Three costly turnovers in the third quarter allowed the Atlanta Falcons to turn a close game into an easy win over the Seattle Seahawks, 34-18. The Seahawks struck first, scoring a touchdown on a lengthy opening drive to jump out to an early lead. The Falcons answered, however, as Matt Ryan engineered two straight scoring drives totaling 28 plays spanning the first and second quarter. It was Ryan again just before the half, finding Michael Jenkins for the touchdown to give the Falcons a 17-10 lead after two quarters.
The Seahawks defense held to open the half, but a well-placed punt backed Seattle up to its own goal line. Hasselbeck dropped back to pass, dropped the ball and handed Atlanta a touchdown. On the next drive, it was another Hasselbeck mistake, this time an interception, leading to a Falcons field goal. He made it a hat trick on the ensuing possession, throwing another interception. Ryan found Roddy White for a touchdown following the interception to seal the game.
Hasselbeck’s 71 yards passing, two interceptions and a fumble were enough to force head coach Pete Carroll’s hand. Following the third-straight turnover, Carroll had seen enough, opting to insert backup quarterback Charlie Whitehurst. It was too late, but Whitehurst responded, leading the Seahawks on their first, and only touchdown drive of the second half, finding the end zone on a one-yard scramble. Whitehurst finished the day completing eight of 16 passes for 81 yards and a rushing touchdown. Marshawn Lynch added 60 yards and a touchdown on the ground. Mike Williams, back from injury, led the Seahawks receivers with 66 yards on eight catches.
The Falcons explosive offense kept the Seattle defense off-balance all day, with Michael Turner supplementing Ryan’s outstanding day. Ryan finished with 174 yards, three touchdowns and an interception while Turner added 82 yards on the ground. White led the Atlanta receivers with 65 yards and a touchdown. Jenkins and Jason Snelling each caught touchdown passes, as well.
The Falcons improved to 12-2 with the win and have the inside track to homefield advantage throughout the playoffs.. The Seahawks fell to 6-8 while missing a chance to take control of the NFC West after the San Francisco 49ers and St. Louis Rams both lost in week 15.