PHILADELPHIA — The Atlanta Falcons needed a red zone touchdown. It just didn’t happen.
Throughout the season, there were moments when the Falcons’ high-octane offense just couldn’t punch it into the end zone. That figured to catch up to them at some point, and it certainly did in Saturday’s NFC divisional playoff matchup with the Philadelphia Eagles.
The moment was set up for Matt Ryan to respond with one of those signature, game-winning drives that earned him the nickname “Matty Ice.” Unfortunately, he couldn’t find top target Julio Jones on fourth-and-goal from the Eagles’ 2-yard line in the final moments, allowing the Eagles to run out the clock in a 15-10 triumph.
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Rather than a return trip to the Super Bowl following last season’s disappointment against the New England Patriots, now the Falcons go home wondering what could have been. The defense made tremendous strides under first-year coordinator Marquand Manuel. And while the offense had its moments here and there, much of the scrutiny will fall on first-year coordinator Steve Sarkisian for not carrying on the explosive attack former OC Kyle Shanahan established the previous two seasons.
Forcing the Eagles into a couple of turnovers figured to be the Falcons’ recipe for success, much like it was in last week’s wild-card victory over the Los Angeles Rams. But the offense just couldn’t take full advantage as the Falcons went 1-of-3 in the red zone. Had they gone 2-of-3, they’d be playing in next Sunday’s NFC Championship Game.
The Falcons managed just 281 total yards. Two more yards on the touchdown attempt from Ryan to Jones would have earned them a victory, but Jones appeared to slip, and the play just didn’t work.
Now the Falcons have the offseason to ponder how to get back into Super Bowl contention. The defense appears to be in good hands. In terms of the offense, change is expected. Whether that means change from a coaching perspective is yet to be known.