The Falcons still left CenturyLink Field on Sunday 4-2, but had a chance to come away with an impressive victory after rallying to take the lead late in the third quarter.
Falcons All-Pro receiver Julio Jones didn’t mince words about Atlanta’s final play in his team’s 26-24 defeat against the Seahawks.
“It was a missed call,” he said when asked about the botched connection on fourth-and-10 with less than two minutes remaining that effectively ended the Falcons’ chances and snapped their four-game winning streak.
“Matt (Ryan) just threw the ball up and gave me an opportunity to make a play,” Jones said. “We desperately needed it. First of all to get the first down and potentially to get a field goal.
“He (Richard Sherman) grabbed my right side and spun me around before I jumped up.”
Inside a boisterous Seahawks locker room, Sherman had a different take.
When asked if he felt there was pass interference on the play he said: “No. I felt we won the ballgame.”
Replays tell a different story. Sherman appeared to tug Jones’ left arm while safety Earl Thomas lunged and prevented the Falcons receiver from making a one-hand grab at the Seahawks’ 35.
Atlanta coach Dan Quinn, the former Seattle defensive coordinator, was immediately incensed and pleaded with officials for a penalty.
“As you go through the last play, usually one play doesn’t define it,” Quinn said during postgame comments. “We will look at it and see where it goes. We certainly had other opportunities in the game to capitalize and finish.”
After falling behind 17-3 at halftime, the Falcons scored 21 consecutive points in the third quarter on drives that covered 75, 79 and 97 yards.
Ryan rallied from a listless first half in which he was sacked three times and held to 83 passing yards.
“We settled down a little bit at halftime,” said Ryan, who finished with 335 yards on 27-for-42 passing. “This is a tough place to play. … It was loud. Probably didn’t handle the environment as well as we needed to in the first half. We came back out in the second half and executed pretty well and got ourselves back in the game.”
Ryan tossed a 36-yard touchdown pass to Jones before connecting with receiver Mohamed Sanu for a 10-yard score that tied the score at 17-17.
Tight end Levine Toilolo gave Atlanta its first lead when he hauled in a pass along the sideline and scored on a 46-yard touchdown that put the Falcons ahead 24-17 with 17 seconds left in the third quarter.
“Everybody settled down,” said Jones, who had nine receptions for 139 yards. “Everybody was anxious to play. We’ve been out here for a week. But it’s good.
“When you have those matchups like we had today, everybody is ready to show what they have. Nothing about them. Just more on us settling down and playing football.”
After Seattle scored late in the fourth and Atlanta blocked the PAT, the Falcons tried to add more points on their 24-23 lead with 4:43 left. They had little faith in a running game that tallied just 52 yards and relied on Ryan to deliver yet another victory.
“We wanted to stay aggressive,” Quinn said. “At that point there was still plenty of time left. It wasn’t a time where we were going to run it and punt away and have (Russell Wilson) and that crew go again.
“We’re going to win the game. We had an attitude for that. … It ended up being a tipped ball. It was unfortunate. It was not a bad decision or a bad play.”
Ryan began the drive with two completions before firing a little wide across the middle to Jones. The ball bounced off his outstretched hands and was tipped up by Sherman before Thomas made the interception at midfield.
Seven plays later, Seahawks kicker Steven Hauschka booted a game-winning 44-yard field goal.
“The type of guy I am, I can make those plays and I should make those plays,” Jones said of the pass that bounced off his hands. “It happens. It’s football.”
Ryan added: “I need to give him a better ball. That’s it in those situations. I loved how aggressive we were. We’ve just got to make the play.”
After a two-week stay on the West Coast that included the 23-16 upset victory last Sunday at Denver, the Falcons return home 4-2 and holding a 1½-game lead in the NFC South.
“You’re never happy about losing, especially a game like this when we had it, but we played well against two very good teams, got a split,” said cornerback Desmond Trufant, the former Washington Huskies standout. “We got better on this trip.”