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Originally published January 13, 2013 at 5:38 PM | Page modified January 13, 2013 at 10:57 PM

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Relieved Falcons celebrate a strange victory | Commentary

Atlanta players and coaches would have been answering more questions about not being able to win in the playoffs if they hadn't survived against Seahawks.

Atlanta Journal-Constitution

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ATLANTA — At least 15 minutes had passed since the game ended and Falcons owner Arthur Blank, slumped in a chair in the postgame interview room, was still struggling to process what he had just seen.

"I haven't started to breathe again yet," he said. "Seriously, I can't breathe."

He recovered. At some point everybody will recover, presumably before this team plays again. But the Falcons seemed determined Sunday to ensure that everybody watching (and playing) experienced everything on the spectrum of emotions — excitement, shock, euphoria, fear, paranoia, nausea, relief, joy — before giving Atlanta what they hadn't in the past eight years: a playoff win.

It started with the Falcons building implausible leads over the Seahawks. It unfolded with a folding — blowing 20-point leads, threatening to become the flashpoint for all conversations on the greatest collapses and humiliating moments in Atlanta pro sports history.

Falcons 30, Seattle 28. How did we get there? That will take time to process. But for the first time since the 2004 playoffs, the Falcons have a next week. They are in the NFC title game for only the third time in franchise history and for the first time at home against San Francisco.

We saw the best and the worst of the Falcons on Sunday.

We saw why they won 13 games.

We saw why so many thought to themselves, "How did they win 13 games?"

We saw them look like a Super Bowl team early, running the ball better than they had run it in any game this season, capitalizing on Seattle mistakes, building a seemingly insurmountable advantage.

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