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 :
  • PSG held as David Beckham returns to scene of 1998 shame
    David Beckham returned to the scene of his infamous 1998 World Cup red card horror show on Sunday, but was unable to inspire his Paris Saint-Germain team to victory in a 2-2 draw with Saint...
  • Clinical Federer downs Raonic to reach last eight
    MELBOURNE - Roger Federer said he was energized by facing younger players after handing Milos Raonic a masterclass in clinical tennis at the Australian Open on Monday to reach a 35th straig...
  • Maria Sharapova confirms Fed Cup appearance
    Maria Sharapova has confirmed that she will represent Russia in their Fed Cup round one match against Spain in February. With the Australian Open due to take place in January, doubts had a...
  • Bustamante, ‘Bata’ brace for Ultimate 10-ball meet
    Seven Filipino players led by legendary cue masters Efren “Bata” Reyes and Francisco “Django” Bustamante are seeing action in the Ultimate 10-Ball Championships at the Harrah’s Resort in Tu...
  • Andy Murray relishing Olympic challenge
    British number one Andy Murray has claimed that he is determined to make his mark on this summer's Olympic Games in London. The Scotsman has been selected for Team Great Britain in the men...
  • UCI asks Belgium to sanction Hoste on doping grounds
    PARIS - Three-times Tour of Flanders runner-up Leif Hoste faces disciplinary proceedings after an apparent violation of anti-doping rules. "The UCI announces that it has asked the RLVB (Be...
  • Colorful rites to ring in UAAP Season 76
    Host Adamson University has prepared a colorful presentation for the unfolding of the 76th season of the University Athletic Association of the Philippines (UAAP) on Saturday at the Mall of...
  • Eric Abidal plays first match since liver transplant
    Barcelona says Eric Abidal has played his first match since receiving a liver transplant and club officials say he is almost fit enough for first-team selection. The 33-year-old France def...