What it means: The Seahawks lost a heartbreaker after their fourth-quarter pass defense faltered once again, a recurring theme for Seattle. The Seahawks had taken a 28-27 lead with 31 seconds remaining. But they couldn't stop the Falcons from moving quickly into position for the winning field goal with eight seconds left. The team will have to address that aspect of its performance in the offseason.
What I liked: The Seahawks kept pushing and took the lead despite trailing by 20-0 and 27-7 margins in the second half. Russell Wilson completed 24 of 36 passes for 385 yards with two touchdowns and one interception (on a Hail Mary as the game ended). Zach Miller had eight receptions for 142 yards and a touchdown. Golden Tate had six receptions for 103 yards and a score. Wilson was outstanding in the second half despite getting less help than anticipated from Marshawn Lynch and the running game.
Rookie middle linebacker Bobby Wagner picked off a pass. Cornerback Richard Sherman batted down multiple passes in the secondary. Seattle's wide receivers also made a few impressive plays, including Tate's touchdown reception. Seattle had a good plan for the Falcons' screen game, which had been among the best in the NFL.
What I didn't like: Seattle was sloppy in its execution and decision-making. Getting zero points from two red zone possessions in the first half proved costly. Seattle failed to convert a fourth-and-1 when opting for a fullback handoff instead of giving the ball to Lynch. Later, the first-half clock ran out when Wilson took a third-down sack with no timeouts remaining. Getting six or 10 points from those chances would have changed the game for Seattle.
Blowing the 28-27 lead with 31 seconds left was inexcusable, but part of a pattern. The Detroit Lions came back to win in similar fashion against Seattle. Chicago came back to force overtime. Something needs to change for Seattle in those situations. The team led the NFL in points allowed this season, but couldn't finish.
Lynch held in check: Lynch scored the go-ahead touchdown, but this was a rough day for him. He carried 16 times for 46 yards (2.9 per carry). Lynch had missed practice time with a foot injury, but he started and was expected to perform as usual. The Falcons seemed ready for him. Also, Lynch did not seem 100 percent. Wilson was able to carry the load, but it would have been nice for Seattle if the ground game remained an option.
Receivers in check: Roddy White's 47-yard touchdown reception was big for the Falcons. Overall, however, the Seattle secondary limited the damage from Atlanta's talented wideouts. Julio Jones had six catches for 59 yards. White had five catches for 76 yards.
Rough day for Carroll: The fourth-and-1 call wasn't the only one putting Pete Carroll and the Seattle coaching staff at risk for criticism. Carroll also called timeout right before the Falcons missed the winning field goal try. The second try was good. Carroll appeared to be arguing with the officials after the timeout. I'm not sure what was going on there, but overall, Seattle did a poor job with clock management and some of the other detail-oriented aspects that tend to reflect coaching.
What's next: The Seahawks are finished. They'll watch division rival San Francisco visit the Falcons in the NFC Championship Game.