Nearly 24 hours after the torture of watching the Falcons’ and Braves’ seasons end on network television, we’re still getting hit with jabs to the groin.
Julio Jones — likely done for the year with a foot injury. Jason Snelling — concussion. Roddy White — a hamstring injury to add to his already-nagging ankle injury.
Heck, even the Hawks got into the mix: after losing to the Miami Heat on Monday night in preseason action, Gustavo Ayon injured his shoulder and will miss four to eight weeks, according to the team.
Seriously, though … Julio Jones? Our most exciting player? It’s even more sobering when you think he made this catch after getting hurt:
(Also read: Here’s what Atlanta fans can look forward to now)
It was all supposed to be so different.
The Falcons were favored by 10.5 points against a pathetic New York Jets team that had somehow won two games in the first four weeks of the season. But the Falcons were desperate, and they weren’t going to fall to 1-4, I told myself. That just couldn’t happen to Jones, Matt Ryan and Tony Gonzalez on Monday Night Football.
It happened. 1-4. Key players injured. Season over.
Punch to the gut.
The Braves were going to save us, though. Freddy Garcia managed to outduel Clayton Kershaw through six innings, and the Braves took a 3-2 lead shortly after the Falcons lost on a last-second field goal. A 37-year-old journeyman outpitched the best arm in baseball. That’s how a man becomes a legend.
Of course, the most “Atlanta” thing happened next — heartbreak. An eighth-inning homer to give the Dodgers a 4-3 lead they’d never surrender. Game, set, match. The Braves were eliminated.
Kick to the groin.
This is what we’re used to in Atlanta. Anyone who tells me Cleveland or Buffalo sports fans have it worse are lying. Cleveland and Buffalo know they stink, whereas Atlanta fans are guided along the path of teams that could make a run at a championship but never finish the drill. And it never happens without a little extra added pain.
The Falcons could have just packed it in when they trailed by 13 with eight minutes left, but no … they had to score two touchdowns and regain the lead before ultimately squandering it to the two-minute offense of Geno freaking Smith. The Braves could just let Kershaw dominate them, but instead, they have to make us believe fate is on our side. Then, fate sleeps with our wife, because that’s what we apparently deserve.
Let me say this: I don’t blame coaching for either of the debacles that occurred Monday night. Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez could’ve gone to closer Craig Kimbrel in the eighth and asked him to get six outs, but Kimbrel had never done that before. Why gamble with your season on the line? What happens if the Dodgers start to knock Kimbrel around in the eighth? There’s no back-up plan from there!
I know Mariano Rivera has gotten dozens of six-out saves in his career, and maybe Kimbrel will, too. But you prep him for that feat in June, not mid-October. Regardless of what he said, I wouldn’t have asked him to get six outs when set-up reliever David Carpenter had proven himself reliable throughout the regular season.
As for the Falcons, playcalling is a very minor problem when you have the gaping holes in talent on the roster. There’s no use firing a coach for not scoring at the end of the first half when the offensive line can’t keep its quarterback from getting annihilated all night.
So we’re left debating which horrific sports night in Atlanta history was worse. Was it Monday night, or was it the night of Oct. 9, 2005, when the Falcons and Braves did pretty much the same thing?
If that’s the debate, then we’re quite the tortured sports town.
Now, watch our punter blow up half of the Jets’ sideline: