I watched one of the best NFL games I’ve seen in a long time Sunday afternoon. The Atlanta Falcons edged the Seattle Seahawks 30-28 in a contest that absolutely drove Falcons’ fans crazy. After all, Atlanta had not won a first round playoff game since Mike Smith became head coach five years ago. Oh they had put together a great record in regular season play, but were 0-3 in round one of the post-season.
With the Falcons leading 20-0 at the half, and still ahead by twenty in the fourth quarter, the Falcon crazies seemed to be comfortable with the teams first playoff win in a long while. Only, the Seahawks had other ideas. Rookie quarterback Russell Wilson led a furious fourth quarter comeback as Seattle scored twenty-one unanswered points, taking a 28-27 lead with just thirty-four seconds left. The Falcon faithful were in shock. Were they all having the very same bad dream? Did the Falcons just blow a twenty point fourth quarter lead? Was another Mike Smith team going to suffer another agonizing first round playoff loss? This one at the Georgia Dome no less?
It certainly seemed to be a less than 50-50 shot at a Falcon comeback, but quarterback Matt Ryan put Atlanta in field goal position for the win with a pair of pass completions. As kicker Matt Bryant launched a forty-nine yard field as time expired, his kick veered off to the right. It was no good. But wait; the officials were stepping in to say that someone had called time out. That meant that Bryant was going to get another chance to kick the game winner. Seattle Head Coach Pete Carroll was livid. “Who called it?” he kept asking again and again. He walked out on the field to curse at the officials, again asking who had called the time out. But when the television replay showed who had actually called the time out, it was none other than the head coach himself. Pete Carroll, the same head coach that was responsible for getting Southern Cal into a big heap of trouble with the NCAA before leaving for the Seahawks, had stood right by the line judge and called it himself, just before shoe met leather.
This time, Bryant’s kick was right on the money. It was good and the Falcons had finally won a first round NFL playoff game. Pete Carroll got what he deserved. His win at all cost philosophy has cost the USC program dearly and as he tried to deceive everyone from the officials, to the Georgia Dome crowd to the TV audience watching at home, it is his team that will pack up and go home for the season, while the Falcons move on to face the 49ers in the NFC Championship game.
The only slack I could cut for Coach Carroll is the “heat of the moment thing”, but cheating or trying to deceive people has sadly replaced good sportsmanship in most college and pro sports. And even more than the NCAA Championships his Trojan teams won his legacy will be more about cheating and wrong doing during his time at Southern Cal.
I am really happy for the Falcons and I hope they can somehow win the team’s first Super Bowl in a couple of weeks. As for Coach Pete Carroll, he got just what he deserved.
Randy Smith has been covering sports in Tennessee for the last 43 years. After leaving WRCB-TV in 2009, he has continued his broadcasting career as a free-lance play-by-play announcer. He is also an author and is a media concepts teacher at Brainerd High School in Chattanooga. He is also the Head Softball Coach at Brainerd. Randy Smith's career has included a 17-year stint as scoreboard host and pre-game talk show host on the widely regarded "Vol Network". He has also done play by play of more than 500 college football, basketball, baseball and softball games on ESPN, ESPN2, Fox Sports, CSS and Tennessee Pay Per View telecasts. He was selected as "Tennessee's Best Sports Talk Show Host" in 1998 by the Associated Press. He has won other major awards including, "Best Sports Story" in Tennessee and his "Friday Night Football" shows on WRCB-TV twice won "Best Sports Talk Show In Tennessee" awards. He has also been the host of "Inside Lee University Basketball" on CSS for the past 11 years. He was the first television broadcaster to ever be elected to the "Greater Chattanooga Area Sports Hall of Fame", in 2003. Randy and his wife, Shelia, reside in Hixson. They have two married children (Christi and Chris Perry; Davey and Alison Smith). They also have three grandchildren (Coleman, Boone, and DellaMae).