Falcons survive Seattle rally in thriller

Sun Jan 13, 2013 7:34pm EST
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(Reuters) - The top-seeded Atlanta Falcons needed a last-minute field goal to claim a nerve-jangling 30-28 win over the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday despite squandering a 20-point lead in an exhilarating fourth quarter.

Atlanta will now host the San Francisco 49ers on January 20 in the National Football Conference championship game with a berth in the Super Bowl on the line.

Matt Bryant's 49-yard field goal with eight seconds to play put Atlanta ahead after the visiting Seahawks turned the game around in astonishing fashion with three touchdowns in the final quarter, almost pulling off one of the greatest National Football League playoff comebacks.

After trailing 27-7 at the end of the third, Seattle grabbed a one-point lead with 31 seconds left in the game but Bryant's kick undid all that work.

"All in all it was an extraordinary game," Seahawks coach Pete Carroll told reporters.

The Falcons had lost their last three playoff games and the tension at the end was too much for Atlanta's veteran tight-end Tony Gonzalez in his 16th season in the league and having never won a playoff encounter.

"I was on the ground sobbing like a baby," said Gonzalez, who had insisted this would be his final attempt to reach the Super Bowl.

"I thought it was over. I've played 16 years and I thought ‘here we go again,' especially with that big old lead, I guess it's just not meant to be," Gonzalez said.

It was a remarkable comeback attempt from Seattle, which would have been just the fourth time a team overcame a 20-point deficit in the post-season.   Continued...

Atlanta Falcons kicker Matt Bryant (R) kicks the winning field goal with holder Matt Bosher to defeat the Seattle Seahawks in their NFL NFC Divisional playoff football game in Atlanta, Georgia January 13, 2013. REUTERS/Chris Keane