Shaking off some sluggish performances, the Seahawks put it all together against the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday.
Russell Wilson threw a pair of touchdowns passes, Marshawn Lynch ran for 145 yards and Seattle romped to a 33-10 victory in a one-sided rematch of last season's playoffs.
"It's the best game we've played," coach Pete Carroll said.
The first-place Seahawks (9-1 for the first time in franchise history), who lead the NFC race for home field, had looked especially vulnerable the past two weeks while struggling to beat lowly St. Louis and winless Tampa Bay.
No worries this time. It was over by halftime.
With a lightning-quick spurt at the end of the second quarter, capped by Wilson's touchdown pass to Golden Tate with 1 second remaining, Seattle went to the break with a 23-3 lead.
"We're excited for the future. We have something special," Tate said. "Now we've set the standard and we want to consistently play this sort of ballgame."
The Falcons trailed 6-3 after Matt Bryant's 53-yard field goal with 6½ minutes left in the half, but Seattle seized control with three big plays in a row, including a bit of trickery that caught Atlanta off guard.
With the Seahawks starting at their 20 after a touchback, Lynch immediately broke off a 37-yard run into Falcons territory. On the next play, Wilson handed off to Lynch, who passed the ball back to the quarterback.
Wilson threw it deep to Jermaine Kearse, who hauled in the 43-yard touchdown pass over Thomas DeCoud to stretch the Seahawks' advantage to 13-3.
After the Falcons went three-and-out, Wilson hooked up with Tate on a short pass that turned into a 46-yard gain. So, on three consecutive snaps, Seattle ripped off 126 yards.
Tate's reception led to the third of Steven Hauschka's four field goals. Atlanta went three-and-out again, and Tate set up another scoring chance with a 32-yard punt return in front of the Seahawks bench.
In the final minute of the half, Wilson drove Seattle down the field for the decisive score. It took a gutsy call by Carroll, who decided to take a shot at the end zone on third-and-5 from the Atlanta 6 with 8 seconds remaining and no timeouts.
Wilson lofted the pass into the left corner, and Tate made a brilliant one-handed catch while managing to drag both feet inside the line, just in the nick of time.
The Falcons (2-7) lost for the sixth time in seven games, a team that once had Super Bowl aspirations now just two defeats away from its first losing season since 2007.
Matt Ryan was held to 172 yards passing, while Steven Jackson managed just 11 yards rushing on nine carries. Roddy White returned to the Falcons' lineup after missing the past month with ankle and hamstring injuries, but one catch for 20 yards hardly sparked the offense. Seattle finished with a dominating 490-226 lead in total yards.
"It was tough sledding out there," White said. "Not how we wanted it to go."
This was a complete reversal of the playoff game last January, in which Atlanta led 20-0 at the half and was still up by 20 early in the fourth before Wilson led what appeared to be a historic comeback, putting the Seahawks ahead 28-27 with less than a minute remaining.
The Falcons bounced back with two long passes and Bryant's field goal for a 30-28 victory that sent Atlanta to the NFC championship game.
That game seems so long ago.
These Falcons finally scored a touchdown — just their third in the past three games — late in the third quarter on Ryan's 12-yard pass to rookie Darius Johnson on fourth down. The Seahawks wrapped it up with a 12-play, 80-yard drive that took more than 7 minutes off the clock. Lynch, appropriately, finished it off with a 1-yard touchdown run that sent what remained of the Georgia Dome crowd hustling to the exits.
The rest hung around to cheer for the Seahawks.
NOTES: Tate finished with 106 yards on six receptions. ... Seattle CB Brandon Browner (groin) left in the second quarter. DT Tony McDaniel (hamstring) left in the third quarter. Neither returned. ... The Falcons played again without OT Sam Baker (knee), who missed his fifth game of an injury plagued season. ... Falcons TE Tony Gonzalez extended his streak to 204 games with at least one catch when he hauled in a 9-yard pass in the third quarter. ... After the game, the soon-to-be-retired Gonzalez swapped jerseys with Seahawks CB Richard Sherman.
More Sports Headlines
Silvertips’ overage goaltender Lotz heads home to await fate 7:36 p.m. Seahawks' Carroll: Refs missed call but play by Wright was ‘smart’ 7:27 p.m. Huskies face former coach Sarkisian for first time 7:25 p.m. Caldwell tells Lions not to talk about controversial play 4:39 p.m. Falcons’ receiver White: ‘I’m not disgruntled’ 5:23 p.m. Cowboys' Hardy returns from 4-game suspension, says focus on football 5:09 p.m. After Seahawks-Lions fiasco, how are NFL referees graded? 5:05 p.m. Ellsbury, Yankees' $153 million man, benched in wild-card game 4:55 p.m.
Our new comment system is not supported in IE 7. Please upgrade your browser here.