Hell in a handbasket, that's where it all went. Our hopes for a long playoff run, our hopes for a second Super Bowl appearance, our dreams of a Falcons-branded Lombardi trophy. We'll be reeling from this one for a while and the answers are not going to be easy to find or swallow.
They say football is a chess match. In the case of last night's game, it was more like Bobby Fischer going up against a toddler who prefers to put the pieces in its mouth rather than play. Maybe we would have been better having to fight for the playoffs instead of having two weeks to "prepare." Maybe the snow storm was an omen. Whatever went wrong, this was a game that stung like the aroma of moldy cheese.
It started promisingly. A daring defensive play by Grimes brings a 7-0 score. Our defense breaks as the Pack ties the game. Then, Eric Weems does what he does best and gives us six more with a kickoff return for touchdown. And then our defense took the field again and the game was never the same. Our defense couldn't stop them. Our offense couldn't score on them. The Falcons were proverbial flies on the wall as Green Bay asserted their will with every possession.
Perhaps the only real offensive highlight of the night was also our downfall; Weems' TD-return prevented our offense from taking the field and giving our defense a rest and a moment to strategize. Of course, halftime should have given them that rest and recharge as well, but alas, it wasn't so.
Many players, coaches, and even Wes Durham and Dave Archer (who, at one point, with our offense on the field and down three TDs, exclaimed "THROW THE BALL" as Turner ran for one yard on second down) trumpeted this idiom: "Everything that could go wrong, did go wrong."
I don't believe that. I feel this loss should be owned by the players and coaches. The team was outplayed, outcoached, and outhustled. Green Bay was playing to win, even with two minutes left in the fourth quarter. Atlanta seemed to have given up after the Pack went up 28-14 before the first half ended.
Mike Smith and his merry bunch of staff are 0-2 in the playoffs, now, having gone "one-and-done" in 08 and 10. It hurts to say this, but it's the truth: no matter the season record, playoff football is a different caliber of football, and our team showed last night that they've yet to reach that higher level.
I'm only a fan and blogger. I cannot search deep and find the answers needed to bring this team to a higher level. I can, however, feel confident that what needs to be done will be done to get this team ready to win in the playoffs. We have a talented head coach. We have an intelligent GM. I am confident that the right moves will be made this offseason.
Unlike Falcons teams of the past, this humiliation on the national stage will not go unnoticed. The team will grow and get better because of this. We are a few pieces from winning it all and those pieces could fall into place this offseason. It's up to the staff to make that happen.
For now, I'm turning my eyes, head, and heart towards the 2011 season with pride in the fact that we're on a three-winning-season streak and have more promise than problems going into the dull period of football. Should we actually see a 2011 season, I have a feeling our Falcons will be highly competitive and will finally, after forty plus years, make back-to-back playoff appearances. And maybe next January, we might be the ones completely dominating and embarrassing a team.