*The Falcons concluded their three-game road stretch with their third-straight win, a 34-18 victory over the Seattle Seahawks. Atlanta started slow, but as the first half progressed they did a lot of things right, leading to a third quarter performance put the game out of reach for the Seahawks and allowing the Falcons to improve to 12-2 on the season. The win keeps them on the path toward home-field advantage for the playoffs, a berth clinched on Sunday. *
SEATTLE — All season long the Atlanta Falcons have searched for the perfect game, a game that combines the strengths of their team in a dominant expression of what they're truly capable of.
Though Sunday's win over the Seahawks still wasn't the complete game the Falcons have sought, they managed to improve in an area, something they've been successful at doing in many weeks as the season has progressed.
On Sunday Atlanta put together a third quarter that was near perfect--especially on defense--that allowed them to take control of the game and build on the 17-10 lead they began the second half with. Their play in the third quarter came off the momentum they established just before the half.
With the game tied at 10 and just over two minutes remaining before the break, the Falcons' offense took over on their own 20 and strung together a 13-play, 80-yard drive, culminating in a 24-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Michael Jenkins.
The drive left no time for Seattle to respond and with Atlanta receiving the ball to begin the second half, it put them squarely in the driver's seat.
"It was huge for us," head coach Mike Smith said. "We knew going in when we got the ball we wanted to try to score because we knew we would have the ball to start the second half. We felt like if we could at least get the ball to the 35-yard line, that was the line to make for the field goal attempt, if we could at least get three out of it, it would really help us. It was a great throw and a great catch by Michael Jenkins. Getting that touchdown right before the half was really big for our team and taking that momentum into the third quarter."
In the third quarter, Atlanta put the game away, controlling the ball for over ten minutes with the defense taking the ball away from the Seahawks on three straight possessions, all resulting in scores.
The Falcons punted the ball away after their first possession and a Michael Koenen punt pinned Seattle inside the five-yard line. On the first play, defensive end Jamaal Anderson chased down quarterback Matt Hasselbeck in the end zone, dragging him down for a sack and forcing a fumble that defensive tackle Jonathan Babineaux recovered.
"I was on the open side and the tight end motioned over," Anderson said of the sack. "He gave me a halfway block and tried to release. My job was to contain Hasselbeck and I did that. With my size I don't think he was able to see anybody. I was able to get a hand on the ball and knock him down. Babs was able to pick it up. I think it took the heart out of that team. We came back the next drive and had another turnover. We just kept it up the whole game. I think that was the dagger in the heart for them."
The defensive touchdown gave Atlanta a 24-10 edge and on the following drive cornerback Brent Grimes brought down his fifth interception of the season. The turnover resulted in a Matt Bryant field goal and safety William Moore continued the string of takeaways with his fifth interception as well on the next Seattle drive.
With the quarter winding down, the Falcons took Moore's interception and turned it into seven more points on a five-yard touchdown pass to receiver Roddy White, giving them a 34-10 lead.
As the Falcons put up 17 points in the third quarter on offense, they limited the Seahawks to 11 total plays and only two first-down conversions. During that string of possessions, Atlanta's defense held Seattle to 16 total yards of offense.
After a first drive that saw the Seahawks play Atlanta's brand of ball-control offense, scoring a touchdown on a 12-play, 80-yard drive, the Falcons offense and defense answered the call from that point on, resulting in a third quarter that was as impressive as any quarter of football they've played all season.
"I thought we were kind of sleepwalking through that first drive," Smith said. "We didn't start with the kind of energy that we needed. From that point on I thought they played very good. The three drives in the second half that ended with turnovers was huge for our football team."