The Seahawks wanted to run the ball and keep Atlanta's offense off the field Saturday in a divisional playoff game. But like just about everything in a 36-20 loss, that didn't go according to plan.

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The Seahawks entered their divisional playoff game at Atlanta Saturday knowing that the best way o cool down one of the best offenses in recent NFL history would be to keep it off the field.

And for a while, the plan appeared to be working.

On a game-opening 14-play, 89-yard drive, the Seahawks had 10 official runs for 49 yards (one of the runs was a pass to Doug Baldwin officially called a lateral that went for one yard).

Falcons 36, Seahawks 20

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Thomas Rawls, fresh off a franchise-record 161 yards in the wildcard round against Detroit, had six carries for 29 yards on the first drive and quarterback Russell Wilson, looking as agile as at any time all season, had two runs for 16 yards.

The drive took 8:34, the longest of the season for the Seahawks in terms of time of possession.

Seattle then ran it just 11 more times on 40 plays the rest of the game in what turned into a 36-20 loss. two coming on run-out-the-clock plays at the end of the first half.

So what happened to take the Seahawks away from a formula that appeared to be working about as well as hoped?

“It didn’t feel like we really dug in with it, you know?,’’ said coach Pete Carroll of how the running game evolved after the first possession. “The drives just went the way that we were able to move. Russell was getting good time (to throw) and I thought Russell was really in command of the rush back there and able to find his space and all and he ran well today, which was really something we thought might happen and that worked out all right. It felt like we didn’t get back in the groove of it for whatever reason.’’

Like much of the game, almost everything changed after the sequence in which Devin Hester’s 80-yard punt return was called back and the Seahawks then suffered a safety two plays later, and then Atlanta scored on drives of 99 and 75 yards sandwiching the end of first half and beginning of the second.

The Seahawks had 15 runs to nine pass attempts in the first half. But once behind 26-10 early in the third quarter, Seattle went primarily to the pass, throwing it 10 times while running just three in the third quarter, and 11 times to three runs in the fourth quarter.

“It could have been fine,’’ right tackle Garry Gilliam said of the running game. “But when you get down you don’t have time to run the ball. You want to do it that way but you’ve got to get down the field faster.’’

Indeed, it was a game in which the failings of the defense felt like almost a bigger factor than those of the offense.

Atlanta had 365 yards in the final three quarters, holding the ball for 26:53 of those 45 minutes — more than the 26:41 that Seattle held the ball for the entire game.

And reviewing the play-by-play, it’s hard to find too many times to really question passing instead of running.

One you maybe could came when Seattle reached the 19 following a 52-yard pass to Paul Richardson initially ruled a touchdown. A sack on first down then led to three straight passes and ultimately settling for a field goal.

But after kicking a field goal to take a 10-7 lead with 11:23 to go in the first half, Seattle ran just seven more plays the rest of the half — two on runs designed to run out the clock on the final series — while Atlanta had 16 in scoring 12 points to take command.

Then after the Falcons scored on the first drive of the third quarter, the Seahawks reverted largely to throwing almost every down.

Rawls had his last carry of the game with 6:47 to play in the third quarter, which led to some curiosity afterward had been hurt.

Carroll, though, said Rawls’ health wasn’t an issue.

“He’s fine,’’ Carroll said.

Ultimately, the Seahawks rushed for 101 yards on 21 carries, the seventh time in 18 games Seattle topped the 100-yard mark this year, while averaging 4.8 yards per carry the fifth-highest for a single game.

But yeah, it didn’t really feel like it.