in front of the crossbar, giving Matt Ryan and the Falcons their third win in their last four contests.

Atlanta is still looking up at the 8-2 New Orleans Saints and 7-3 Carolina Panthers in the NFC South, but it is right in the thick of the playoff race with this recent spurt at 6-4 and tied with the Seahawks and Detroit Lions in the wild-card battle.

The win didn't just give the visitors a tiebreaker with Seattle. It also snapped the Seahawks' 11-game winning streak on Monday night and ended Russell Wilson's perfect 6-0 Monday record.

While Walsh will draw the headlines, Seattle's defense struggled against an Atlanta offense loaded with playmakers.

It was always going to be an uphill battle with cornerback Richard Sherman out for the season with a ruptured Achilles and safety Kam Chancellor out with a neck injury, and things became even worse when the Seahawks announced cornerback Shaquill Griffin was evaluated for a concussion after leaving on the game's first drive.

The typically vaunted defense was nowhere to be found for much of the contest with so many missing pieces, as the Falcons scored touchdowns on their first two drives and never trailed. Tevin Coleman scored the first touchdown from a yard out, and Mohamed Sanu scored the second with a terrific catch on a drive that also featured a head-turning grab by Julio Jones.

With his weapons making plays, Ryan completed 19 of 27 passes for 195 yards, two touchdowns and zero interceptions while leading the Falcons to five scores on eight possessions (excluding kneel downs).

He joined his receivers on the highlight reel after Atlanta saw its commanding 21-7 lead trimmed to 24-20 with a perfectly placed 25-yard touchdown pass into the waiting arms of Levine Toilolo on his first possession of the second half.

Ryan's counterpart couldn't overcome the Falcons' final touchdown on the strike, but Wilson still impressed with 258 passing yards, 86 rushing yards, two touchdowns through the air and one on the ground.

Wilson received little help, as J.D. McKissic's 30 rushing yards paced Seattle's group of backs. His offensive line also consistently let him down and forced him to scramble and evade pressure, while Ryan was sacked just once. It is a testament to Wilson's individual ability he was sacked only three times, but one proved crucial in the loss.

Seattle's offensive line—which Football Outsiders ranks a mere 21st in the league in pass blocking—allowed Takkarist McKinley and Courtney Upshaw to burst into the backfield and sack Wilson and force a fumble, which Adrian Clayborn recovered and returned for a touchdown to put the Falcons ahead by two scores in the second quarter.

While Wilson helped make up for Atlanta's defensive touchdown with scoring strikes of his own to Jimmy Graham and Doug Baldwin, his interception to Desmond Trufant set up the Falcons' second score.

Still, he put his team in position to force overtime with Walsh's missed kick. His connection with Baldwin and the ensuing two-point conversion to Graham made it 34-31 with three minutes remaining, and he managed the clock on his final drive to set up the field-goal attempt.

Walsh's kick wasn't the only special teams gaffe for Seattle, as a failed fake field goal at the end of the first half cost what could have been three critical points if converted.

The silver lining for the Seahawks is the fact they have the opportunity to immediately bounce back in Week 12 against the 1-9 San Francisco 49ers. Atlanta will have a winnable game as well against the 4-6 Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

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