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Back to Atlanta, and on a mission
It’s with this mixed bag of residual emotions that the Seahawks will venture into the venue where their 2012 season ended for Sunday’s game against the Atlanta Falcons at the Georgia Dome.
It was in January – the 13th, in fact – when the Seahawks fell behind the Falcons 20-0 in their divisional playoff game here. Only to storm back and take a 28-27 lead with 31 seconds to play. Only to lose 30-28 on the field goal with eight seconds left in the game.
The Falcons had the best record (13-3) in the NFC last season, but are 2-6 this season. The Seahawks have the best record (8-1) in the NFC this season, but are not playing with the same swagger that became their trademark in winning seven of their final eight regular-season games last season and then posting the franchise’s first road playoff victory since 1983 with a wild-card victory against the Washington Redskins.
While Chancellor says he was over the loss to the Falcons the next day and already looking to this season, it’s obvious the image that lingers in the rearview mirror irritates him because the Seahawks went down playing zone coverage in overtime as Matt Ryan completed passes of 22 yards to Harry Douglas and 19 yards to Tony Gonzalez in setting up Matt Bryant’s 49-yard game-winner.
“I know as a secondary we were mad because we couldn’t play man coverage,” said Chancellor, the team’s strong safety. “We wanted to play man coverage on the two calls. I felt like we didn’t go down with a fight at the end because we sat back a lot.”
Baldwin also tried to look ahead, but admits it remains difficult to not look back at what could have been – a rematch with the NFC West rival San Francisco 49ers in the NFC Championship game – if the Seahawks offense had started faster and/or the defense had finished better.
“I’d probably be lying to you if I told you that we won’t be thinking about what happened last year,” said Baldwin, who is starting at flanker and second on the team with 29 receptions. “But at the same time, it’s a new season and we can only control what we can control – and that’s us focusing on us. So we go in there with the game plan we’re given, execute it, take advantage of the opportunities. That’s all we can control.”
Still, Baldwin said he was feeling frustrated as he walked off the field at the Georgia Dome in January – heading to the offseason, rather than a chance to play for the conference championship.
Wilson, the second-year quarterback, plays with blinders on – looking only ahead, rather than back. Not only from season to season, but game to game and even play to play. In fact, he retold the story this week of how he already was looking to the 2013 season as he walked up the tunnel at the Georgia Dome moments after the too-early conclusion to the 2012 season.
But even Wilson admitted, “Last year, obviously, was a crazy game. To come back against a really good football team in the Atlanta Falcons last year in the playoffs. … To be able to comeback in that fashion, with 30 seconds left. And then they come up with a huge field goal with basically no time on the clock. That’s a heartbreaker, especially when it ends your season.
“But at the same time, when I was on the field I was obviously very disappointed. But going through the tunnel I just realized how special our football team really is.”
Asked about gaining any added motivation because of any revenge factor, All-Pro cornerback Richard Sherman said, “No. We’re an 8-and-1 ball club; they’re a 2-and-6 ball club.”
But he also was frustrated on that Sunday afternoon in Atlanta back in January.
“Because we won,” he said. “We won and the score didn’t say we won.”
“You won?” Sherman was asked.
“Yeah, we won,” he said. “We won. The scoreboard said different. Just like everyone thought the Bucs won last week and the scoreboard said different. Funny how that works, right?”