Matt Ryan arrived in Atlanta in 2008, along with Mike Smith and his coaching staff, at the time. While there was plenty of success for that duo, the biggest knock on them both was the lack of postseason success. The Falcons went to the playoffs three out of Ryan’s first four years in Atlanta but they lost those games by a combined score of 102-53. Pretty bad, huh?
Luckily, in 2012, things took a turn for the better. Atlanta was already a powerhouse when it came to regular season success, but that success had yet to translate into the postseason—until Jan. 13, 2013. The Seattle Seahawks made a trip to Atlanta with a trip to the NFC Championship game on the line. Seattle won 11 games that season and they had just dispatched the Washington Redskins in the Wildcard round of the playoffs.
Atlanta, meanwhile, had a first-round-bye after winning 13 games that season but was still feeling immense pressure to generate some success in the playoffs. That’s exactly what happened. The Falcons beat the Seahawks 30-28 in Atlanta after a Matt Bryant field goal with eight seconds left buried the Seahawks and gave Atlanta its first win in the playoffs since 2004.
Matt Ryan was 24-of-35 with 250 yards, three touchdowns, and two interceptions, while Michael Turner and Jacquizz Rodgers combined for 162 yards on 24 carries—including Rodgers’ run when he trucked Earl Thomas into oblivion. However, the Falcons were outscored 28-7 in the second half until Bryant’s field goal, and were dangerously close to blowing a 20-point halftime lead and adding to their postseason woes. They kept it closer than it should have been but they came away with a win in the lone postseason meeting between Seattle and Atlanta.
What the game meant
This game was really the biggest achievement of the Mike Smith era in Atlanta. The Falcons made it to the NFC title game for the first time since Mike Vick was the quarterback in Atlanta, and, while they would lose that game in painful fashion, the Falcons had plenty of momentum going into the 2013 season. Unfortunately, we all know what happened in 2013 and 2014.
The Falcons felt like legitimate contenders for the first time in a while after this game. They had the playoff monkey off of their back and they seemed primed for a Super Bowl run. While that didn’t happen immediately after the 2012 season, it still provided great experience for some key members of the Atlanta team—namely, Matt Ryan and Julio Jones.
For Atlanta, the game ended up meaning a little less than we initially thought, but it was a major step for a franchise that had yet to see meaningful success since Michael Vick.
For Seattle, it meant exactly what people thought it would. The Seahawks quickly learned from their mistakes against Atlanta, as they went on to win the Super Bowl in 2013. Seattle going toe-to-toe with a team like Atlanta was a sign that they could compete in the postseason, but it also showed that the combination of Pete Carroll and Russell Wilson was as potent as many feared. After this game, the Seahawks went on to play in two straight Super Bowls, winning one and losing the other.
The 2012 game against Atlanta was the last step for the Seahawks in their journey to becoming a dominant force in the NFC and the NFL.
Where are they now
Clearly, the Seahawks and Falcons went on opposite paths after that 2012 playoff game. While the Seahawks were winning and competing for Super Bowls, the Falcons were going a combined 10-22 in 2013 and 2014.
However, since Dan Quinn’s arrival, the Falcons have been steadily improving and are once again hosting the Seahawks in the divisional round of the playoffs. Atlanta is 11-5 while Seattle is 10-6 with a playoff victory against the Detroit Lions under their belt.
The Falcons and Seahawks met earlier this season in Seattle when the Falcons played the Seahawks as well as any team has played them at Century Link Field, but they ultimately came up short, losing 26-24 after some late-game fireworks fell short for the Falcons.
Now, though, the Falcons are primed for revenge when the game really counts. The Falcons are currently favored by 4.5 points and finally seem to be close to fully healthy for the first time since the bye week.
The Seahawks offensive line has started to play well and they are beginning to find their running game again, but the Seattle defense is a far cry from the vaunted Legion of Boom that won the Super Bowl in 2013. If this game has the feel of the biggest game in Atlanta since the 2012 NFC title game, that’s because it is. Atlanta is looking to go 2-0 in the postseason against the Seahawks and make its first trip to the NFC title game in a good while.
The Seahawks and Falcons play Saturday, Jan. 13 at 4:35 p.m. EST in Atlanta. The game will be shown on FOX and broadcast on 92.9 The Game in Atlanta.
How do you see this one going? Do the Falcons win the game and send Seattle home? Let us know in the comments.