NFL Atlanta Falcons

2013 NFL Playoffs: Atlanta Falcons Shed Playoff Monkey for Smith, Ryan and Gonzalez

Kevin Liles-USA TODAY Sports

The Atlanta Falcons can’t win when it counts. Matt Ryan is great in the regular season, but chokes in the playoffs. Mike Smith can’t lead his team to wins in January. Tony Gonzalez will never win a playoff game in his Hall of Fame career.

All of that is now just idle chatter of the past…and absolutely proven false.

Smith, Ryan, Gonzalez and the rest of the Falcons shed that playoff monkey from their collective backs today in a thrilling win over the Seattle Seahawks at the Georgia Dome.

But, in typical Atlanta Falcons fashion, they made the victory awfully tough on themselves.

After being up 20-0 at the half, and then carrying a 27-7 lead into the 3rd quarter, things seemed well in hand, and Falcons fans may have started to celebrate a little too early.

A quick wink and a nod from Russell Wilson, and before you know it, the Seahawks were winning 28-27 with just 31 seconds left in the game, and it looked like Seattle would be the first team to come back from a 20-point halftime deficit since the Buffalo Billsa la Frank Reich–in the 1993 playoffs.

The tweets of antagonism (from Buffalo fans as fate would have it) began to pour into my Twitter feed, and I heard the sound of “here we freaking go again” echoing in the muted white noise from the dome.

For those Falcons fans whose faith never wavered, I congratulate you both, because only you could foresee Matt Ryan not only getting that monkey off his back, but giving it a swift kick in the butt while quickly driving Atlanta into field goal range in less than 20 seconds.

Matt Bryant kicks (after a thank you mulligan courtesy of the Seahawks “ice the kicker” timeout) the go-ahead field goal, and it was signed and sealed. Unfortunately it wasn’t delivered until Julio Jones intercepted the final Russell Wilson Hail Mary pass in the end zone as time expired.

No, it wasn’t the prettiest win in the world, and it’s certainly not the kind of victory that is going to give the analysts any reason to predict anything but a San Francisco 49ers victory in the NFC Championship game. But a win is a win. Unlike the BCS, there are no style points in the NFL.

Now Atlanta will get to host it’s first ever conference championship game, and the pressure that had been building through the pipes of the Falcons has been released. You could very well see a much more loose and confident Atlanta team hitting the field against the 49ers.

By the way, question for Seattle head coach Pete Carroll

Don’t field goals give you points too? Yep, fourth and one…fourth and one.


Michael Collins is a Rant Sports NFL and MLB Network Manager, and Atlanta sports columnist. Follow him @GaSportsCraze on Twitter and here on Facebook