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Falcons beat Seahawks after Blair Walsh misses FGA

Blair Walsh's 52-yard field-goal attempt fell inches shy of the crossbar, allowing the Atlanta Falcons to cling to a 34-31 victory over the Seattle Seahawks in a nail-biting spectacle of big plays to close out Week 11. Here's what we learned from Monday night's action:

  1. The rematch of last season's Divisional Round clash featured two NFC titans that share not only common coaching DNA, but also a desperate realization that this mid-November battle will go a long way toward determining their respective 2017 fates in a fiercely competitive playoff hunt. The result was a highly entertaining montage of bone-jarring hits and game-changing, highlight-reel plays adding a postseason-level of intensity to the most riveting Monday night showdown of the season. Atlanta needed only to convert on third-and-3 to seal the game coming out of the two-minute warning when Sheldon Richardson beat guard Wes Schweitzer for his first sack of the year and Seattle's first of the night. Afforded a premium opportunity to tie the game despite falling behind by 11 points at the five-minute mark in the fourth quarter, Russell Wilson came through with a nine-play drive to reach the edge of field-goal range only to see Walsh's boot come up short.
  1. Coach Pete Carroll will fall under scrutiny for green-lighting a head-scratching fake field goal that backfired to close out the first half. With just seven seconds left on the clock, holder Jon Ryan shoveled a short pass to tight end Luke Willson who was immediately flattened by Falcons defensive tackle Grady Jarrett. Even if Willson had manage to skirt Jarrett's tackle, he would have been tasked with scampering 20 yards through the entire Atlanta defense to find the end zone before the clock expired. Queried at halftime, Carroll explained to sideline reporter Lisa Salters that he was simply trying to score, to "take a shot." Even if the tomfoolery worked in practice, it simply made no sense to trot it out against his former defensive coordinator with precious little time on the clock and 20 yards between Willson and pay dirt. The risk/reward ratio was so far out of whack that it's hard to paint the decision as anything less than a glaring three-point mistake that came back to haunt Carroll in a tightly-fought contest.
  1. Beyond that key play, Jarrett was a terror in Seattle's backfield, recording one sack, two tackles for loss and three hits on Russell Wilson. On the heels of a breakout performance in Super Bowl LI, Jarrett has overtaken 2016 sack leader Vic Beasley as Atlanta's most disruptive force in the front seven, racking up 17.5 tackles behind the line of scrimmage in 10 games.
  1. Although the run defense limited Tevin Coleman to 43 yards at just 2.15 per carry in the absence of Devonta Freeman, Seattle's short-handed secondary couldn't get a sharpshooting Matt Ryan off the field on third downs. Already playing without five starters, the defense lost rookie cornerback Shaquill Griffin to a concussion on the game's second play. For just the fourth time of the Carroll era dating back to 2010, the proud unit allowed 14 first-quarter points -- thanks in large part to spectacular catches by Julio Jones and Mohamed Sanu. Even if the effort level is beyond reproach, the Seahawks' disturbing penchant for drawing ill-timed flags reared its ugly head again. With eight more penalties on Monday night, Carroll's troops are on pace to establish a single-season NFL record.
  1. The injury-depleted Seahawks just can't have nice things. Elevated from the practice squad to replace the inactive Thomas Rawls versus his hometown team, former 49ers fourth-round pick Mike Davis had the look of a potential solution to the team's season-long running woes for just over two quarters. After sending hard-hitting safety Keanu Neal to the injury tent on his first carry, Davis picked up 41 yards on a pair of screen plays only to go down with a groin strain on his first touch of the second half. The coaching staff displayed no faith in Eddie Lacy as a stand-in, turning to the former Packers bruiser just three times for two yards. As excited as the coaches were to give Davis an opportunity to seize the lead-back job, per ESPN's Jon Gruden, Rawls might get yet another reprieve for next week's bout at San Francisco.
  1. With Davis sidelined, Wilson was tasked once again with putting the offense on his shoulders, spending the majority of the evening bedeviling Atlanta's pass rushers with his Houdini-like escapability en route to 86 rushing yards and a touchdown on seven globe-trotting scrambles. Already accounting for the greatest percentage (82) of his team's offensive production in the past decade, Wilson was responsible for nearly 90 percent of Seattle's output against Atlanta's defense. He deserved a better fate and rests comfortably behind only New England's Tom Brady and Philadelphia's Carson Wentz in Around The NFL's MVP rankings.
  1. One week after dismantling Dallas' backup tackles for a staggering six sacks, Falcons defensive end Adrian Clayborn reached the end zone on a pivotal 10-yard fumble return to open the second quarter. Clayborn can thank rookie Takkarist McKinley, who swung Wilson into the onrushing Courtney Upshaw to jar the ball loose. Coincidentally, the Falcons traded up five spots with the Seahawks to select McKinley in the draft's first round.
  1. The victory pushed Atlanta into the No. 6 spot in the playoff picture, knocking Seattle into the "in the hunt" category in the process. The Falcons return home for three straight games versus the Buccaneers, Vikings and Saints. After road rematches at Tampa Bay and New Orleans in Weeks 15 and 16, they will play host to the Panthers in the regular-season finale. Much like the first-place Rams, the Seahawks face a grueling path to the NFC West crown. After traveling to San Francisco in Week 12, they will spend the next month going toe-to-toe with the Eagles, Jaguars, Rams and Cowboys. Seattle closes out the season at Century Link versus Arizona.
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