Surely they asked each other: Where did it all go wrong?
In the latest low point of an increasingly grim season, the Falcons trailed by 20 points at halftime and fell to the Seattle Seahawks 33-10 Sunday in a one-sided rematch of last season’s divisional playoff game.
That was a thriller. This was a dud, merely demonstrating the stunning gap that has opened between the teams since the Falcons knocked off the Seahawks 30-28 last January.
“It wasn’t very good,” Atlanta tight end Tony Gonzalez said. “They got us. They got us in every phase of the game.”
Russell Wilson threw a pair of touchdowns passes, Marshawn Lynch ran for 145 yards and Seattle piled up a 490-226 lead in total yards.
Total domination, indeed, by the first-place Seahawks (9-1).
The Falcons (2-7) lost for the sixth time in seven games, a team that once had Super Bowl aspirations now just two defeats away from its first losing season since 2007.
“It’s been frustrating,” said Ryan, the quarterback held to season-low 172 yards passing. “Certainly not even close to where we want to be, and that makes it difficult. Guys should be angry.”
Roddy White returned to the Falcons’ lineup after missing the past month with ankle and hamstring injuries, but one catch for 20 yards hardly sparked the offense.
Steven Jackson’s miserable season didn’t get any better with nine carries for 11 yards. The day was epitomized by Atlanta’s longest play, a 31-yard pass to Harry Douglas, who was stripped of the ball when finally tackled. The Seahawks recovered.
“We’ve got to go back to the drawing board,” said Gonzalez, his farewell season in tatters. “It’s important that you stick together as a team and don’t start playing the blame game, because I’ve seen it happen before.”
The Seahawks, who lead the NFC race for home field, had looked especially vulnerable the past two weeks while struggling to beat lowly St. Louis and winless Tampa Bay.
No worries this time. It was over after a lightning-quick spurt at the end of the second quarter, capped by Wilson’s touchdown pass to Golden Tate with 1 second remaining that gave Seattle a 23-3 lead.
“We have something special,” Tate said. “Now we’ve set the standard and we want to consistently play this sort of ballgame.”
The Falcons trailed 6-3 after Matt Bryant’s 53-yard field goal with 6½ minutes left in the half, but Seattle seized control with three big plays in a row, including a bit of trickery that caught Atlanta off guard.
With the Seahawks starting at their 20 after a touchback, Lynch immediately broke off a 37-yard run into Falcons territory. On the next play, Wilson handed off to Lynch, who passed the ball back to the quarterback.
Wilson threw it deep to Jermaine Kearse, who hauled in the 43-yard touchdown pass over Thomas DeCoud to stretch the Seahawks’ advantage to 13-3.
After the Falcons went three-and-out, Wilson hooked up with Tate on a short pass that turned into a 46-yard gain. So, on three consecutive snaps, Seattle ripped off 126 yards.
Tate’s reception led to the third of Steven Hauschka’s four field goals. Atlanta went three-and-out again, and Tate set up another scoring chance with a 32-yard punt return in front of the Seahawks bench.
In the final minute of the half, Wilson drove Seattle down the field for the decisive score. It took a gutsy call by coach Pete Carroll, who decided to take a shot at the end zone on third-and-5 from the Atlanta 6 with 8 seconds remaining and no timeouts.
Wilson lofted the pass into the left corner, and Tate made a brilliant one-handed catch while managing to drag both feet inside the line, just in the nick of time.
For the third week in a row, Atlanta was held to a single touchdown. Rookie Darius Johnson hauled in the first TD of his career, a 12-yard pass on fourth down late in the third quarter.
NOTES: Gonzalez extended his streak to 204 games with at least one catch and finished with three receptions for 29 yards. Afterward, he swapped jerseys with Seahawks CB Richard Sherman. ... Seattle CB Brandon Browner (groin) and DT Tony McDaniel (hamstring) didn’t return after being injured. ... The Falcons played again without OT Sam Baker (knee), who missed his fifth game of an injury plagued season. ... The Falcons had a 33-7 regular-season record at the Georgia Dome over the past five years. This season, they are 2-3.