Falcons Flyover: January 21, 2013

USA TODAY Sports

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You spend your entire life reading articles like this one, watching games, and investing your emotional well-being into a team, hoping that one day it will pay off in the form of a championship—if only just once. And every once in a while, your team gets so damn close to that title that you can actually start to comprehend how amazing it would be to win it.

For a brief moment, the light at the end of that tunnel was visible for the Falcons and their fans on Sunday, as they found themselves one touchdown pass away from a Super Bowl berth. But soon after that light came on, it vanished, and Atlanta's season came to an end in heartbreaking fashion.

The 49ers won 28-24 and will head to New Orleans. The Falcons head home with broken hearts, but a lot to be proud of.

Last Drive Comes Up Short

We've seen the Falcons string together so many fourth quarter comebacks in the last few years, but this week it just wasn't meant to be. With a fourth and 4 on the 49ers' 10 yard line, Matt Ryan's pass to Roddy White fell incomplete, giving San Francisco the ball back with just 1:09 remaining on the clock.

Some will argue that White was interfered with on this play, but it's a difficult stance to justify. In the end, it doesn't really matter; the game is over, and no debate will change that.

Ryan Not to Blame for Loss

Matt Ryan was having a fantastic game until he turned the ball over twice in the second half—one via and interception; the other by fumbling a snap. Ryan is the the player to blame over this loss, but those turnovers hurt quite a bit.

Kaepernick Beats Falcons With Arm, Not Legs

One of the Falcons greatest concerns heading into Sunday's contest was containing San Francisco quarterback Colin Kaepernick in the pocket and prevent him from running wild. While they did a good job of this—holding him to just two rushes for 21 yards—the young QB was able to pass his way to a victory, throwing for 233 yards and a touchdown.

The Falcons coverage was questionable all day, and once again they found themselves struggling against opposing tight ends. Guys like DeCoud and Nicholas were far from the top of their games, and the Niners were able to take full advantage.

Second Half Fade Leads to Loss

The Falcons got off to a fast start for the second straight week, but once again, they were unable to keep the momentum going beyond the first half. Despite taking a 17-0 lead in the second quarter, they would score just one more TD the rest of the day.

Is This the End for Tony?

This was likely Tony Gonzalez's final game, as he appears ready to retire from football this off-season. While the future Hall of Famer certainly has the ability to continue his career, he doesn't seem motivated to put his body through the grind again.

While this loss was difficult for everyone in the Falcons organization, it's hard to imagine there's anyone feeling more heartbroken right now than Gonzalez.

* * *

I want to take a moment to thank all of you for reading the Flyover over the last few months. While the team ultimately came up short of its goal, this was an extremely memorable season, and I'm glad I was able to spend it here at The Falcoholic.

As we've said since 1966: there's always next year.

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