Although the Atlanta Falcons were considered heavy underdogs when they faced off against the mighty San Francisco 49ers and their suffocating defense, the Dirty Birds did not go away quietly. Instead, they went down fighting and made one of the stingiest defenses in the NFL look vulnerable.
As the 49ers took down one of the more disappointing teams in the Falcons 34-24 and clinched a spot in the playoffs, for the first time in the second half of their season, Matt Ryan and Co. actually played well against an elite defense and a good team. The game was a much closer contest than the 10-point victory the 49ers had at the end of the day.
In a year of misery and underachieving, Ryan had one of his better performances despite the two interceptions with one ending in a pick-six to seal the victory for the 49ers. Ryan completed 37-of-48 for 348 yards and tossed in two touchdowns with an average of 7.3 yards per pass. Not only did the Falcons’ defense step up with three sacks, but the offensive line held its own by allowing Ryan to get sacked just once in the game.
When these two teams last met it was for all the marbles as the victorious team would have the opportunity to play in the Super Bowl. Almost a year later, even though the two teams are on quite different paths at this point of the season, the intensity of the game brought back familiar memories — especially with the dramatic finish that is all too familiar for the depleted Falcons.
Despite another heart-breaking loss, coach Mike Smith should be proud as his Falcons hung around against one of the better teams in the NFC. Instead of laying down and allowing the 49ers to walk all over them, the Falcons fought back and gave it their best effort that came up just short.
The Falcons may have lost the game, but if there was such a thing as going down in an admirable way the Falcons did just that. As the 49ers will make the playoffs once again, the Falcons will prepare for their last game in a forgettable 2013 season.
Even with the loss the Falcons went down fighting, and there isn’t much else Smith can ask except that his team never quits. In their loss to the team that ruined their hopes of making the Super Bowl for only the second time in franchise history, his team put up a fight and went down in a honorable way.