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Happy ending: Falcons end season with win

POSTED: January 10, 2008 5:03 a.m.
ATLANTA — The Atlanta Falcons proved that a season of hard knocks didn’t break their will, while the Seattle Seahawks say a meaningless loss won’t dim their hopes for a successful postseason.

Chris Redman threw four touchdown passes, including two to Alge Crumpler, and the Falcons rode three fourth-quarter touchdowns to a 44-41 victory over the playoff-bound Seahawks on Sunday.

Seattle coach Mike Holmgren rested quarterback Matt Hasselbeck and running back Shaun Alexander in the second half but stuck with his starting defense until the final minutes.

The Seahawks gave up their most points since a 44-41 overtime loss at Baltimore on Nov. 23, 2003. But in this game, Holmgren may have been holding back even as he kept most starters on the field.

"We were playing basic defense," said linebacker Julian Peterson. "We shot ourselves in the foot with the turnovers. We still have a great defense."

Atlanta scored 21 points off three turnovers, including a fumble and interception in the fourth quarter by backup quarterback Seneca Wallace.

Even so, safety Deon Grant was upset his team blew a 10-0 lead.

"Every game means something to me," Grant said. "I don’t care if it’s against my little sister.

"I don’t like to be embarrassed. We had them 10-0, and they had won just three games. We gave up 44 points. That’s definitely not good."

The NFC West-champion Seahawks’ No. 3 seed in the playoffs was already set. The best news for Holmgren was his team avoided injuries.

"We wanted to win the football game, but we got health out of it and that was a big plus," Holmgren said.

The Seahawks had to wait to learn their first-round playoff opponent.

The Falcons (4-12) ended a six-game losing streak, giving interim coach Emmitt Thomas his first win in three tries.

Redman, the third starting quarterback for Atlanta in the post-Michael Vick era, also threw touchdown passes to Joe Horn and Roddy White.

Vick is serving a 23-month sentence in a federal prison. The Falcons also endured an unexpected exit by coach Bobby Petrino, who quit after 13 games to take the Arkansas job. Owner Arthur Blank has said he will hire a new general manager to coordinate a coaching search.

"I’m proud of these guys, because this has obviously been a tough season, but nobody quit and I knew they wouldn’t," Redman said.

Redman, who played behind Joey Harrington and Byron Leftwich before starting the final four games, was 17-of-27 for 251 yards with no interceptions.

"He was outstanding," Thomas said. "When he gets protection, he can throw the football. We were able to keep (Patrick) Kerney off him."

Kerney, the former Falcon who began the day leading the NFL with 141/2 sacks, had one tackle and no sacks.

Warrick Dunn rushed for 70 yards with a 5-yard scoring run, and Morten Andersen kicked three field goals for Atlanta.

Alexander and Maurice Morris, who rushed for 91 yards, had touchdown runs for Seattle.

Crumpler’s first touchdown catch, a 55-yarder on the first play of the fourth quarter, tied the game at 27.

Atlanta then made Seattle (10-6) pay for two fourth-quarter turnovers by Wallace, who played the second half.

Wallace fumbled when hit by Jonathan Babineaux. Defensive tackle Montavious Stanley recovered to set up Redman’s 7-yard touchdown pass to Crumpler.

On the first play of Seattle’s next possession, Wallace was intercepted by Chris Crocker, who returned the ball 18 yards to the Seahawks 10. On first down, White’s touchdown catch gave the Falcons a 41-27 lead.

Wallace recovered to throw touchdown passes of 45 and 13 yards to Nate Burleson.

Andersen answered with a 32-yard field goal after the first touchdown pass to Burleson. Burleson’s second scoring catch came with 54 seconds left.

White recovered Josh Brown’s onside kick to end Seattle’s comeback.

Hasselbeck completed 15 of 25 passes for 147 yards and a touchdown. Wallace was 17-of-22 for 206 yards with two touchdowns, one interception and a fumble.

Hasselbeck needed 23 yards to break his franchise record of 3,841 yards passing set in 2003, and he completed his first three passes for 38 yards, including a 15-yarder to Marcus Pollard for the record.

Alexander capped the opening drive with a 2-yard touchdown run to become the eighth player in NFL history to rush for 100 touchdowns.

Notes: Falcons DE John Abraham had two sacks in the first half, giving him 10 for the year, before leaving with a back injury. He forced a fumble with his second sack to set up a touchdown. ... WR Deion Branch, DT Rocky Bernard and OT Walter Jones were among Seattle’s inactive players. ... Atlanta scored its most points since Oct. 4, 1998, when it had 51 against Carolina. Atlanta’s previous high this season was 27 points.



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