Seattle Seahawks rookie quarterback Russell Wilson pulled off the greatest playoff comeback since 1957 ... and lost.
Down 20-0 at halftime, Wilson led touchdown drives on three straight possessions, then once more with just 31 seconds left in regulation. He was brilliantly elusive, yet remarkably calm, highly accurate, in, out of and around the pocket. He made every single right decision; he escaped pass rushers to run for first downs when he should have been sacked, checked down to running backs and threw the ball away when he knew nothing was there. All in all, Wilson amassed nearly 450 yards of total offense, three touchdowns and zero turnovers, not counting the last-second hail mary attempt. The fact that he gave Seattle the lead, 28-27, is not only preposterous, but historic. The only time a team came back from 20 points down at halftime was the 1993 Buffalo Bills.
Unfortunately for the Seahawks, the story of Sunday's game against Atlanta was its defense. More specifically, one that failed to show up. Give Matt Ryan, Julio Jones, Roddy White and Michael Turner credit: they were terrific. But the Seahawks defense, with the top-ranked scoring margin in the NFL, was almost unrecognizably putrid during vital moments of the 30-28 defeat. All-Pro cornerback Richard Sherman -- who was actually solid for most of the game -- got beat deep for White's 47-yard touchdown in the second quarter. Brandon Browner, a Pro Bowler last season, was repeatedly torched by Jones, and nobody could cover in nickel. Turner -- who almost lost his starting gig to Jacquizz Rodgers -- scampered for a seven-yard per carry average, his highest total of the season. Yet, Seattle's defense has been playing with fire all year. For all the talk about how dominant it's been, it ranked dead last in third-down QBR allowed when on the road (per ESPN).
Instead of staying in man coverage, as it did for almost the entirety of the second half, Seattle -- thanks to defensive coordinator Gus Bradley -- elected to revert back to zone during Atlanta's final possession. Zone, if you recall, was its first-half staple; you know, the same one that led them to a three score deficit. Without pressure and given massive throwing lanes, Ryan marched his offense 41 yards for Matt Bryant's game-winning, 49-yard field goal. It wasn't just easy; it was almost like the Seahawk corners weren't even on the field.
As bad as that was, what may have been worse was Seattle's shocking lack of efficiency in the red zone during the first half. Having two short opportunities inside the five and not letting Marshawn Lynch touch the ball baffles even the most basic football fan. Such a decision is much more questionable than going for it on fourth down.
Of course, Wilson almost made all of that angst go away when he orchestrated what should have been the game-winning, 61-yard Tom Brady-esque drive, a drive in which he looked like a veteran savant, not a rookie third-round draft choice. Maybe that will be the takeaway for Seattle going into the offseason -- and it surely shouldn't be forgotten, nor should the fact that this is the second-youngest team in the league. A bright future awaits it, but that does not excuse what took place Sunday. The Seahawks should have won this game and rewarded Wilson for his herculean effort. Instead, their season is over.
Nothing can change that.
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