It snowed in Atlanta that week, and it essentially shut down the whole city. The hill outside my house carried a thick coat of ice that wouldn’t thaw for eight straight days. Ten minutes away, the Falcons were preparing to take on Green Bay in the divisional round, not knowing that the Packers would shut them down just like the weather had done to Atlanta.
The Falcons were coming off of a spectacular 13-3 season, and this was the point at which we were all the way in on Mike Smith and Matt Ryan. Their first two seasons together were good — particularly in contrast to that abysmal 2007 season — but in 2010, they made the leap to great.
So fans’ hopes were understandably high when the Falcons rolled into the playoffs with the top seed in the NFC and a first-round bye. And there was every reason to be optimistic. The Falcons had already beaten the Packers at home that season. It could be done. And the Packers were the lowly sixth seed. Atlanta had to win.
Instead, Aaron Rodgers came into the Georgia Dome and absolutely dismantled the Falcons defense. And Matt Ryan threw two terrible interceptions that made it impossible for Atlanta to recover.
Rodgers picked on Christopher Owens all day long, and Owens just couldn’t keep up. Owens gets maligned for his performance, and I get it, but there are few corners in the league who could have stopped what Rodgers was dishing out that day. He was surgically precise, going 31 of 36 for 366 yards, three touchdowns. He had a 136.8 passer rating. It was disgusting.
And it truly wasn’t just Owens. Dunta Robinson (now that’s a name I haven’t heard in quite a while) got burned repeatedly, and Thomas DeCoud and William Moore — one of the better safety tandems in the league at the time — couldn’t do much against that offense, either. Rodgers was just on fire.
Back to Ryan: He did not have a good day. He completed 20 of 29 passes for one touchdown and had a 69.0 passer rating, which is nice, but actually it’s terrible. His two picks were egregious, especially the one just before the half, which Tramon Williams returned 70 yards for a touchdown. The Falcons could have come into the third quarter tied with Green Bay, but instead the Packers took a 28-14 lead.
The Georgia Dome was overrun with Packers fans, who probably felt right at home in the wintry weather Atlanta had that week. Chants of “Go Pack Go” echoed throughout the Dome. I stayed until the very end, accepting condolences from Packers fans all around me. That’s how brutal the loss was. Their fans apologized for their team humiliating mine.
“We will learn from it,’’ Smith said after the game via ESPN’s Pat Yasinskas. “There’s a whole body of work that we put together and that can’t be forgotten.’’
We wish this part of your body of work could be forgotten, Smitty. We wish it could.
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