Defense gives up 21 points in third quarter, but holds in the end with a turnover when Falcons looked in control

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Richard Sherman snapped and then the Seahawks bent.

But just when what was one of the oddest third quarters of this or any season appeared ready to break them, the Seahawks somehow pulled it all back together.

And the way Russell Wilson saw it later, the stormy third quarter might almost have made this victory mean a little bit more.

“I always say this, but without a little rain there is no harvest,” Wilson said after the Seahawks scored twice in the final 4:43 to pull out a 26-24 triumph Sunday over the Atlanta Falcons at CenturyLink Field. “That’s the truth. Sometimes you are going to face some adversity, face some storms in games and in life. But the great ones overcome those situations.’’

Even if the storms on this day looked largely self-created.

Sherman blew up at coaches and teammates after miscommunication led to a 36-yard Julio Jones touchdown for Atlanta in third quarter, a period when the Falcons scored three consecutive touchdowns to turn a 17-3 halftime deficit into a 24-17 lead heading into the fourth quarter.

While Sherman spent much of the day covering Jones, he wasn’t on that play, when he said an audible was called before the snap changing the coverage (Sherman ended up covering tight end Austin Hooper).

“It was just miscommunication,’’ Sherman said. “Kelcie (McCray, starting at strong safety with Kam Chancellor out with a groin injury) hasn’t been in the defense that long and we tried to make a new adjustment and just miscommunicated. Frustrating play.’’

Sherman threw his helmet on the ground, and angrily stalked on the sideline yelling at anybody and everybody for minutes, despite several attempts to calm him.

While Sherman stewed, the rest of the defense seemed to fall into a slumber for a while, allowing drives of 79 and 97 yards as Atlanta quarterback Matt Ryan threw for 220 yards in the third quarter alone.

“I think there was some impact,’’ Seattle coach Pete Carroll said of the sideline unrest. “Guys were upset. We had to get through it.’’

But as Carroll quickly added: “We did.’’

Not, though, before a few more hairy moments — and maybe a little good fortune.

First, normally-reliable kicker Steven Hauschka missed a 29-yard field goal early in the fourth quarter (with a low snap playing a role). Then, after Wilson led a 70-yard drive that appeared ready to tie the game with 4:43 left, Hauschka had the PAT blocked.

Atlanta looked in position to run out the clock after getting to the 39-yard line with just less than four minutes remaining.

But a Ryan pass to an open Jones on a slant pattern in front of Sherman glanced off Jones’ hands, and then Sherman’s and then to Earl Thomas, who made the interception and was tackled at midfield.

Some typical Wilson wizardry on a third-down play where he escaped the rush and flipped a pass to Alex Collins got Seattle into field-goal range.

And this time, Hauschka converted, hitting a 44-yarder to put Seattle ahead.

Atlanta had one more shot. But an again-ravenous Seattle defense, feeding off a raucous CenturyLink crowd, forced four consecutive incompletions to end the game.

The last came on fourth down from the 25 when Ryan lofted a deep pass to Jones that was broken up by Sherman and Thomas. That’s the Seattle version, anyway. Atlanta coach Dan Quinn, a former Seahawks defensive coordinator, and Jones thought there had been interference.

Said Sherman: “I thought there was interference on our offense on a few plays and they didn’t get it. It was just one of those games they let us play.’’

Did he feel like he got away with one on that last play?

“No,’’ Sherman said. “I felt like we won the ballgame.’’

That seemed to be the general tone later, that it was the outcome that mattered more than the process.

As Thomas noted, this was the kind of game Seattle lost more often than not last season.

“The great thing is, when we had a chance to finish the game, we did,’’ he said. “If you look back last year, when we played Carolina (at home) it was a heartbreaker But we finished today.’’

Ultimately, Seattle held an Atlanta offense averaging an NFL-high 457 yards to 362 and forced two turnovers that led to 10 points, which proved the difference in the game.

And the Seattle offense, while hardly explosive, made plays when it mattered, and again from a variety of sources. Jimmy Graham had 89 yards on six catches, but it was Jermaine Kearse sparking the key fourth-quarter touchdown drive with two catches and drawing an interference penalty and Collins making the key third-down reception to set up the winning field goal.

And when it was over, Seattle was 4-1, its best record after five games since the Super Bowl-winning season of 2013, and holding a 1½-game lead on the rest of the NFC West.

“I think the last four plays exemplified the hard and the hang-in-there and the toughness and all that stuff,’’ Carroll said. “As the offense gave us enough to get it done, the defense had to go get it done against a great offense. And four plays of just tremendous intensity and emotional play. It was awesome.’’

Russell’s numbers
A look at quarterback Russell Wilson’s stats through Seattle’s first five games of the season:
Game Result Pass yds TD/Int QB rating
Sept. 11 vs. Miami Win 258 1/1 77.5
Sept. 18 at Los Angeles Loss 254 0/0 84.7
Sept. 25 vs. San Francisco Win 243 1/0 114.9
Oct. 2 at N.Y. Jets Win 309 3/0 133.5
Oct. 16 vs. Atlanta Win 270 0/0 88.8