When the Falcons squandered a 25-point lead last February and lost the Super Bowl, that was just cruel. It was like Falcons fans had been teased and then burned all over again, as they have been since the late-1960s.
Last Saturday night, when the Falcons lost a second-round playoff game to Philadelphia, well, that was just stupid. There was absolutely no reason the Falcons should have lost that game.
But they Falconed it, as only they can do.
Atlanta was facing a backup quarterback in Nick Foles. They led for most of the game. They even had a chance to win it at the very end. Questionable play-calling ruined their chances on the last drive, which has been a problem all season.
When Kyle Shanahan left after the Super Bowl last year to take over the 49ers, head coach Dan Quinn picked Steve Sarkisian from Alabama to become the offensive coordinator. It was an odd hire from the start, as Sarkisian has mainly been a college coach.
You want to hear something scary? If Quinn had picked someone else, maybe Sarkisian would have still been with Alabama and lobbied to keep Jalen Hurts in the game last Monday and Georgia would have won the National Championship. Then the Falcons would have done better on Saturday.
Okay, I’m reaching with that one. But Sarkisian took an Atlanta offense that ranked first last season in scoring (33.8 points per game) and had it drop to a tie for 14th this season (22.1 PPG).
Why? They had the same quarterback, the same running backs, the same receivers. Yes, there was one new offensive lineman, but that can’t account for a drop of 11.7 points per game, can it?
The offense was just not as productive, and the final drive of the season showed why. The Falcons moved down the field with some decent passes from Matt Ryan. But on second-and-goal from the 9, Ryan had a shovel pass to Terron Ward that was dropped. It was a wasted play.
Then on fourth down from the 2, Ryan scrambled right and threw high to Julio Jones. It was an odd call. No, it was plain stupid. The Falcons shortened the field and looked for only one player — Jones. It was yet another red-zone failure.
There is no way a team with that much offensive talent should score only 10 points in a playoff game. Sure, the Eagles have a good defense. But come on. Your season is down to four plays, and the best you can do is a shovel pass to Ward? And then on the final play of the season, do or die, you have a fullback and a blocking tight end in the game?
Atlanta’s running game was stymied by the Eagles, but the Falcons kept on going to the highly-paid Devonta Freeman, who finished with 7 yards on 10 carries. Freeman later admitted his knee was hurt, but yet the Falcons kept going to him for some reason.
Quinn should fire Sarkisian. It just didn’t work. Sometimes you must ask, “Is this the best we can do?” If Sarkisian is the best Quinn can do, then you need to wonder about Quinn.
I do wonder about Quinn. He’s the Pollyanna of NFL coaches, full of awesomeness and hope and mantras. But in the past two years, in crunch situations, how has Quinn done? It’s great the Falcons got back to the playoffs after a Super Bowl loss, but to lose a game like this — one they should have won — falls on coaching.
It’s just what happens with this organization. They’ve done this to us before, time and time again. They are going to find some way to mess things up, to disappoint. When they get to the playoffs, it’s a doubled-edged sword, as you know there will be some way the Falcons will break our hearts in the end.
They’ve done it again. It’s just what they do. The Falcons should be getting ready to play in Minnesota this Sunday. Maybe they did us a favor by saving us from yet another disappointment.
Listen to “The Bill Shanks Show” from 3-7 p.m. weekdays on “Middle Georgia’s ESPN” – 93.1 FM in Macon and 99.5 FM in Warner Robins. Follow Bill at twitter.com/BillShanks and email him at firstname.lastname@example.org