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SEATTLE -- A showdown between two of the NFC’s best teams lived up to its billing, with the Atlanta Falcons mounting an impressive second-half comeback to take the lead, only to have the Seahawks snatch the victory away in the fourth quarter.
Here are five rapid reactions from the Seahawks’ 26-24 victory that improved their record to 4-1:
1. That third quarter was rough.
The Seahawks dominated the league’s No. 1 offense in the first half, holding the Falcons to a single field goal and 86 yards of total offense. Atlanta responded in a big way, however, piling up 252 yards and three touchdowns in the third quarter alone on their way to a 24-17 lead, while Seattle’s offense gained two first downs and 29 yards. To make matters worse, Pro Bowl defensive end Michael Bennett left the game with a knee injury.
2. The fourth quarter finish was impressive.
After taking the Falcons’ best shot in the third quarter, the Seahawks responded very well in the fourth quarter. The defense got a much-needed stop thanks in part to a Cassius Marsh sack, then the offense marched 70 yards for what appeared to be the tying touchdown. That Christine Michael run didn’t end up tying the game, however, because the Falcons blocked the extra point, meaning Seattle’s defense had to come up big again. It did just that when Earl Thomas intercepted a Matt Ryan pass that bounced off the hands of Julio Jones and Richard Sherman. The offense did enough with that turnover to get into field goal range, and Steven Hauschka shook off an earlier miss and the blocked extra point to drill the go-ahead field goal from 44 yards out.
Needing one more stop to preserve the lead, the defense didn’t allow a single first down, with Thomas, DeShawn Shead and Sherman all making plays in coverage to force a turnover on downs.
3. Earl Thomas had a huge game.
With his fellow Pro-Bowl safety Kam Chancellor out of the game with a groin injury, Thomas seemed to take it upon himself to play an even more physical brand of football than usual. Thomas made a number of big—and clean—hits to separate Falcons receivers from the ball, none more important than the pass breakup he had on Atlanta’s final possession. Thomas finished the game with three passes defensed in addition to the interception.
4. Cliff Avril is building more houses in Haiti.
Seahawks defensive end Cliff Avril announced last week that he would fund the construction of a new house in Haiti for every sack this season. Avril, whose parents are from Haiti, assured that two more houses will be built thanks to a big first quarter in which he sacked Ryan once to force a fumble that set up a touchdown, then again on Atlanta’s next possession. Avril now has a team-high four sacks this season.
5. Joey Hunt, fullback?
With the Seahawks looking to pound the ball in from the 1-yard line in the fourth quarter, they unveiled a new and rather unique goal-line package. In addition to bringing on J’Marcus Webb as an extra lineman, with Garry Gilliam reporting as an eligible tight end, the Seahawks also used rookie center Joey Hunt as a fullback. The strategy worked, as Michael was able to find a crease and dive into the end zone.