ATLANTA -- At least 15 minutes had passed since the game ended, and Arthur Blank, slumped in a chair in the Atlanta Falcons' postgame interview room, was struggling to process what he had just seen.
"I haven't started to breathe again yet," the Falcons' owner said. "Seriously, I can't breathe."
The Falcons seemed determined Sunday to ensure that everybody watching (and playing) experienced every emotion -- excitement, shock, euphoria, fear, paranoia, nausea, relief, joy -- before giving Atlanta what it hadn't had in eight years: a playoff win, 30-28 over the Seattle Seahawks.
It started with the Falcons building implausible leads of 20-0 and 27-7. It unfolded with a folding -- blowing their 20-point lead.
And then came an even less likely finish. With 31 seconds remaining and the weight of a city and a franchise on him, quarterback Matt Ryan completed consecutive passes to Harry Douglas and Tony Gonzalez, setting up Matt Bryant for a winning 49-yard field goal with eight seconds remaining.
And now the Falcons are in the NFC title game for only the third time in franchise history and for the first time at home, Sunday against the 49ers.
We saw the best and the worst
We saw why they won 13 games. We saw why so many thought, "How did they win 13 games?" We saw them look like a Super Bowl team early, running the ball, capitalizing on Seattle mistakes, building a seemingly insurmountable advantage.
Joy, excitement, euphoria ...
Then they smacked into a concrete wall. The Seahawks drove to touchdowns on their first three possessions of the second half and four out of five. The last touchdown, on a 2-yard run by Marshawn Lynch, gave Seattle its first lead at 28-27.
Fear, paranoia, nausea ...
"It was," Falcons cornerback Asante Samuel said, "a little stressful."
The Falcons had been here before. Ryan had engineered five comeback wins with less than 65 seconds remaining since 2008.
He did it again.
First came the 22-yard sideline pass to Douglas at the 50. Then the 19-yarder to Gonzalez over the middle. The Falcons sent out Bryant. The Seahawks called a timeout in hopes of freezing the kicker -- and it's a good thing they did because Bryant kicked anyway and missed wide right.
The next one was perfect.
The Seahawks had a Hail Mary pass in the end. Wide receiver Julio Jones, shagging flies in the end zone, intercepted it.
Shock, relief ...
An unlikely ending to an unlikely sequence of events.