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Falcons overcome late collapse, finally win playoff game

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NFC championship

49ers at Falcons

3 p.m. Sunday

Georgia Dome, Atlanta

TV/radio: WPGH-53, WWCP-8/ KDKA-FM (93.7), WJPA-AM (1450)

Records: 49ers 12-4-1; Falcons 14-3

Line: 49ers by 31⁄2

'American Coyotes' Series

Traveling by Jeep, boat and foot, Tribune-Review investigative reporter Carl Prine and photojournalist Justin Merriman covered nearly 2,000 miles over two months along the border with Mexico to report on coyotes — the human traffickers who bring illegal immigrants into the United States. Most are Americans working for money and/or drugs. This series reports how their operations have a major impact on life for residents and the environment along the border — and beyond.

By The Associated Press
Sunday, Jan. 13, 2013, 8:18 p.m.
 

ATLANTA — Matt Bryant pumped his fist and celebrated atop the Falcons logo in the middle of the field. Tony Gonzalez broke down in tears. Matt Ryan relished the thought of not having to answer a familiar question.

The Falcons finally showed they could win a playoff game.

After a historic meltdown in the fourth quarter, the Falcons pulled off a comeback. Ryan completed two long passes, and Bryant kicked a 49-yard field goal with 8 seconds remaining, lifting the NFC's top seed to a stunning 30-28 victory over Russell Wilson and the gutty Seahawks in a divisional game Sunday.

Atlanta (14-3) squandered a 20-point lead in the fourth quarter, falling behind for the first time all day when Marshawn Lynch scored on a 2-yard run with 31 seconds left and Ryan Longwell knocked through the extra point for a 28-27 lead.

Ryan, shaking off his struggles in three previous playoff losses and two interceptions against the Seahawks, hooked up with Harry Douglas on a 29-yard pass in front of the Falcons bench, and coach Mike Smith quickly signaled a timeout. Then, Ryan went down the middle to his favorite target Gonzalez.

Gonzalez hauled in the 19-yard throw, and Smith called his final timeout with 13 seconds remaining. Instead of risking another play and having the clock run out, he sent Bryant in for the field goal try.

The Seahawks called time just before the ball was snapped, and Bryant's kick sailed right of the upright. That turned out to be nothing more than practice. The next one was right down the middle.

“Our quarterback is a special player,” Smith said. “They call him Matty Ice, but I feel like we've got two Matty Ices. There's Matty Ice Ryan and Matty Ice Bryant.”

“Nobody flinched,” Ryan said. “We just kept battling, kept doing what we do. That's been the makeup of our team all season.”

Wilson threw two touchdown passes and ran for another. But the Seattle defense, which is one of the NFL's best and had totally stymied the Falcons in the fourth quarter, went to a softer coverage and got burned.

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