Falcons offense disappears when it matters most

ATLANTA – The Atlanta Falcons were unable to turn their regular season dominance into playoff glory as they blew a 17-point lead in a soul-destroying NFC Championship loss to the visiting San Francisco 49ers.

Head coach Mike Smith and quarterback Matt Ryan have enjoyed five consecutive winning seasons together and four trips to the playoffs, including this year as the top seed following a 13-3 regular season record.

But they have nothing except two barely acknowledged NFC South division titles to show for it and one playoff victory, last week’s narrow win against the Seattle Seahawks.

While that win, compliments of a 49-yard field goal with eight seconds to play, was celebrated across Georgia, it also contained a warning as the Falcons let a 20-point lead slip away before recovering.

On Sunday, another big lead slipped away and this time Ryan and the Falcons offense were unable to recover and missed out on a berth in the February 3 Super Bowl in New Orleans.

The Falcons got within 10 yards of the 49ers’ end zone but a tipped pass and an incomplete effort from Ryan, struggling with a shoulder injury, ended the dream.

“We fell a little bit short. I thought everybody battled really hard, we just didn’t make enough plays to get it done,” said Ryan.

Atlanta led 24-10 at the break but were shut out by a San Francisco defense that found its feet just in time and were helped by two Ryan turnovers – an interception and a fumble that did not cost points but reduced momentum.

“I felt like the way we played in the first half, we wanted to keep that momentum going in the second half. But the two times we had chances on the plus side of the field we turned the football over,” said Ryan.

“You can’t do that in these types of games. We could have used points on those drives.”

Smith agreed.

“Those two turnovers gave them the advantage in the turnover ratio and when you don’t win the turnover ratio in the playoffs, you are not going to win the football game,” he said.

While the 49ers certainly showed all their qualities, the Falcons were left feeling they threw away a real opportunity to reach what would have been the franchise’s second Super Bowl appearance and first since the 1998 season.

The first half, with receiver Julio Jones on fire with two touchdown receptions on great passes from Ryan and veteran Tony Gonzalez scoring in what was almost certainly his last game, showed the Falcons at their very best.

“This is a tough pill to swallow,” said defensive end John Abraham. “Even though we have to give them a lot of credit, it feels like we let them in the game in the second half. I think that is the part that will hurt the most because we had a real chance to come away with the win.”

(Editing by Frank Pingue)

Read more :
  • Pagulayan, Biado sustain PH campaign in Ultimate 10-Ball
    Former world champion Alex Pagulayan and un­heralded Carlo Biado kept the Philippine flag flying in the Ultimate 10-Ball Championships as five other Filipino bets got booted out on Wednesda...
  • I-League: Air India hold East Bengal
    East Bengal's I-League aspirations received a big blow when Air India struck through Henry Ezeh in the dying minutes for a 1-1 draw in their round 21 fixture in Kalyani on Saturday. ...
  • I may have played football with the new pope, says Real Madrid legend Di Stefano
    Former Argentina and Spain great Alfredo Di Stefano thinks he may have played football against newly elected Pope Francis when the two were children kicking balls around in the streets of B...
  • Jordan reject laser claim at Japan match
    Jordan on Wednesday denied accusations that lasers were shone in Japanese players' faces during their 2-1 World Cup qualifier loss to the kingdom, saying the claims seek to justify their lo...
  • EMPTY SEATS PUT WIMBLEDON TICKET POLICY IN SPOTLIGHT
    LONDON: Wimbledon’s ticket policy came under scrutiny on Tuesday after several of the tournament’s top stars played against a backdrop of empty seats. The criticisms echoed the controversy ...
  • Ferguson fined, Nani banned after Madrid loss
    Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson was fined €10,000 ($13,000) by UEFA on Friday for failing to fulfill his post-match media duties after a Champions League match against Real Madrid. ...
  • Guioguio wrests 3-shot lead with 70
    Lovelynn Guioguio charged home with late birdies to shoot a two-under 70 in driving rains yesterday and emerge the surprise leader by three at the start of the second leg of the ICTSI Ladie...
  • Anne Keothavong targets Olympic Games
    Great Britain's number two Anne Keothavong has set herself the target of qualifying for the Olympic Games in London next year. The 28-year-old is currently ranked number 72 in the world bu...