The Seattle Seahawks nearly pulled off the greatest fourth-quarter comeback in NFL playoff history. And yet Pete Carroll and his crew will spend much of the offseason wondering: What if?
This was a game the Seahawks should have won. They scored zero points on two trips inside the 15-yard line in the first half. And they should have been able to capitalize on Russell Wilson's sensational effort after they grabbed the lead with 31 seconds left. Perhaps the most confusing moment came when Carroll took a timeout before Atlanta Falcons kicker Matt Bryant's game-winning field goal.
Carroll took a timeout, then Bryant was able to get off a "practice kick." Bryant missed it. Carroll was irate after the play because of a pregame conversation he had with officials, who warned him that kickers wouldn't be able to take a practice kick, like Justin Tucker did between overtime periods in the Baltimore Ravens' win Saturday.
"The officials told us before the game that nobody's going to get a chance to do that," Carroll said. "I asked them pregame what if somebody does, and they didn't know what the answer was, obviously. I had never heard that before, so I was just challenging it."
It's hard not to wonder if Bryant would have made the kick without a practice attempt. Icing the kicker has been statistically proven not to help, and giving kickers an extra swing at the ball is a detriment to the team that's on defense.
(Also a detriment for the Seahawks: They blitzed on Atlanta's two completions on the game-winning drive. The blitzer was late both times.)
A lot of stories will be written about the Falcons finally getting over the hump with their 30-28 win. They deserve a ton of credit, but Seattle's mistakes in the first half and its approach in the final 31 seconds helped along the way.
"I would have really liked it if he missed the kick," Carroll said.