Ten thoughts on the Falcons’ playoff exit, 2012 edition

The Falcons left the Meadowlands with nothing but a loss and tons of disappointment (AP Photo/Bill Kostroun)

Exactly one year ago, the Atlanta Falcons were the top seed in the NFC and a favorite to win the conference with the Green Bay Packers coming into the Georgia Dome for the Divisional Round. Since then, something hasn’t been right with the franchise, and it’s been an alarming descent that continued Sunday with a complete annihilation at the hands of the New York Giants.

Here are my thoughts from the afternoon that seemed as if it would never end.

People who know me would tell you that I’m not usually someone who jumps off a cliff when it comes to calling for firing of coaches. I never want to see my franchise make a rash decision off an ugly loss. But the time has come and someone has to go, preferably offensive coordinator Mike Mularkey. Can’t someone hire this guy already? Lord knows he’s interviewing for enough head coaching jobs.

I don’t think the Falcons should go a different way with our head coach yet. Mike Smith hasn’t been successful at all in the postseason yet, and we need to be mindful of that. He’s said all the right things to this point, but Jim Mora did the same for us. It needs to be closely monitored, but I don’t think the Falcons need to can Smith.

The Falcons actually played a good game defensively, until the offense had absolutely no success and the defense was forced to stay on the field for a large chunk of the second half. Their inability to force turnovers didn’t help, though.

This fanbase is not stupid, and they want results. There has to be a big change in the offseason to keep this fanbase going, because we can’t roll this same group out there in 2012 and hope to see a packed Georgia Dome. I wouldn’t be mad at all if the Falcons solely went after offensive linemen and defensive players in the upcoming NFL Draft.

You’re not going to win a road playoff game if you don’t go for it sometimes. They went for it and didn’t get it. Big deal. Credit the New York Giants for dominating at the line of scrimmage.

On the second attempted quarterback sneak on a fourth-and-short, wide receiver Julio Jones was set in motion behind Matt Ryan. Ryan snapped the ball, was stopped and held up at the line, but didn’t go down right away. Instead of running up and attempting to push his quarterback across the first-down line, Jones was an innocent bystander, watching his team lose possession. The teams that win big games do the little things. Was it the reason why the Falcons lost? Probably not, but it’s disheartening.

If you blame Matt Ryan for this loss, I reserve the right to call you an idiot. The fact that he is productive at all with the lack of blocking he gets is amazing. He’s not Michael Vick, yet he’s constantly trying to throw on the run. I believe he could be as good a passer as Drew Brees or Aaron Rodgers if he had their elongated chances to pass the ball. And, of course, if his receivers didn’t drop some of his passes, that would be nice.

This is a passing league now, plain and simple. Don’t believe me? Look at the other teams in the playoffs. A running game is nice, but a passing game is everything. The Falcons seem to enjoy doing the opposite, and it doesn’t work. It didn’t win us a championship in 2004 or 2010 or 2011. If you have to trade Michael Turner to get necessary pieces that allow Matt Ryan to throw the ball successfully, do it while you can still get plenty of value in return. He will age quickly, and our offense will remain stuck in the 1990s.

This isn’t an excuse, but I really wish the NFL would take a look at the way they allow a division champion to host a playoff game, regardless of their record. For the second time in three postseason appearances, the Falcons had more wins than their first-round opponent but were sent to play in a hostile environment. It’s not a recipe for success, even though Atlanta plays in what is consistently one of the best divisions in the league. I’m not saying it was the difference, but it would be nice to see the teams who win more games get the reward, not the team who gets to play awful Dallas and Washington teams twice apiece.

The Falcons have played a full 60-minute game in 2012 and still haven’t scored a point on offense. That depresses me.

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