In an intense Conference Championship Sunday, there were numerous surprises. There were those who exceeded expectations, and there were those who disappointed.
This article is about the latter category.
Some players made the list purely because of awful play. Others made it because the expectations for them were so high, and they simply didn't live up to the great expectations.
Every player on this list, though, failed to play as well as he was expected to.
Who came up short for their teams as they tried to make it to the Super Bowl?
Dashon Goldson looked horrible on a Julio Jones touchdown and generally struggled in coverage all day. The Atlanta offense showed plenty of explosive ability, and Goldson's poor play served only to amplify the Falcons' talent.
In 2012, Goldson made $6.2 million under the franchise tag. Such a high-priced player certainly shouldn't be a liability, should he?
For most of 2012, Ray Rice's production problems stemmed directly from his lack of opportunity. Against the Patriots, though, Rice had chances. However, he gained just 48 yards on 19 carries.
This 2.5 yards per carry clearly indicates a terrible game.
New England's run defense isn't so good that this is explainable. Baltimore was expecting Rice to produce at a high level, and he didn't.
This shouldn't be a surprise to anyone.
The perennial postseason quarterback, Tom Brady struggled against Baltimore. Brady completed just 29 of his 54 passes for 320 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions.
Brady's play certainly set back the Patriots as they went down to the Ravens. New England expected—needed—a big game from its star quarterback, and he didn't produce.
David Akers missed a 37-yard field goal. This error ended up not costing the 49ers, but in such a close game, it easily could have.
It would be one thing if this were a 50-yarder, but such a short field goal should be made every time. San Francisco is lucky this ended up not mattering because it was an inexcusable error in the team's biggest game yet.
Torrey Smith has often proved a factor in Baltimore's big victories. His speed and playmaking ability frequently show up as he destroys secondaries.
That didn't happen here.
Playing against a pretty weak pass defense, Smith caught just four passes for 69 yards. This isn't a bad game by any stretch, but he wasn't the impact player Baltimore expects.
It's well known that the Falcons don't have the best run game. Even still, Atlanta's rushing attack was distinctly unimpressive, averaging 3.5 yards per carry.
The explosive Jacquizz Rodgers didn't take advantage of his 10 carries, gaining just 32 yards. The Falcons run game was simply there. It didn't add any value to the team's offensive attack.
The stats here show that Matt Ryan had a terrific game and carried the Atlanta offense.
Once again, the stats don't represent reality.
Ryan's passing numbers were impressive, but, as usual, he benefited from a dynamic offense featuring Julio Jones, Roddy White and Tony Gonzalez.
More importantly were Ryan's two turnovers. His interception and fumble both proved crucial as Atlanta blew its lead down the stretch, eventually losing.
Ryan's play wasn't as crucial to the Falcons offense as one might think, and his mistakes led to their demise.
Even though Matt Ryan made some mistakes, the San Francisco pass defense was simply atrocious. When a quarterback completes over 70 percent of his passes for 396 yards and three touchdowns, there is a problem.
The 49ers were completely unable to contain Atlanta's various receiving weapons. Ryan was throwing to wide-open targets all day, as the San Francisco secondary struggled mightily.
If the 49ers had lost, the blame would have fallen on its pass defense.
The Patriots are an offensive team.
So when they score just 13 points, they probably aren't going to win. No surprise, they didn't beat the Ravens.
Whether it was Tom Brady or the team's lackluster rushing attack, it simply wasn't there for the Patriots. Baltimore's defense was far from great in 2012, but New England struggled to move the ball at all.
The Patriots' usually excellent rushing attack gained just 3.9 yards per carry, so Brady's struggles were even more fatal.
After a huge game last week, expectations for Michael Crabtree were as high as ever. He wasn't exactly irrelevant against Atlanta, but he wasn't a difference-maker either.
Crabtree's 57 yards certainly didn't devastate Atlanta. This isn't to say Crabtree had a bad game, but he didn't contribute too much, and he fell short of the expectations he set against Green Bay.