Falcons ground Seahawks in NFL playoffs
Atlanta's Tony Gonzalez celebrates the win over Seattle. Photo: Getty Images
The top-seeded Atlanta Falcons ended upstart Seattle's run by holding off the Seahawks in the fourth quarter for a 30-28 win in the National Football League playoff quarter-finals on Sunday.
Matt Bryant kicked the game-winning 49-yard field goal with eight seconds remaining as the Falcons blunted a second-half surge by the Seahawks to advance to the National Football Conference championship game.
"I never cried after a win before," said Falcons veteran receiver Tony Gonzalez. "For us to come back the way we did. I am so proud of our guys. We knew they would make a run. I am so happy."
Matt Bryant kicks the game-winning field goal. Photo: Getty Images
Quarterback Matt Ryan tossed three touchdown passes en route to his first playoff victory for the Falcons who blew a 20-point fourth-quarter lead.
Heading into the game, Atlanta had lost its last four playoff contests.
Running back Michael Turner carried the ball 14 times for 98 yards and fifth-year Falcons quarterback Ryan threw for 250 total yards.
Ryan had lost his first three playoff games.
Atlanta, the No. 1 seed in the NFC, will host one of two NFL semi-final games next weekend against the the NFC West champions, the San Francisco 49ers.
The Falcons hope they can ride the home crowd at the Georgia Dome to their second Super Bowl appearance.
Seattle rookie quarterback Russell Wilson looked poised to continue his Cinderella run Sunday but his sensational season ended with Bryant's field goal.
Wilson finished 24-of-36 for a playoff team record 385 yards with two touchdown passes and one interception. Wilson also rushed for 60 yards and a touchdown on seven carries.
The loss snapped the Seahawks' six-game win streak.
Marshawn Lynch finished with 46 yards and a touchdown on 16 carries for the Seahawks, who have lost their last four NFL playoff quarter-final games.
The last time the Falcons advanced to the league semi-finals was in 2004, when Jim Mora was the head coach and Michael Vick was the quarterback.
Ryan took over as the face of the franchise four years ago after disgraced quarterback Vick went to prison for his role in a dog-fighting ring.
But Ryan had come up empty in each of his three playoff appearances since then.
Ryan had a superb regular season in which he threw for a team-record 4,719 yards with 32 touchdown passes.