ATLANTA -- The Atlanta Falcons' dramatic victory finally complete, Tony Gonzalez dropped to the Georgia Dome turf and cried.
"Just like a baby," the 16-year NFL veteran out of Cal said. "I was that emotional."
Who could blame him?
If Matt Bryant's 49-yard field goal with eight seconds remaining had missed, Gonzalez's career might have been over. He has insisted that he is "95 percent sure" that this is his final season despite making the Pro Bowl again.
Now the NFL's career leader for tight ends in catches (1,242), receiving yards (14,268) and touchdown receptions (103) is one victory away from the Super Bowl.
Before Sunday, Gonzalez had never won a playoff game. With 254 regular-season games under his belt, Gonzalez had experienced more frustration than any other active NFL player. He was 0-3 with the Kansas City Chiefs and 0-2 after joining the Falcons.
With the Falcons trailing by a point with 31 seconds to play, despite having led Seattle 27-7, it looked as if Gonzalez might go out in the most painful way possible.
Instead, his tears would be tears of joy.
After Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan connected with Harry Douglas for 22 yards, Gonzalez got open deep over the middle for a 19-yard gain to the Seattle 31-yard line.
"It was the most important catch of my career and probably the easiest," Gonzalez said. "I turned around, and the ball was right there. Matt put it right on my chest."
"Tony is Mr.
Gonzalez had made five previous catches, including a touchdown grab in the first quarter. But it looked as if it all might have been for naught when the Seahawks staged their fourth-quarter rally.
"I thought, 'Here we go again,' " Gonzalez said. "I was afraid I wasn't meant to win a playoff game."
But Gonzalez and his teammates had one final gasp, and the result was another late victory.
"I wish we didn't have to do it like that, but I'll certainly take it and be very, very thankful," Gonzalez said.
"What a roller-coaster of emotions. I'm spent right now."
But Gonzalez and the Falcons will be able to keep playing. That was the goal for both.
"I really wanted to win this football game," he said. "I wasn't ready to have this all end."
With his grab, Gonzalez made sure it didn't.
"I can't tell you how happy I am for Tony Gonzalez personally," Falcons coach Mike Smith said. "He just did what he's done his entire career. He's a big reason that we've had the success that we've had on our football team. He's a special football player."