notes from cocktail napkins...
This one really hurts...this game was there for the taking and the Falcons simply couldn't finish.
At least we won't have to spend another year wringing our hands over why this team can't win a playoff game. The question most Falcons fans will now be asking is why cant this team finish? The common complaint is that the Falcons sit on a lead and get too conservative with the play calling. But in both the second halves of the Seahawks and 49ers games that was simply not the case. Dirk Koetter had Matt Ryan throwing the ball and early and often. The Falcons just didn't execute.
The 2 turnovers in the 3rd quarter is where the game was lost. We knew going into the NFC Championship that the 49ers were gonna score some points. Arch and I said on the radio it would be at least 4 touchdowns. You could not afford empty possessions. The interception by Chris Culliver in the 3rd quarter when Roddy White slipped while making his cut ultimately didn't cost you any points since David Akers missed a 38 yard field goal. But Matt Ryan taking his eye off the ball for the shot gun snap resulted in a 6 minute drive for San Francisco and the eventual game winning touchdown by Frank Gore.
I thought the refs were equally bad for both teams. The fact that Harry Douglas stumble was ruled a catch almost makes up for that ticky-tack penalty on Cliff Mathews for hitting Kaepernick's face mask on third down. And who didn't think Navarro Bowman was holding Roddy White on the 4th down throw?
The big what if for me in Sunday's loss was what happens if Harry doesn't fall down. It looks like he would get in the end zone. At the very least you can see the Falcons at the 10 yard line. After Quizz Rodgers ran for a yard on first down it was Snelling out of the backfield for 5 yards after Ryan made the throw to Snelling he got his left shoulder crushed by Ahmad Brooks. His 3rd down pass attempt fell incomplete. In the end you needed 4 yards on that desperate 4th down. You could see Matt couldn't get everything into the throw. Maybe it's a moot point but I cant help but wonder how the game ends if Harry doesn't trip and scores giving the Falcons a 31-28 lead with 4 minutes left.
I thought the defense did a good job specially without any sustained pass rush, Cory Peters had a sack and the Defense kept Kaepernick in the pocket. He never really burned you with his legs save for that 23 yard scramble in the 2nd quarter. We all expected Vernon Davis to have a big day and he did. But after the Seahawks exposed our linebacker's inability to defend Zach Miller most fans thought the Falcons would have a plan to stop Davis. Frank Gore did get in the end zone but with all the pre-game hype about how Kaepernick was gonna run for a hundy on us, I thought Mike Nolan did enough for this team to win.
On the positive side...Julio Jones is a bad man. 11 catches for 182 yards in the biggest game of his brief career. That circus catch for his second TD of the game is as good as it gets. Those numb skulls who thought moving up in the draft two years ago to grab him are eating some crow right now (and I can tell you it tastes like chicken).
The offensive line which many thought would be a liability did a great job keeping Matt Ryan clean all season. A lot of it had to do with Sam Baker being healthy for the entire season for first time in his Falcon career. Rookie Peter Konz stepped in at guard and was solid down the stretch and new line coach Pat Hill maximized the talent. Will Todd McClure be back? Will some of the behemoth back ups (Philip-Keith Manley & Lamar Holmes) step up and crack the starting line up next year ?
Unfortunately...Thomas Dimitroff will have a big shopping list in the off season. The team has no pass rush. Ray Edwards was a bust and Abe is that the end of his career. I still think Mike Smith deserves some heat for the bone headed decision to play the starters in the meaningless Bucs game in week 17. John Abraham jacked up his ankle and wasn't the same player.
Need some help at LB. Stephen Nicholas was a liability in the playoff games. I'm not sold on Akeem Dent but Arch thinks he can be the man. Sean Weatherspoon and the entire defensive unit have got to be better tacklers. Everyone love the Missouri Hammer William Moore, but every year he misses a month or more. Asante Samuel provided a needed spark but will have to have an heir apparent drafted. Brent Grimes will not be brought back.
You wish the Falcons could convince Tony Gonzalez not to jump to the broadcast booth before heading to Canton but he is done. Chase Coffman reminded folks why some scouts thought he was the best tight end in the 2009 draft class with that dazzling grab against Seattle, Can he finally live up to his potential?
Sure the loss to the 49ers hurts right now, but the good news is the team is on sure footing and is now a perennial playoff team. Just like the Patriots, Packers or Ravens, Atlanta is now an elite team. Just gonna need some tweaking to get to the big game. This team isn't going backwards. The significance of the playoff win against Seattle cannot be under estimated. I know that most teams don't get a chance to play for the Super Bowl every year but I think we have more title games in our future.