Entering their Week 17 matchup against Tampa Bay, it wasn't imperative for the Falcons to come away with a victory; however, it was important for them to play well and end the regular season on a high note. As we all know, they were unable to do either.
Disappointing Loss in Season Finale
The Buccaneers came into the Georgia Dome and outplayed Atlanta in nearly every facet of the game, winning by the score of 22-17. The Falcons ended the regular season with an impressive 13-3 record, but go into their first playoff contest on a bit of a sour note; the Bucs go home and will watch the postseason from their couches.
"(This game) kind of had a little different feel to it," Kroy Biermann said. "But the bottom line, Tampa Bay came out ready to play and we came out a little flat."
Abraham, Robinson Injured
One of the worst parts of this game was the injury to Jonathan Abraham, but it appears the veteran defensive end is going to be alright.
Team sources have indicated that Abraham, who was carted off after twisting his ankle in a play during the fourth quarter, didn't sustain a serious ailment. There is no indication yet, however, whether or not he'll be able to suit up and play in the divisional round of the playoffs.
"The early reports are that it's minor," Smith said of Abraham's injury. "We're not overly concerned."
I rarely find myself disagreeing with Mike Smith and his coaching staff, but I can't help but question the choice to play Abraham deep into this game. He's one of the oldest and most injury-prone players on Atlanta's roster, and having him out there in a completely inconsequential situation was simply not worth the risk. Of course, it's easier to say this in hindsight.
That said, the injury to Dunta Robinson was a different story. There was every reason to have him out there early in the game; his ailment is nothing more than bad luck.
Ryan Has Average—Yet Record-Breaking—Day
After playing the best football of his career over the last few weeks, Matt Ryan looked like a very average quarterback against the Bucs. He completed 28-44 for 241 yards and one touchdown. While those numbers certainly aren't bad by any means, the efficient, crisp level of play we've come to expect from Ryan just wasn't there on Sunday.
With his touchdown, Ryan did break the franchise record for touchdown passes in a season, passing Steve Bartkowski with 32 TDs.
Falcons Back to Focusing On Selves
The only thing this team can do after a disappointing loss right before the playoffs is to shake it off and get back to focusing on its game. Atlanta now has two weeks to regroup and prepare to win its first postseason game since 2004.
"We're going to be in all week, it looks like," Tony Gonzalez said after Sunday's game. "It's not really a bye week; we just don't play a game. That's all it is. That's what's expected of us and (Smith) is the bossman, and we're going to come in and get after it because maybe it's good to keep the wheels turning, keep the car running and make sure we come out and have a good showing in that first round game."
Doug Martin Exploits Run Defense
The Falcons run defense was once again a weakness on Sunday, as the Doug Martin was able to gain 142 yards on the ground and a touchdown. His score, which included a cringe-inducing missed tackle from safety Thomas DeCoud, exemplifies this team's difficulty against elite RBs—an issue that could spell disaster come playoff time.