SEATTLE -- When the Atlanta Falcons needed a big play to put themselves in position to secure a win, they turned to their marquee players to get it done.
Reigning MVP Matt Ryan's deep pass to All-Pro wide receiver Julio Jones down the right sideline with 7 minutes, 39 seconds remaining in regulation symbolized just why the Falcons still are a serious threat in the NFC. Ryan perfectly placed the ball where only Jones could get it, and Jones corralled the ball with ease, brushing off the coverage by Seattle Seahawks cornerback Jeremy Lane.
The 29-yard play not only set up a Matt Bryant field goal that helped give the Falcons breathing room, it also served as a message to the rest of the league that this high-octane offense that made it all the way to last season's Super Bowl still can have its moments.
"We had a lot of man-to-man coverage on third down tonight, and a really good call at the time by [offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian]," Ryan explained. "We had a good concept going on the left. We knew if we had one-on-one, we had an opportunity to throw it down the field to Julio. I tried to hold the safety in the center of the field to keep him in that spot. So it was really just Julio and the corner on an island, and Julio made a great play."
Sure, the Falcons had to hold on in the final minutes as Russell Wilson and the Seahawks surged, and had to hold their breath until Blair Walsh's 52-yard field goal missed as time expired. But a 34-31 win boosted Atlanta's record to 6-4 and marked a second consecutive victory, following up last week's home triumph over Dallas. More importantly, the Falcons now have the same record as the Seahawks, Cowboys and Detroit Lions and own the tiebreakers over all three.
The Falcons are 5-1 in NFC play and now have a little momentum with a slew of NFC South games around the corner, starting with Sunday's matchup with Tampa Bay. It's the first of three consecutive home games, even more reason why the Falcons can generate a little steam toward a postseason run.
"It beats the alternative, right?" Ryan said of playing three at home. "Want to have momentum going into it. It's good for us. Obviously winning games, finding way to win, that's huge. Getting back home is going to be great for us."
Ryan, who had 195 passing yards, had his NFL-record streak of 200-yard passing games end at 64. It didn't matter because Ryan made winning plays, including a third-down scramble that kept alive a scoring drive and set up his 25-yard touchdown pass to Levine Toilolo off play-action.
The Falcons didn't run the ball much, rushing for 89 yards on 30 carries with Devonta Freeman out with a concussion. But there were some key runs, particularly one late by backup Terron Ward that showed the "grit" coach Dan Quinn expects from his team.
The Seahawks, playing without Richard Sherman and Kam Chancellor, allowed the Falcons to match their season high in points. They also allowed the Falcons to convert 9-of-14 on third down, which is uncharacteristic of a Pete Carroll defense.
The Falcons looked more like the Legion of Boom, in spurts. Tacoma, Washington, native Desmond Trufant came up with an interception that set up a touchdown. And Adrian Clayborn, who set a franchise record with six sacks last week, scooped up a fumble and returned it 10 yards for a score.
"We're a confident group," Trufant said. "We know we've got players that can match up with everybody. We've got a great scheme, great chemistry. It's just a great environment here. We just have to continue to put it on film and display it on game day."
No, the Falcons' effort wasn't flawless. Special teams coach Keith Armstrong might blow a gasket in the meeting room because of the yards given up on kickoff returns plus the fumbled kickoff by Andre Roberts.
But all in all, the Falcons won in a place where it's tough for visitors to win. That's another step toward shaking off any type of Super Bowl hangover.