I don’t know what else to say. I’m sure it’s the same thing most of you are thinking as well. How does one properly sum up a 27-point beat down at the hands of the Green Bay Packers?
This was the NFC’s No. 6 seed, a team that lost 20-17 in this same building back on Nov. 28, walking around the Georgia Dome like it owned the place. Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers may as well have been Arthur Blank’s spoiled nephew Felix, sauntering into the end zone in his underpants and dropping a deuce wherever he pleased.
As far as I know, Felix is a fictional person. But that’s what 366 yards and three touchdowns feel like against a team powerless to stop it. It’s frustrating. It’s embarrassing. It’s … a dose of reality.
Losing is one thing, but to see a 13-3 Falcons team fall flat on its face on a national stage is something this franchise will not forget for a long time. Is it worse than the ups and downs of Michael Vick? No. It is worse the downs and … further downs of Bobby Petrino? No.
But we have to remember that we did this to ourselves. We expected more and were handed less. This is not a team or a city that is ready for the big stage. We are a stepping stone to greatness. Atlanta is like the JC Chasez of sports towns.
Think I’m wrong? Consider how far we are from celebrating a major sports title in anything. Where would the next championship come from? The Braves would be lucky to nab a Wild Card after what the Phillies did in the offseason. The Hawks seem content battling for the fourth seed in the Eastern Conference every season. And the Thrashers, well, if there was a Stanley Cup for participation, Atlanta would have that all but locked down.
So if we’re ever going to hang our heads high and buy pointless Sports Illustrated Championship packs, our best shot comes from the Falcons. And this felt like the year. Matt Ryan evolved into one of the league's most consistent signal callers, the defense matured from a year ago and outside of a close home-loss to the Saints, Atlanta was playing like one of the best teams in the NFL.
All that anticipation proved to be self-deception, however. The Falcons called for fans to be loud and rowdy, looking for 115 decibels in the Dome. Instead, they couldn’t even get 115 yards rushing from Michael Turner, who finished with 39. Cornerback Chris Owens, filling in for an injured Brian Williams, stepped up in the same way baby lotion might if used to replace the oil in your car.
And then there was Ryan, our white knight, who finished with 186 yards passing, one score and a pair of picks. Matty Ice got iced. My favorite tweet of the night came from ESPN’s Bill Simmons who said “I have a new nickname for Matt Ryan: ‘Matt.’”
So who do we blame? How about history: The Packers win was the fifth victory by a No. 6 seed over a top seed in the last six matchups of those two seeds. That’s crazy but not comforting.
Many will heap on Ryan. Some will blame coaching. Others, still, will look to the front office and to the handful of defensive moves — in free agency and the draft — that don’t seem to be paying off for Thomas Dimitroff. This is where reason gets tossed aside, and fans will forget Atlanta was a 4-12 football team just four seasons ago.
Are there brighter days ahead? Absolutely. Will any of those golden moments include a Lombardi Trophy? It’s hard to say. For a city whose expectations of championship glory rest solely on the shoulders of these Falcons, you better hope so. Otherwise, we’re no better than a second-rate sports town.
And that’s exactly how we felt on Saturday night.
*Was anyone else worried that riots would breakout in the Georgia Dome every time Packer fullback John Kuhn touched the ball? Packer fans make a habit of cheering the 6-foot, 250-pound sledgehammer’s name. You can’t just yell “KUUUUUHHHNNNN” in our fair city and not expect some sort of reaction.
*Does it strike anyone else odd that Tony Gonzalez has never won a playoff game? The greatest tight end in the history of the game has no postseason glory. Tune in to see if he’s ready for retirement after this latest heartbreak.
*Eric Weems is incredible, right? His 102-yard kickoff return (the longest in NFL postseason history) was my second favorite moment of the broadcast. First? The KIA hiphop hampster commercial. Nothing is ever going to top that. Nothing.
*I’m curious to see what the Falcons do in this year’s draft. Pass rush seems to be an obvious need with an aging John Abraham a virtual no-show on Saturday. Maybe he was under the weather after standing in the cold along side I-985.
*How many times did you hear the “It seems another 53 birds have inexplicably dropped dead in Atlanta” joke? Six? 17? Enough to turn it into a drinking game?
*Second favorite tweet of the night came from Fanhouse writer Clay Travis (@ClayTravisBGID): “I picture the Matthews family reunion as being like a scene from 300.” If Clay Matthews were roaming Atlanta’s sideline, no team would put up 48 points.
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