PHILADELPHIA — The Atlanta Falcons needed a red-zone touchdown. It just didn’t happen.
Throughout the season, there were moments where the Falcons’ high-octane offense just couldn’t punch it into the end zone. It 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 play at the Eagles’ 2-yard line in the final moments, allowing the Eagles to run out the clock in a 15-10 triumph.
Rather than a return trip to the Super Bowl following last year’s disappointment against the New England Patriots, now the Falcons go home wondering what could have been this year. The defense made tremendous strides under first year defensive coordinator Marquand Manuel. And while the offense had moments here and there, much of the scrutiny will fall on first-year offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian for not carrying on the explosive attack former coordinator Kyle Shanahan established the previous two years.
Forcing the Eagles into a couple turnovers figured to be the Falcons’ recipe for success, much like it was in last week’s wildcard win 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 week’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 from a coaching perspective is yet to be known.