2011 NFL Playoffs: Atlanta Falcons Memorable Season Ends in Forgettable Fashion
Against Green Bay, the Falcons became everything they weren't during the season and did none of the things that won them 13 games.
They turned the ball over four times, couldn't protect Matt Ryan, committed seven penalties, got killed in time of possession and gave up a season high in points.
It started out great for the Falcons.
Atlanta forced a quick Packers turnover and scored the first touchdown of the game. After Green Bay answered with seven of their own, Eric Weems returned the ensuing kickoff 102 yards to put the Falcons up 14-7.
It seemed they had snatched the momentum and were well on their way to the NFC Championship Game.
Then it all came unglued.
The Packers ended up scoring 28 points in the second quarter, the most devastating blow coming on Tramon Williams pick six to end the half.
It was Ryan's second interception of the quarter, and was the type of mistake he had avoided all year.
While it is true that the the coaching staff may have been better off simply attempting a long field goal, they were relying on their young quarterback to do exactly what he did not: Throw the ball away if nothing was there.
The score just before halftime made it 28-14, and by that point it was all but over.
It was apparent by then that the Falcons defense had no answer for Aaron Rodgers, who ended the game with 366 yards and three touchdowns while completing 86 percent of his passes.
Green Bay took a 42-14 lead into the fourth quarter, and after Atlanta cut it to 42-21, any remaining hope of a miraculous comeback was put to rest when Ryan mishandled a snap and lost a fumble.
There's no getting around the fact this was a crushing loss, and one that could potentially derail a young, up and coming team.
There is still reason to believe heading into next season, however.
The majority of this team still has its youth. The defense can only get better and Ryan will continue to develop.
Teams often need to fail before they can succeed. The Falcons just got a taste of where they need to get to.
Is there really any reason we shouldn't think they eventually will?
General manager Thomas Dimitroff and head coach Mike Smith practically brought this franchise back from the dead in 2008.
To them, this season was just another step in "The Process."
Dimitroff has already shown a knack for finding players in the draft. Smith also did a fantastic job in coaching this team to repeated mistake free performances this season and the players clearly leave everything on the field for him.
There are also many who believe this team vastly outplayed its talent level this year.
As the team gets better overall, the results will too. They needed experience and just got it. One day we may all look back at this as yet another turning point in the organization's steady climb to the top of the league.
Here's looking forward to a promising 2011 season.
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