Seahawks headed back to Atlanta where loss still lingers

RENTON, Wash. (AP) Four years ago, the Seattle Seahawks walked out of Atlanta after a defining moment that shaped what has taken place since.

A 30-28 loss to the Falcons in the divisional round of the NFC playoffs stung and lingered.

To this day it's still a touchy subject after Seattle was unable to hold on to the lead in the final 30 seconds.

But that loss also became the foundation for two NFC championships, a Super Bowl title and two more playoff appearances.

And while the people involved have changed significantly since that game, the circumstances are just as meaningful for Seattle when it travels to Atlanta for a divisional round playoff game on Saturday.

Except instead of trying to create the foundation of being among the elite, Seattle is trying to prove it still is among the elite in the NFC.

''It's one of those games,'' Seattle coach Pete Carroll said Tuesday of the loss in January 2013. ''It's one of those games you store away, but it doesn't have anything to do with what's going on now.''

Seattle was an upstart during the 2012 season. Led by then-rookie quarterback Russell Wilson, the Seahawks earned a wild-card spot in the NFC and knocked off Washington in the opening round.

Against Atlanta, the No. 1 seed in the NFC that season, Seattle appeared outclassed, falling behind 20-0 at halftime and 27-7 entering the fourth quarter.

That's when Wilson pulled off one of his greatest rallies to date, leading Seattle on three fourth-quarter touchdown drives to take a 28-27 lead with 31 seconds left after a 2-yard TD run by Marshawn Lynch.

Wilson finished that day throwing for 385 yards, still a career best, but Atlanta hit two long pass plays in the final 30 seconds and Matt Bryant's 49-yard field goal with 8 seconds left won the game for the Falcons.

''We felt like we were far, but we still had a long way to go,'' Seattle linebacker Bobby Wagner said. ''Kind of like woke us up, but it definitely made us hungry too because when you feel like you have a great team that should win it all and you lose ... and you sit there in the offseason and watch the other teams win, it gives you that hunger to come into the next season prepared and I think that's what happened.''

K.J. Wright echoed Wagner's feeling about the game. Wright is among a handful of key players that remain on Seattle's roster despite the Seahawks constant churn. He believes Seattle doesn't get to a Super Bowl without that loss.

''I believe that we weren't quite ready yet to take it all the way,'' Wright said. ''I'm kind of glad that happened to us because we learned from it. We won the Super Bowl the following year so we learned from that moment.''

While their experience and knowledge has grown in the seasons since, the memory of that game remains fresh, especially this week when the scenario is very similar.

Atlanta is again the higher-seeded team with a multifaceted offense that was among the best in football, and Matt Ryan directing the charge. The Falcons are the rightful favorites then and now.

But the situation is significantly different for Seattle.

The Seahawks were the upstarts then; young, brash and looking to prove they belonged.

Now, they're trying to continue their legacy and prove even with a resume that includes five straight appearances in the divisional round of the playoffs, they are still the powerhouse of the NFC.

''I still remember that game, me and (Bruce Irvin) sitting at the end, watching,'' Wagner said. ''It wasn't a great feeling. We want to make sure that doesn't happen again.''

NOTES: RB C.J. Prosise practiced on Tuesday for the first time since suffering a broken shoulder blade in November. Carroll said it would go all week before a decision is made if Prosise will play. ''He's going to have to go full speed and let it rip. If he's holding back, he won't play,'' Carroll said. ... FB Marcel Reese should be able to play after suffering a foot injury in the opening-round win against Detroit.

---

For more NFL coverage: www.pro32.ap.org and http://twitter.com/AP-NFL

SI Apps
We've Got Apps Too
Get expert analysis, unrivaled access, and the award-winning storytelling only SI can provide—from Peter King, Tom Verducci, Lee Jenkins, Andy Staples, Grant Wahl, and more—delivered straight to you, along with up-to-the-minute news and live scores.