SEATTLE — Once the Seattle Seahawks finished yelling at each other, Russell Wilson was given an opportunity at another fourth-quarter comeback.
As has become expected, Wilson delivered and made any internal strife among the Seahawks a secondary story.
Steven Hauschka’s 44-yard field goal with 1:57 remaining capped the 20th career fourth quarter or overtime comeback for Wilson, and the Seahawks pulled out a 26-24 win over the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday.
Seattle’s third straight win came only after seeing Matt Ryan blitz the Seahawks for 21 third-quarter points and watching cornerback Richard Sherman erupt on the sideline at his own teammates, angry about blown coverages that led to two of Atlanta’s three touchdowns.
But when the fourth quarter came around, it was Wilson’s turn.
“Fortunately we did well early, had a really nice first half and then came back when we needed to in the fourth quarter to get the stops we needed to get it done and the one kick we needed to make,” Seattle coach Pete Carroll said. “A really difficult game, but I’m fired up.”
Wilson led a 70-yard drive that was capped by Christine Michael’s 1-yard run with 4:47 left, but a blocked extra point by Ra’Shede Hageman still had Seattle trailing 24-23.
Seattle then got a needed big play from its defense. Ryan’s pass slipped through Julio Jones’ hands, was tipped in the air by Sherman and eventually landed in the arms of Earl Thomas, giving Seattle possession at midfield with 3:48 remaining. It was the first time in the game that Jones was targeted and didn’t make the catch.
Seattle stalled at the Atlanta 26. This time Hauschka was perfect after missing a 29-yard attempt earlier in the fourth quarter, the result of a bad snap.
Ryan was incomplete on his last four throws, including a breakup by Sherman on a long pass to Jones on which the Falcons screamed for a pass interference flag.
“Before I took off, he grabbed my right side and spun me around before I jumped up,” Jones said. “It was just a missed call. It’s over with. It’s done. We’re onto the next one.”
Wilson was 25 of 37 for 270 yards. Michael had two touchdown runs and rookie Alex Collins added his first NFL touchdown on a 2-yard run.
Atlanta’s top-ranked offense was stymied by the league’s best defense for a half, only to rally in the third quarter and nearly pull off a sweep of Denver and Seattle.
Seattle dominated the line of scrimmage in the first half, hitting Ryan eight times, sacking him three times and holding the Falcons to 86 total yards. Which made what happened in the second half a shocking turnaround.
Ryan finished 27 of 42 for 335 yards and three touchdowns. He hit Jones for a 36-yard score on the first drive of the second half; found Mohamed Sanu on a 10-yard TD; and later connected with Levine Toilolo on a 46-yarder as the Falcons rallied from a 14-point halftime deficit to lead 24-17 going to the fourth quarter.
Jones had seven catches for 139 yards and was shadowed for much of the game by Sherman. Jones was targeted five times in 35 plays where Sherman lined up across from him.
“It was frustrating to give up two bogus touchdowns,” Sherman said.
RYAN’S THIRD QUARTER
Ryan’s quarter was stunning. He was 13 of 17 for 220 yards and three TDs. Since the start of the 2014 season, the Seahawks have held 25 teams to less than 220 yards passing for a game.
It helped that Ryan got two huge chunk plays on blown coverages. The first was Jones’ 36-yard touchdown catch , and later Toilolo’s 46-yard TD catch on a similar play.
Sherman lost his cool on the Seattle sideline following Jones’ TD catch early in the third quarter. Sherman was unable to control his emotions and was screaming at coaches and teammates. Thomas, Bobby Wagner, Michael Bennett and injured Kam Chancellor all took turns trying to calm Sherman.
“It’s just emotions. Emotions sometimes get high,” Wagner said. “He’s a very passionate dude. But we love him.”
Seattle was without Chancellor (groin) and defensive end Frank Clark (hamstring). Then Bennett hyperextended his right knee on the play when Sanu caught his touchdown pass to tie the game at 17. Bennett was cut-blocked by Jake Matthews and eventually limped to the locker room. Bennett returned to the sideline midway through the fourth quarter, but did not re-enter the game.
“If you’re big in the NFL, you just line up and play. Why do you have to cut somebody?” Bennett said.
Tight end Luke Willson also injured his right leg on Michael’s late touchdown.
For the first half it looked as if it would be a struggle, but Ryan continued his streak of throwing for at least 200 yards in 44 straight road games. Ryan had just 83 yards passing in the first half, but threw for 252 yards in the second half.
“I thought we responded really well in the second half and continued to battle. We just didn’t finish the way we wanted to,” Ryan said.