It's not particularly surprising, but it hurts nonetheless: following Thursday night's primetime loss to the New Orleans Saints, the Falcons have been mathematically eliminated from playoff contention.
After the first few weeks of the season, taking into consideration the injuries on both sides of the ball, very few people thought the Falcons had it in them to turn the season around and make the playoffs. Going into Thursday night's game, the Falcons were clinging to a slim .00071% chance at the last wildcard spot. That chance has evaporated.
It's particularly painful for the Saints to have put that final nail in the coffin that is the Falcons' 2013 season, even as they ensured that Mike Smith would suffer the first losing season of his Atlanta tenure.
According to D. Orlando Ledbetter of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the team is still playing to win, regardless of their record. Safety Thomas DeCoud says the team is playing for each other, and for pride.
"If we were 9-2, it would still be for pride. This is a game about pride, going out and putting your best foot forward. Now, we have to just play for each other and our pride." - Falcons free safety Thomas DeCoud
It's a long, hard fall from the expectations we all held for this team heading into the 2013 season, but it is what it is. The team will play for pride over the course of the rest of the season, and young players will continue to get the opportunity to develop. The Falcons should end up with a relatively high (maybe extremely high, especially since the Jaguars just beat the Texans) first round draft pick, and the team will have some cap space to work with to address needs in free agency next season. The 2014 season cannot get here quickly enough.