Falcons’ embarrassing loss means season was an epic fail

Matt Ryan had two interceptions and was sacked four times in the loss. (Curtis Compton/AJC)

Matt Ryan had two interceptions and was sacked five times in the loss. (Curtis Compton/AJC)

It’s year three of this great franchise awakening, and that means one thing: We don’t grade seasons on the first 16 games.

We can praise the Falcons for a 13-win season. We can marvel at their young quarterback, Matt Ryan, for his progress in three seasons and his ability to pull out victories in pressure situations. We can sit back and praise the owner, the general manager and the coaching staff for seemingly doing everything right and winning 33 regular season games since 2008.

But in January of 2011, the Falcons should not be graded on what happens in the first 16 games. They should be graded on postseasons.

They failed. Epically.

There’s no shame in losing to the Green Bay Packers. But getting bodyslammed 48-21 is a level of humiliation that no playoff team should ever experience, especially this one. Not after a 13-3 season. Not in its first playoff game. Not at home. Not after having a week off while the opponent was in a short week following a road playoff game.

You expected a high point for the franchise. Instead, the Falcons gave us a low — the most lopsided playoff loss in their history.

“We didn’t do anything like ourselves,” Roddy White said. “It felt like were a different football team.”

If the Falcons could have stepped outside themselves and astral-projected into other bodies, it would have been an improvement.

They committed four turnovers. They allowed the Packers 442 yards in offense, 366 coming from quarterback Aaron Rodgers, who threw three touchdowns and completed 31 of 36 passes (and I honestly can’t remember the five incompletes).

If you think it can’t get worse, try this: Green Bay never punted. The totals: Five offensive touchdown, a defensive score, two field goals, a missed field goal and a fumble. It was like the return of Arena Football, except only one team was fully functional.

“Totally our fault,” said defensive end John Abraham, who like many Falcons defenders got close to Rodgers on occasion but seldom could get him to the turf (he was sacked twice). “I’m not saying they didn’t play well, but we could’ve done a lot more to move this in the right direction and we didn’t.

“Personally, I had bigger goals. The regular season is good. But being done in the first game hurts, especially the way we got knocked out.”

Some feared the New Orleans Saints coming back into the Georgia Dome and winning for the second time in a month. More feared Michael Vick coming back and winning again. Was this any better — a lopsided loss, with several thousand “Cheeseheads” chanting, “Go Pack Go”?

We thought the Falcons were past this. Granted, they won a lot of close games during the regular season. Great teams win close games.  But when a team has such an epic faceplant in its first playoff game, you have to wonder how close it really is.

In 2008 — the first year of the Ryan-Mike Smith-Thomas Dimitroff era — the Falcons rose from two years of wreckage. They went 11-5. Then they lost at Arizona, a team that went on to the Super Bowl — no embarrassment there. This season they went 13-3 and lost to a Green Bay team that may end up in Dallas. The difference is venue — the Falcons were 20-4 in the Georgia Dome in the last three seasons – and what we perceived to be the Falcons’ evolution to this point.

Nobody thought the defense was great. But it appeared to be young and improving and certainly not set up for a dismembering. The offense added Tony Gonzalez last year to win a Super Bowl, but the team hasn’t even won a playoff game. (Nor has Gonzalez in his career. In fact he made his first catch of the game with 2:03 left in the third quarter and then limped off.)

The Packers fumbled on their opening possession. Then they scored touchdowns the next six times they touched the football – five on offensive possessions and one on a 70-yard interception return by cornerback Tramon Williams, a play that Ryan will be reliving in his nightmares for the next several months.

Oh yes, Ryan: The Falcons thrived this season on not turning over the ball. Ryan was at the forefront of that, throwing a career-low nine interceptions. Both second-quarter interceptions were costly. The first ended a scoring drive, though it may have been more the fault of wide receiver Michael Jenkins, who slipped and fell in the end zone, leaving Tramon Williams to make an easy interception.

But the second one was all on Ryan. With the Falcons trailing 21-14, eight seconds left in the half and the ball on the Packers’ 34, Ryan tried to hit Roddy White with a quick sideline pass to set up a field goal. But he threw way short and behind White and the pass was picked off by Williams, who brought it all the way for a score to make it 28-14 at halftime. The most audible sound in the Georgia Dome was a loud groan.

Brave fans stayed for the second half. But when the Packers scored on their first two possessions in the third quarter, it was like somebody yelled, “Fire.” By the end, it was only Cheeseheads in the stands.

This was exactly the kind of playoff meltdown Ryan wanted to avoid. He was 20 for 29 but had two interceptions and was sacked five times. Two years ago, his first pass attempt at Arizona was intercepted and led to a Cardinals’ scoring drive. Later in the game he had a fumble that Arizona’s Antrel Rolle returned 27 yards for a touchdown. The Falcons lost 30-24. We didn’t consider it a great tragedy.

This is different. Two years later, humiliating defeat should not be what this team is about.

They’re not as close as we thought they were.

1,754 comments Add your comment

Hillbilly Deluxe

January 15th, 2011
11:24 pm

Green Bay is the better team and it showed. There’s more work to do.

Birdman123

January 15th, 2011
11:25 pm

I thought we had a good team, but I guess we just suck.
The better team won tonight.
If the better team would have won this entire season, we would have been 0-16.

Herschel Talker

January 15th, 2011
11:25 pm

Schultzie:

Embarrassing doesn’t even begin to describe this disgraceful performance. Heads need to roll for this nonsense.

HT

SophyB

January 15th, 2011
11:27 pm

I’m a lifetime Falcon fan and won’t be jumping off the bandwagon, but this was just awful!! Why do they consistently fall apart in the post season???

Tired of Losing Falcon!

January 15th, 2011
11:28 pm

E P I C FAIL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Eric C.

January 15th, 2011
11:29 pm

Jeff, 37-20 is better than 48-21 unfortunately.

Tired of Losing Falcon!

January 15th, 2011
11:29 pm

And just like the Georgia Bulldogs there will eb NO changes for next year!! I hope they are looking at some TALL DBs

TrishaDishaWarEagle

January 15th, 2011
11:30 pm

What a crushing loss…Smitty..what happened???????

But I’m not going to be too down..I knew this was coming after we won the NC…nobody gets everything they really really REALLY REALLY REALLY want :(

I still love my falcons, I still love Matty Ice, I still love Turner, Tony G, Roddy, Grimey McGrimes….man..13-3 is so rare it just hurts to end this way but I love my Falcons and I thank Mr Blank, smitty, the coaching staff, and Thomas D for a wonderful season.

Disappointed in Cobb

January 15th, 2011
11:31 pm

Can’t we just ship this team to LA and be done with it?

secondliner

January 15th, 2011
11:31 pm

Atlanta can learn from us Saints fans how to party…..AFTER you win the Superbowl, not BEFORE. FALCONS crowned themselves and had too much time off to EAT THE CHEESE. LITERALLY!!!!

Dre

January 15th, 2011
11:31 pm

Sadly, they are who we thought they were…

Sam Troy

January 15th, 2011
11:31 pm

Whole ‘lotta chokin’ going on____. LoL.

TrishaDishaWarEagle

January 15th, 2011
11:32 pm

p.s GO Seahawks..I hope those cheesehead pr*cks go to Quest field (they want to go to chicago) and lose their A**

PackerNation

January 15th, 2011
11:32 pm

Enter your comments here
First of all, Arthur Blank should not be on the sidelines. He looks like Jerry Jones light. Fire that defensive coordinator ASAP. The Falcons need to establish a brand like the New England Patriots. Will NFL football win out over College football in the south? You say what.

Sho-Dawg of Harlem

January 15th, 2011
11:33 pm

Matt Ryan played like a Hot Shot Of Mess!!!!

JSS

January 15th, 2011
11:33 pm

Turned my IPad on just yo check in…
… Well, you can’t say you weren’t forewarned!
1
9
6
6
!!!
Good night folks, time to watch the floor show!!!

Matthew

January 15th, 2011
11:35 pm

Steps to being a sportswriter:

1. Overblow Everything: If the Home team is favored, get expectations up. When they fail to meet the standard, claim they’re the worst thing ever. Or, set expectations low and when the do better, claim they got lucky. This will keep you employed but logic doesn’t tell us why.

This will work with NFL, NCAA, NBA, and MLB games.

Timmy

January 15th, 2011
11:35 pm

LOL at Aints fans still living off LAST YEAR’S success. Nobody even cares about last year anymore except for you guys…

Seaward

January 15th, 2011
11:35 pm

I am Lovin it. All season long the Falcons were nothing but all talk and no substance. Your defense failed to show up tonight. Better luck next year (LOL).

ATL BOB

January 15th, 2011
11:35 pm

13-3, #1 seed, plastered at home. If management thinks we are close then they are lost in a fog. A #1 seed is not supposed to get a beatdown like this. WE HAD NOTHING FOR GB!
We need speed at RB and Receiver and this defense needs to be fixed!

Mark

January 15th, 2011
11:36 pm

I guess the national media was right all along.

lynn berkner

January 15th, 2011
11:36 pm

Its all payback for 99 against the vikes and by the way with a cupcake schedule this is what happens. Even san fran should of beat you Go pack. Super Bowl dirty birds.

Matthew

January 15th, 2011
11:37 pm

National Media picked New Orleans… so, no, they’re not right all the time.

bofus41

January 15th, 2011
11:37 pm

I’m a happy Packer fan, but I don’t think we are that good ar Atlanta is that bad. This sort of stuff just happerns once in a while. The score could have been reversed. You’ve got a very good young team and therer’s nothing to be ashamed of.
But isn’t Mr. Rodgers something special? Or, as we say back home in Green Bay, “Brett who?”

dbc

January 15th, 2011
11:37 pm

Must be something about teams from the state of Georgia…I’ve seen UGA do this about a dozen times in the Mark Richt era…

Eric

January 15th, 2011
11:37 pm

Never fun having your a$$e$ handed to you…especially on your home field. Hats off to the Pack. To say the least, they were the better team.

opie taylor

January 15th, 2011
11:37 pm

Smith should fire himself as defensive coordinatior, three years of passive defense and scheming. Rushing three passers with 8 in coverage has not worked as he is awful at making adjustments. Jim Mora won his playoff game at home. I could care less about 33 meaningless games and zero playoff wins.

Timbo

January 15th, 2011
11:38 pm

i agree. no doubt about it. we are what they said we are. bunch of pretenders. very disheartening.

D-Man

January 15th, 2011
11:38 pm

SO I GUESS WE SHOULD GIVE THE NAME “MATTY ICE” A REST????

Ted M

January 15th, 2011
11:38 pm

They lost because the offense stunk; mostly Ryan but also the offensive game plan. Don’t blame the defense at all if the offense put some drives together and held onto the ball GB would not have score 48 points.

Who Dat!

January 15th, 2011
11:38 pm

Well, I’ve been saying it all year…The Falcons really were not that good from the start. This is what happens when you play ball control all year and win very close in the end. That type of football wins games, but not playoff games. It’s hard being a champion folks. See ya’ll next season.

Timbo

January 15th, 2011
11:39 pm

oh by the way, i know he’s a rookie but Weatherspoon has done NOTHING this year.

drmondo

January 15th, 2011
11:39 pm

I haven’t felt like this about the Falcons since the ’80s.

neemosacs

January 15th, 2011
11:39 pm

WHO DAT!! NOT DA FALCONS!! GEAUX SAINTS!!!!

Timbo

January 15th, 2011
11:39 pm

also, we have no slot receiver at all. Douglas is a ghost.

ls1z28chris

January 15th, 2011
11:40 pm

Matty “Ice:” Still zero wins in the playoffs. Drew Brees? Super Bowl MVP.

RISE UP!

Mcbubba

January 15th, 2011
11:40 pm

Disappointment with a capital D….
How often do you get such a favorable road to the big dance..?
Dimitroff needs to bring in some people who can actually tackle the quarterback..
This one will sting for a while….

BlacknGoldSuperBowl

January 15th, 2011
11:40 pm

Well, “Timmy”…at least we not only got to…but WON the Super Bowl!!!! And it seems no one really cares about your team…”fans” were knocking each other down racing for the EXIT signs…

Timbo

January 15th, 2011
11:40 pm

Matt Ryan played poorley no doubt.

Kenny

January 15th, 2011
11:41 pm

This is the kind of loss that can set a franchise back a decade. But heck, it’s nothing new for Atlanta. Nothing new for the Falcons. Has any other city’s teams showed so poorly when they had the stage? The Falcons won’t get this close again for a long long time. Here’s betting they don’t make the playoffs next year and finish behind Tampa and New Orleans next year.

TrishaDishaWarEagle

January 15th, 2011
11:41 pm

sorry neemosacs, dem saints lost LAST week

ls1z28chris

January 15th, 2011
11:41 pm

Matty “ice” = 0 playoff wins.

RISE UP! lol

Hickory Avenue

January 15th, 2011
11:41 pm

Karma is a b*tch —– your CLASSLESS fans spent all of their time making fun of our Hurricane Katrina experiences (and our unfortunate demise in Seattle last week); and then began talking all that smack as if they had ALREADY won the Super Bowl ; but unlike the Saints , who actually took care of business and WON the Super Bowl as a number one seed , your dirty-a** Pigeons failed to “RISE UP ” ——- HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

PackAttack

January 15th, 2011
11:41 pm

and there in lies the problem. Why did “some fear” anything. You were the #1 seed at home. Act like it. Hadnt you caught enough lucky schedule breaks to last 10 seasons to expect one in the playoffs. Heck you got a bye last week. What did you expect? Did you think you would get the Bills coming to town and a free pass to the Super Bowl. You made your way through a easy schedule and when it was nutt cuttin time you got thumped at home.

missouridawg

January 15th, 2011
11:41 pm

We were awful, no doubt. But, we have a good coach, a good owner, and some good players. We’ll be back.

Birdman123

January 15th, 2011
11:41 pm

Timmy, Saints fans can sing because they have a Ring…Falcons fans seemed to have crowned their team Super Bowl Champs before they won a playoff game…or won a single game with any semblance of overwhelming dominance.

Growler

January 15th, 2011
11:41 pm

Packers served up some Matty Melts tonight!

D-Man

January 15th, 2011
11:41 pm

WELL, AT LEAST I HAVE A BEAUTIFUL WOMAN TO MAKE LOVE TO. THE FALCONS WILL SOON BE A DISTANT MAMORY. I MEAN MEMORY.

Matthew

January 15th, 2011
11:41 pm

Hello everyone. I’m a doofus. I think tonight’s game didn’t really mean anything because it was just one game. So please don’t overreact to the fact that our defense gave up TDs on 5 straight drives, that our stud QB pooped in his pants, or that we didn’t show up at all. Nothing to see here, move along.

I am a tool!!!

falcon83

January 15th, 2011
11:42 pm

maybe next year. I really thought that this was the year! I can’t imagine them playing a worse game. Everything they did was out of character. Why do they continue to have stage fright on the national stage. I would just like to see them win one game convincingly on national tv. I would also like to see a reseeding to the playoff system. By all means the falcons should have been playing the Seahawks, Best team should play the worst team. Thanks for the great year Falcons. Maybe 2011 is the lucky year.