Despite taking a quick 17 point lead, the Atlanta Falcons were unable to hold off the persistent San Francisco 49ers, and for the second week in a row, they found themselves in a do-or-die drive at the end of the fourth quarter. Sadly, history was not to be repeated.
The effort from the Falcons was valiant, to say the least, but unlike last week when all they needed was a field goal to win the game, Atlanta found themselves down four and in need of a touchdown.
Being down in the final moments of the game has been nothing new for the Atlanta Falcons. In eight total games this season, Matt Ryan led his team to a victory as time ticked away, but he was unable to make the crucial plays against the San Francisco defense when they needed it the most. This marks the fourth time in Ryan’s five seasons that he has led his team to the playoffs, just to fall short of the ultimate goal.
Many will say that getting the win in the divisional round makes this season a success, and in terms of taking the next step, they are right. Nonetheless, when a team leads their conference from wire to wire, and then is unable to represent it in the Super Bowl, it has to be seen as a let down.
It is good to see the Falcons get one step closer. There were many who never thought they would ever take that step under Mike Smith and Matt Ryan. They got a playoff win, and they made it a little farther, but it is still far from where they wanted to be.
Matt Ryan has been so impressive this season, and his final drive against the Seattle Seahawks is the stuff of legends, but in both playoff games the Falcons’ opponents got back into the game with Ryan’s help. Against the Seahawks, it was an interception that led to seven points. On Sunday, he threw an interception and gave up a fumble, giving the ball to the Niners and and aiding them in their comeback attempt.
In the end, the entire Falcons team allowed San Francisco to go on a 28-7 run, and they will now watch the Super Bowl from a distance. It is a hard pill to swallow, but it should drive home the importance of finishing strong.
Jeff Everette is a Featured Columnist for RantSports.com, covering the NFL and NBA. Follow Jeff on twitter @jeverettesports, like his page on FaceBook, or add his Google + to your circles for all of his latest articles, thoughts, and rants.