Falcons vs. Seahawks: Live Reactions to Game's Biggest Stories
The Atlanta Falcons enter their Week 15 game with the Seattle Seahawks needing to win two of their next three games to lock up home-field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs.
Depending on what happens with St. Louis today, Seattle can move into first place in the weak, weak, weak NFC West. If the Rams win, the Seahawks will need to win to keep pace, and if the Rams lose and the Seahawks can win, Seattle will move into first.
The winner of the division, of course, will make the playoffs and automatically get a first-round home game.
Once the playoffs start, regular season records do not matter, as the Arizona Cardinal can attest to. They were 9-7 when they made their Super Bowl run, knocking off 11-5 Atlanta and 11-5 Carolina in the process.
Atlanta is 6-0 at home this year and 19-1 with Matt Ryan at quarterback in his career. Obviously, home-field would be huge for them.
New Orleans, second in the NFC South, is currently in a battle with Baltimore.
When the Rams and Saints finish play, I will be sure to update you on the details.
Keep it here for reaction to the most significant happenings as Atlanta travels to Seattle.
Matt Ryan threw for three touchdowns, leading his Atlanta Falcons to a 34-18 win over the Seattle Seahawks.
Atlanta is guaranteed a spot in the playoffs, the only team in the NFC that can say that, and will have a chance next Monday night to lock up the No. 1 seed in the NFC when they face New Orleans.
In fact, Atlanta needs to beat either the Saints or Carolina to lock up the top spot. They are right there.
For Seattle, they drop to 6-8 and remain tied with St. Louis for the lead in the NFC West.
It's no longer a question about whether or not we will have a sub-.500 team in the playoffs. It seems a near certainty with the 'Hawks traveling to Tampa next week and the Rams hosting San Francisco.
Seattle and St. Louis will also met in the last week of the season, the game that will likely decide who gets in and who's left out.
I'll be back with a more in-depth recap of the game shortly.
Charlie Whitehurst came into the game in the fourth quarter to replace Matt Hasselbeck and just led his team to a touchdown on an 89-yard drive.
Seattle was helped out by a roughing the passer penalty called on Atlanta's Kroy Biermann, but that does not take anything away from what Whitehurst did.
Whitehurst has not been good in his limited action this season, but Seattle needs to find out what they have in him, if anything.
Hasselbeck is clearly at the end of the road, and although they may make the playoffs this year, the team can't rely on him going forward for much longer.
It's possible Whitehurst will become the remainder of the season. This is somewhat unlikely, however, as Hasselbeck has experience in big games and Whitehurst does not.
Whatever happens the rest of the way, Whitehurst should be given a shot at the starting job next season. If he can keep having drives like he just did, he'll be a starting NFL quarterback.
The score is now 34-18 in favor of Atlanta with about eight and a half minutes left.
Brent Grimes, the Atlanta cornerback who stands at 5'10" (and many say that's being generous), is playing the position as good as anybody in the NFL.
In this game against Seattle, he has one interception and deflected a pass that became a William Moore pick.
Grimes also made the game-clinching interception at Tampa Bay a few weeks ago.
He went undrafted out of Shippensburg (where?), but those who have seen him play over the past few years know how great of an athlete he is.
In fact, coach Mike Smith believes he is the most athletic player on the team. That's saying a lot with players like Roddy White and John Abraham in the mix.
A season ago, he seemed to always be in good position defending the pass, but was unable to make plays on the ball often enough.
It's a completely different story this year, though, as the offseason work he did and the experience he's gotten over the past three years have made him an elite corner.
When I looked at the defense at mid-season, I thought the secondary was the weak link.
With the way Grimes and the rest of the guys are playing, I may need to rethink that.
Thomas Dimitroff became the Falcons GM prior to the 2008 season. His first order of business was finding a head coach, and he landed on Mike Smith, an unknown coordinator in Jacksonville.
He then brought in Micheal Turner, signing the free agent who was buried behind LaDainian Tomlinson in San Diego.
Then came the 2008 Draft. In that draft alone, the Falcons got their hands on Matt Ryan (thank you Miami and Kansas City), linebacker Curtis Lofton, left tackle Sam Baker and receiver Harry Douglas.
Ryan, Baker and Lofton have been starters ever since and Douglas was making an impact before suffering an ACL tear in training camp prior to last season. Douglas is coming on a bit more as the season goes on, beginning to make a full recovery from the injury.
Atlanta is well on its way to their first No. 1 seed since 1980, and it all started with the 2008 offseason.
By the way, the Falcons now lead 34-10 after forcing two interceptions and scoring 10 points off them.
Matt Hasselbeck was running a designed rollout in his own end zone. He was clearly out of the pocket as Falcon defensive lineman Jamaal Anderson was closing in on him in.
Now, most people watching know that what he must do in that situation is throw the ball away. Hasselbeck tried, for some reason, to make a play that was not there, lost the ball and Jonathan Babineaux of the Falcons recovered the ball for a touchdown.
It's plays like this that make the NFC West look like a complete joke. Hasselbeck is a veteran quarterback who absolutely cannot make that mistake. He knows much, much better.
Part of the reason he was in that situation was a terrific punt from Atlanta's Michael Koenen.
On his first action of the day, his punt took a beneficial roll and the Falcons pinned Seattle at their own four yard line.
Punters don't get much love, but I'll give Koenen some right here.
Matt Ryan hit Michael Jenkins with a 24-yard pass just before halftime to give Atlanta a 17-10 lead. He hung in there and took a big shot to deliver the strike.
After the first 30 minutes of play, the Falcons are starting to put their stamp on this game.
They have a time of possession advantage of 17:41-12:00, have run twice as many plays (44) as Seattle (22) and have a 168-104 advantage in total yards.
The Seahawks were able to move the ball on their first drive, but haven't done anything since then.
They have 47 yards rushing and just 57 yards passing. Atlanta's defense has had some trouble defending the pass this year. They've looked much better over the past few weeks, however, and the team may be peaking at the right time.
The Falcons will start with the ball in the third quarter. Seattle really needs to get a stop on that opening possession.
With the way Atlanta controls the clock and the flow of the game, falling down by two touchdowns in the second half could be a disaster for them.
Matt Ryan made a bad decision, forcing the ball to Roddy White in triple coverage. The Falcons have been very good all year about turnovers, but Ryan has thrown some interceptions in his last few games.
He's still young and learning, and I'm sure he'll make sure not to do that again.
The Seahawks took over at the Atlanta 27. Atlanta's defense locked down on them and forced a field goal and did not allow a first down.
Really since Seattle's first drive, the Seahawks have not been able to do anything on offense. They've been trying to hit some passes and have not been successful in doing so.
Despite being in contention for the division, they are rebuilding and the receiving corps are likely to be a point of emphasis in the offseason.
With the game tied at 10, the Falcons will be trying to score before the half. The Falcons will also be getting the ball to begin the second half.
Matt Bryant just hit a field goal to give the Falcons a 10-7 lead.
During the drive, Jason Snelling fumbled twice the ball bounced the Falcons' way. On the first fumble, receiver Brian Finneran was able to fall on it and retain possession.
On the second, the ball ended up rolling to Roddy White, who was actually able to pick up a first down on the play.
Atlanta would have liked to come away with a touchdown, but at least they were able to take the lead on Bryant's field goal.
The drive lasted 12 plays and took up over 12 minutes off the clock.
Atlanta's ability to sustain long drives is just one of the reason they are possibly the best team in the NFL. New England is the only team with an equal record and with New Orleans losing the Falcons are beginning to get some serious separation in the NFC.
As I've said before, if they can get home-field in the playoffs, they will be tough to beat. Matt Ryan has lost just once, in his rookie year, in the Georgia Dome.
Roddy White became the first Falcon receiver since Eric Metcalf in 1995 to catch 100 balls. He is also the first receiver in the NFL this year with that many catches.
He's playing better than any receiver in the league. He's been a little down lately, for him, but he's still at the top of the league in receptions and receiving yards.
I thought he might have a chance at the MVP award earlier this year, but then Tom Brady went nuts and it will be hard to take it away from him or Michael Vick.
On the Falcons last drive, they converted two fourth downs and tied the game at 7-7 on a Matt Ryan pass to Jason Snelling.
Snelling has missed the last two games with a hamstring injury. He's a good runner, but is at his best when coming out of the backfield as a receiver, as shown on his touchdown catch.
It's crazy that the first quarter featured just two total drives as both teams are in clock control mode.
With the New York Giants losing in dramatic fashion to the Philadelphia Eagles, the Atlanta Falcons have been assured of a spot in the playoffs.
There are no guarantees on seeding yet, but they will be there no matter what happens the rest of the way.
New Orleans and St. Louis also lost, dropping the Saints to 10-4 and the Rams to 6-8. If the Falcons can win this game they will have a two-game lead New Orleans in the NFC South and will have a chance to clinch the No. 1 seed next Monday night.
If the Seahawks come out on top, they will at least be .500 at 7-7 at the top of the West. If they lose, however, we will have a 6-8 team leading a division heading into Week 16.
Seattle took a 7-0 lead on their first drive and were able to move the ball rather easily. Atlanta is currently driving and attempting to tie up the score.