No one knew quite what to expect when the red hot Seattle Seahawks rolled into town. The Falcons were rested with a first-round bye after losing the final game of the regular season.
With the frenzied dome crowd behind them the Falcons continued to make big play after big play in the first half, jumping out to a 20-0 lead.
Atlanta took their first possession for a field goal and forced a three-and-out of Seattle, but a Matt Ryan interception seemed to stall the Falcons a bit as they pursued more points on their second drive. Once all that happened, the Falcons seemed to settle into their game plan, one that was heavy on the run, and turned in some good work during the first half as they search for the first playoff win under head coach Mike Smith.
Sean Weatherspoon forced a fumble after a hit on Marshawn Lynch and the flood gates began to open. Following the turnover, the Falcons confidently drove the field, ending an eight-play, 61-yard drive with a touchdown to Tony Gonzalez. The future Hall of Famer made the grab at the back end of the end zone, narrowly getting his toes in bounds for the TD. The Gonzalez score came after two of the bigger plays of the first quarter to get the Falcons into range. Roddy White converted a third-and-14 situation with a 16-yard grab and then the seldom-used Chase Coffman took in a 16-yarder of his own to put the Falcons on Seattle's 1-yard line before the Gonzalez score.
Against the 10th-ranked run defense in the league, Atlanta's running game, a phase that was quiet for much of the season, dominated the first half. The Falcons got 133 rushing yards from Michael Turner and Jacquizz Rodgers and each had some impressive runs. Turner led the team with 66 yards and Rodgers added 61. Outside of some of the scoring plays from the Falcons, Rodgers gave the raucous Georgia Dome crowd one of the greatest plays they've seen this season.
On the last play of the first quarter, Rodgers took a handoff and ran through, over and around numerous Seattle defenders as he gained 45 yards swiftly. It was the longest run of the second-year running back's career and it set a field goal by the Falcons.
The excitement didn't end with the Rodgers run. The Falcons stopped Seattle on a fourth-and-1 attempt from the Atlanta 11-yard line to hold on to the first-half shutout. In his first game back after missing the final five of the regular season, William Moore knifed through the line to stop fullback Michael Robinson for the turnover on downs.
With the ball back in their hands, the Atlanta offense began to take the momentum and use it to go deep down the field. Ryan hit Roddy White for a 47-yard touchdown, connecting with the receiver as he stepped into the end zone to extend the Falcons' lead to 20-0. The touchdown reception by White was his third career postseason TD, tying him for the franchise lead.
Atlanta's defense controlled Seattle's efforts on offense for much of the first quarter, coming up particular big on third downs and inside the redzone. The Falcons held Seattle to 1-of-5 conversions on third down and 0-for-2 inside the red zone. While the Falcons only sacked Seattle QB Russell Wilson once, they got pressure to him repeatedly and kept Seattle from running the game plan they want. They held the Seattle running game to 58 yards, including just 27 from Lynch.