18 January, 2017
"They've got a lot of momentum", Carroll said of the Falcons.
The Seattle Seahawks "12th man" flag flutters atop the Space Needle and in view of downtown Seattle after being raised minutes earlier atop the iconic structure, Friday, Jan. 13, 2017.
An Atlanta Falcons fan cheers as the team.
The 36-20 win in the divisional round gives the Falcons a place in the NFC championship game for only the fourth time in their 51-year history.
The Seahawks (11-6-1) couldn't follow up a dominating win over Detroit in the opening round, the game turning dramatically on a holding penalty in the second quarter that wiped out Hester's return to the Atlanta 7.
The Seahawks won't have veteran safety Earl Thomas in this matchup which will be a difference maker that Ryan will easily exploit.
The Falcons lived up to their billing as the highest-scoring team in the National Football League to the delight of their Georgia Dome fans as they advanced to next Sunday's NFC championship game. Quinn had been a trusted defensive assistant under Carroll, serving as the Seahawks' defensive coordinator before getting the Falcons' top job before the 2015 season. "We don't take that for granted". The Falcons defense also finished the game with a safety.
Recalling a controversial 26-24 loss at Seattle earlier this season - a loss highlighted by an apparent pass-interference violation on Seattle's Richard Sherman as he attempted to defend Julio Jones that somehow missed the officials' probing eyes - Atlanta coach Dan Quinn said: "It was going to be about (protecting) the ball".
Hester, 34, seemingly turned the game around in a big way on Saturday, returning this punt for a touchdown in the second quarter (watch here). His career postseason passer rating of 85.2 is eight full points lower than his regular-season rating, in large part because his key playoff numbers (nine TD passes against seven interceptions) pale in comparison to his regular-season figures (240 TD passes against 114 interceptions). "He puts it in all of the right spots".
The likely NFL MVP, Ryan passed for 338 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions as he continued to shine in Kyle Shanahan's dynamic offense.
Matt Ryan and the Atlanta Falcons are off to the NFC title game.
"It was pretty cool considering the circumstances, too, with the game in hand", Ryan said. "I feel like I'm playing my best", he said, "better than I ever have". Along the way he completed passes to 10 different receivers and the running back tandem of Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman combined for 102 rushing yards. Vegas oddsmakers liked the Falcons' chances of closing the Dome with a win, as they opened as four-point favorites, a line SN's David Steele figured they'd barely cover.
Beat Seattle with its hard-hitting secondary and relentless up-front pressure combination of Michael Bennett and Cliff Avril, and Ryan's MVP status - even though the balloting already has closed - will look legitimate.
"I don't care if it was a 95-yard drive or if it was an 80-yard drive or if it was a 60-yard drive".
That playoff game is the only victory in five tries for Ryan. If they can come close to running the ball as well today as they did last week then this game will come down to the wire.