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Falcons vs. Buccaneers: 3 Falcons up, 3 Falcons down after the last game of the season

Fact: Matt Ryan dips his steak in ranch and he likes it

NFL: Atlanta Falcons at Tampa Bay Buccaneers Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

It’s over. It’s finally over.

I don’t know how we got here, and to be frank, I don’t really care to re-live the mediocrity. The 2020 season was, in a word, “unpleasant.” The Falcons have a lot of work to do, and the obvious first step is the hiring of a new general manager and head coach. That process is already underway with Zoom interviews starting this week.

But before we formally move into the off-season, let’s take a look at some of the best and worst performances from the season finale.

3 Falcons Up

Matt Ryan

Ryan hasn’t had the best year overall, but he certainly did enough over the last 3 games to engender faith in his abilities going forward if the Falcons don’t decide to use the 4th overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft to procure his replacement. And that’s why I’m including him here. Ryan completed 29 of his 44 passes (65.9 percent) for 265 receiving yards. He threw 2 passing touchdowns and scored once on the ground. This was a solid day from Ryan and one that should give the fan base some reassurance going into next season.

Brian Hill

I’ve been on Hill’s bandwagon since day one, and I won’t lie: it’s been lonely at times. Hill arguably hasn’t lived up to his potential, whiffing on key opportunities to earn a bigger role, and he still hasn’t reached his ceiling. But yesterday may have been his coming out party. His 62-yard run in the 4th quarter wasn’t his only contribution; he also caught 3 balls for 42 yards, inclduing a 26-yard reception in the 1st quarter. You can’t really quantify this, but his running style just appeared to be more violent and more determined than what we’ve seen from him in the past. That game probably just earned Hill a roster spot next season.

Russell Gage

As WR3s go, Gage is the bee’s knees. Gage caught 9 balls (11 targets) and racked up 91 receiving yards, scoring once. We know that Julio Jones’ health will be a crapshoot from here on out, so Gage’s presence on the roster is a nice little security blanket.

3 Falcons Down

The Falcons Secondary

I’m not at all disappointed by A.J. Terrell’s rookie year. In fact, he did more than enough this season to show us that he can be the Falcons’ CB1 going forward. That said, he has struggled a bit down the stretch, and yesterday was no exception. But he wasn’t the only one that struggled. According to Pro Football Focus, Terrell gave up 3 receptions (61 receiving yards). The Falcons secondary as a whole allowed Tom Brady to put up 399 receiving yards. Chris Godwin and Antonio Brown combined for 271 receiving yards, and they each scored twice. Brady is going to Brady, but that was ugly.

Dirk Koetter

Koetter did nothing yesterday to change the fact that he needs to be on the outside looking in. As of Monday morning, he was still employed by the Falcons. That needs to change. Immediately.

Ito Smith

There was a lot of chatter surrounding Smith after his formal designation as the team’s RB1, but he essentially disappeared yesterday, rushing 3 times for a total of 9 yards and catching a single pass for 7 yards. As talented as he is, Smith’s long-term health has always been a concern for me, given his injury (and more specifically concussion) history. I don’t think that factored into yesterday’s performance, but it’s something to keep in mind going forward. At a mininum, he just didn’t have the hot hand yesterday.