What it means: A 13-3 season and the No. 1 seed in the NFC playoffs were squandered in a loss to the No. 6 seed. Does that mean Atlanta’s season was a failure? No. But it was a disappointing loss for a team that seemed to be on the cusp of challenging for a Super Bowl title. The future still is bright because this team has a relatively young core, but this game exposed some very big flaws. The defense, which has spent the past two offseasons making many personnel moves that were supposed to be upgrades, will spend a third straight offseason looking to improve. Defensive end John Abraham is nearing the end of his career and the Falcons don’t have much else in the way of a pass rush. Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers also exploited their lack of depth at cornerback.
Goat: Matt Ryan. He is the quarterback and that means he’s going to get too much credit when things go well and too much blame when they don’t. Put some blame on Ryan for this one. He threw two interceptions and remained winless in the postseason. But don’t put all the blame for this one on him. The defense was a much bigger culprit. You aren’t going to win very many playoff games when you allow more than 40 points.
What I didn’t like: The fact that Atlanta’s defense got totally destroyed. The Falcons thought they had turned the corner on defense. This one showed they’re not even close. This was the kind of loss that can force personnel moves and changes on the coaching staff.
What I liked: Atlanta fans, often accused of not being die-hards, showed up early and had the Georgia Dome rocking. The fans did their part, but their team did not. The crowd left early this time, but that is understandable.
Injury of note: Tight end Tony Gonzalez, who wasn’t much of a factor, hobbled off the field in the second half. We don’t know the nature of the injury yet. But it’s the end of the season, so that means you have to wonder if it’s also the end of Gonzalez’s career. He’s 34 and he’s hinted at retirement here and there.
What’s next: The Falcons begin an offseason of uncertainty. They’re scheduled to start offseason workouts in March, but the labor situation could result in a lockout. The Falcons also are scheduled to start training camp in late July.