FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- The Atlanta Falcons' finesse cut-blocking offensive line couldn't close out the game against Seattle.
With the running game shut down, the Falcons were forced to pass and that strategy backfired.
Now, with a game against the San Diego Chargers coming up, the Falcons must figure out how they are going to finish in close games.
After scoring points by the bushel and hanging on for victory earlier in the season, the Falcons were tested in a close game against Seattle and crumbled.
With the line having some issues, it took quarterback Matt Ryan awhile to get the league's No. 1 offense rolling. A costly fourth-quarter interception led to the game-winning field goal.
After being held to 86 yards in the first half, Ryan marched the Falcons down the field on three consecutive touchdown scoring drives of 75, 79 and 97 yards.
With the rushing attack shut down, Ryan completed 27 of 42 passes for 335 yards and three touchdowns.
Ryan was 13 yards under his league-leading average of 348 yards passing per game. He finished with a passer rating of 102.8.
"It's disappointing," Ryan said.
With the Falcons leading 24-23 and trying to run out the clock, Ryan's pass intended for Julio Jones bounced off his hands and was tipped up by Seattle cornerback Richard Sherman. Seattle free safety Earl Thomas came down with the interception.
"I just need to give him a better ball in that situation," Ryan said. "I liked how aggressive we were. We just have to make a play."
If they were having better success running the ball against Seattle, they would not have had to consider throwing a pass.
Jones was incredulous about the non-call on the apparent pass interference by Sherman that foiled the Falcons' last-ditch drive on fourth-and-10 after they'd lost the lead.
"That was crazy," said Jones, who then flashed a quizzical look.
Jones confirmed what replays tended to show what the NFL officials ignored: He was interfered with by Sherman on the play.
"I had a seam route on the play," Jones said. "It was fourth down. Matt (Ryan) just threw the ball up and gave me an opportunity to make a play on the ball. We desperately needed it to try to go down there, first of all to get the first down and potentially get a field goal."
Jones almost made the catch one-handed, but the ball hit the ground.
"Before I took off, he grabbed my right side and spun me around before I jumped up," Jones said. "It was just a missed call."
The Falcons' sideline was celebrating at first and then coach Dan Quinn was screaming at officials for the no-call.
Jones didn't want to dwell on the call.
"It's over with," Jones said. "It's done. We are on to the next one right now."
Jones was held in check in the first half as he had just two catches for 25 yards. He broke loose in the third quarter as he was moved into the slot. He caught five pass for 119 yards to power the Falcons' rally.
"The offense was just clicking after we just settled down," Jones said. "Everybody was anxious to play. We'd been out here for a week. You have those matchups like we had today, everybody was ready to show what they had. It's nothing about them. It's more on us, settling down and going out there and playing football."
With their four-game winning streak halted, the Falcons failed their first test in a close game.
--The Falcons have been starting fast all season, but dug themselves a 17-3 halftime hole against Seattle.
"You can't start off like that and hope to come back on a really good team," free safety Ricardo Allen said. "You just can't put your team in a bind like that. You can't come out sluggish in the first half and expect to play a full game."
The Falcons hope to be rejuvenated after being on the road for the past 11 days, with games in Denver and Seattle.
"We have to keep working, we have to keep pushing because you saw in the second half we came out fighting, we came out working, but we were so far behind in the first half," Allen said.
REPORT CARD VS. SEAHAWKS
PASSING OFFENSE: C+
Matt Ryan put up some great numbers and rallied the team, but his two turnovers led to 10 points and were costly. On his fumble, right tackle Ryan Schraeder was beaten by Seattle defensive end Cliff Avril, who knocked the ball loose from Ryan. On the fourth-quarter interception, his pass to Julio Jones was too far in front of Jones and it bounced off his out-stretched arms. (Jones thought he should have made the catch.) Seattle cornerback Richard Sherman popped the ball up and Seattle free safety Earl Thomas made the interception to set up the game-winning field goal. Ryan completed 27 of 42 passes for 335 yards and three touchdowns. He finished with a passer rating of 102.8. Jones was held to two catches for 24 yards in the first half. He caught five for 119 and one touchdown in the third quarter. He was interfered with on a key fourth-and-10 play late in the fourth quarterback, but the refs missed the call. Mohamed Sanu was targeted 10 times, but came up with just five catches for 47 yards and a touchdown. Taylor Gabriel was knocked out of the game with a concussion. Tight end Levine Toilolo had a 46-yard touchdown catch. Overall, the receivers/tight ends were targeted 33 times and they caught 22 passes.
RUSHING OFFENSE: F
Running backs Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman were held in check by Seattle's swift linebackers. Freeman and Coleman torched Denver's linebackers as they had 36 touches from scrimmage and amassed 286 yards and two touchdowns in the 23-16 win on Oct. 9. Seattle linebackers Bryan Wagner and K.J. Wright kept Freeman and Coleman under control. "They played eight guys in the box on every snap," Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan said. "They are very, very good. When you have their talent, that helped shut down the run." Freeman rushed 12 times for 40 yards and Coleman rushed five times for 10 yards. Freeman caught three passes for 10 yards and Coleman caught one pass for 7 yards. Against Denver, Coleman had four catches for 132 yards and touchdown.
PASS DEFENSE: C+
The defensive line could not get to elusive Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson. The only sack came on a cornerback blitz. The Falcons had five quarterback hits. Safety Keanu Neal had a tough time with Seattle tight end Jimmy Graham, who caught six passes for 89 yards. Wide receiver Doug Baldwin was held in check with four catches for 31 yards. Robert Alford was called for another costly pass interference penalty. Neal led the defense with 10 tackles.
RUSH DEFENSE: B
The defensive line played the run well as they held the Seahawks to 72 yards rushing on 27 carries for 2.7 yards per carry. LaRoy Reynolds and Kemal Ishmael started although Deion Jones and De'Vondre Campbell were back after recovering from ankle injuries. Jones played 26 of 66 defensive snaps (39 percent) and Campbell, who was coming off a high right ankle sprain and hadn't played since the opener, played 21 snaps (32 percent). Ishmael had eight tackles and Reynolds had six. Jones had four and Campbell made three tackles.
SPECIAL TEAMS: B+
Punter Matt Bosher had four punts and averaged 41.3 yards and a 36-yard net. He placed two inside the 20. Kicker Matt Bryant made a 33-yard field goal. The kickoff coverage team held Seattle's Tyler Lockett to 21.3 yards on four returns. He averaged seven yards on three punt returns. Ra'Shede Hageman had a blocked extra point, which could have been the margin of victory if the Falcons had been able to run out the clock.
With the running game shut down, the Falcons were passing with a one-point lead late in the game and it backfired. Also, they didn't bother to use their last timeout. After spending a week in Seattle, the Falcons weren't ready to play and nearly got blown out. The halftime speech must have been a good one because the Falcons came out and scored on three consecutive possessions to take control of the game. The pass interference non-call hurt, but a good rushing attack would have allowed the Falcons to run the clock out and get away with a victory.