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Falcons Finally Get Over Playoff Hump, But Definitely Lacking Killer Mentality


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Falcons finally get over playoff hump, but definitely lacking 'killer mentality'

ATLANTA – In the minutes after their dramatic 30-28 victory over the Seattle Seahawks, the Falcons locker room was a heady mix of elation, anticipation and aw-yeah-we-weren't-worried bravado Sunday. Sure, they'd frittered away a 20-point lead, surrendered a go-ahead touchdown and won on a field goal/interception combo in the final seconds, but hey, a win is a win, right?

Player after player repeated the mantra "We'd been here before," and it's true, they had been in situations where they needed to come from behind to win. Most teams that go 13-3 don't win every game easily.

Kicker Matt Bryant (3) reacts to his game-winning field goal against the Seahawks. (AP)This wasn't just coming from behind, though. This was nearly a franchise-defining choke, a loss that – and this is not exaggeration – would have haunted the Falcons' fan base for a generation. Everyone could breathe easily and laugh about what hurdles they'd just cleared, that gut-clenching terror at the thought of a humiliating loss releasing as booming laughter.

So it fell to cornerback Dunta Robinson to provide a look deep inside after Atlanta pulled out the NFC divisional win: "We've got to develop a killer mentality. We don't put people away well enough when we get the chance."

Wait … we're two weeks into the playoffs, one game from setting the Super Bowl matchup, and this team still hasn't developed a killer mentality? Asked to confirm his statement, and why he thinks Atlanta doesn't yet possess the shut-'em-down mindset, Robinson shrugged and offered a wry smile. "Who knows? But we get another chance. Winning is a great thing."

We could go X's and O's all day long on how the Falcons let a 20-0 halftime lead turn into a 28-27 deficit with less than a minute remaining. The Falcons' rush defense was nonexistent; Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson had enough time in the pocket to make a sandwich. Seahawks pass-catchers, particularly tight end Zach Miller, were so wide open in the middle of the field it appeared Atlanta was fielding nine men. And the Falcons attacked Marshawn Lynch as if playing two-hand touch.

[More: Tony Gonzalez can't contain emotions after first playoff win]

But while all those elements combined to give Seattle freight-train momentum, the Falcons can't explain the intangible pall that settled over the entire Georgia Dome as Seattle piled up yards by the dozen. Why couldn't Atlanta nail Seattle's coffin shut early in the third quarter? Why don't the Falcons terrify teams when they get out to a three-possession lead? Why is Atlanta, now 14-3, already a three-point underdog to the 49ers in the NFC championship at home?

Tough questions to answer with only seven days to answer them.

"Way too many passing yards [surrendered], way too many yards with the quarterback scrambling as well," Falcons head coach Mike Smith said after the game, and those are words that should send fear down the spine of any Falcons fan who watched Colin Kaepernick do his Usain Bolt/Joe Montana love child impression against the Packers Saturday night.

Falcons WR Julio Jones (11) goes up high to intercept the Seahawks' hail-mary pass on the game's final play. ( …All right, so … enough with the piling on. Bottom line: Atlanta did actually win this game. An ugly win counts just as much as a blowout. At last, the team got over the playoff hump, the playoff Everest, that has haunted this team the entire Smith-Matt Ryan era. On his fourth attempt, Ryan has notched his first playoff win, and Atlanta has shown that it can bend pretty much as far as a team can without breaking. To hear Ryan tell it, the team learned from these past few years of season-ending heartache.

"I think your past experiences kind of harden you," he said after the game. "I think they make you a little tougher in these types of situations. … It's difficult to win in the NFL this time of year because you're playing against the best teams in the league. With that in mind, if you have an opportunity with time still on the clock, then you feel like you can get it done."

Like a college student who crams all night and manages an A on the final exam, the Falcons are setting a dangerous precedent with that mindset. Comebacks are fine, as long as you're not coming back from giving away everything you'd gathered up beforehand. The best teams in the league aren't going to let you get away with that very often.

[More: Five craziest plays from end of Atlanta's playoff win]

So with that in mind, what did Atlanta learn from its defensive meltdown? "Play a 60-minute game," Robinson said. "We've been in these kinds of situations before, and we'll be in them again. But it's never over if you're close. That's how the NFL works."

If anything, this game functioned as a quality walkthrough for next week's NFC championship showdown: "Russell Wilson and Colin Kaepernick are mobile quarterbacks who throw the ball at extremely accurate levels," safety Thomas DeCoud said. "We can use this game as a cheat sheet to prepare for next week."

It's a good idea. Sometimes, you're better off reminding yourself of what not to do.

http://sports.yahoo.com/news/nfl--falcons-finally-get-over-playoff-hump--but-lack--killer-mentality---002228244.html

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Second half was definitely ugly, especially defensively.

From the way many of these articles are being written though you would think these writers would somehow be happier if Smitty and Dimitroff would hold a press conference at FB today and apologize for winning the game.

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But for any other team it would, be a sign of their grit and determination. With the falcons, its a sign that they are 'soft'

Yea, still huge media bias, won't stop even after we win the Superbowl ;)

The 'Soft' falcons put up 30 points on the 'best defense in the league', but they wont talk about that.

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During the 2nd half I kept searching the sidelines to see if somehow BVG had returned and stolen Nolan's headset.

Agreed....I know Nolan was obviously concerned about Wilson's mobility/running ability but the utter refusal to make adjustments to that game-long, wide open intermediate zone was maddening (and dayum near got us beat).

QB, you could have hit me all day long with 15 yard seam routes in that game.......

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I honestly don't understand why we kept on airing it up. Our run game was in beast mode. We were up by 20 (3 possessions), why not try to run a few times and get some time off the clock?

Or why not try a screen to Rodgers and take some time off the clock?

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not even going to read this article - but it will be written 100 different times across 100 different media outlets between now and next Sunday.

It will be the new media theme, since the old one, ie the Falcons can't win in the postseason, has now been debunked.

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This year our Offense has had a killer mentality, The D not so much. We play too soft with a lead.

Koetter had Matt attacking their secondary the entire game.

I disagree to some extent. The meltdown was as much on Offense that it was on Defense. Matt was very much responsible for the 4th quarter avalanche. He played really poorly in the first three possessions in the 4th quarter. SEA wouldn't have had a chance if we had sustained the drives and scored even FGs on two of those 3 possessions. Of course he redeemed himself more than enough with the last drive, but if someone needs to develop a killer mentality on this team, it's Matt Ryan. Rarely is he focused and composed for a full game. He's clutch in the crunch time, but he has this tendency to let things get to the crunch time by his poor play when we have a lead. This time Koetter remained aggressive, he called the plays, Matt simply didn't deliver. Matt is the leader of this team so he needs to have that killer mentality for this team to develop it too.

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Falcons need to run more slants and crossing patterns - Roddy/Julio run them well and they are much higher percentage passes than throwing outside the numbers - which is the majority of Falcons pass plays.

When we throw these passes, we complete them and we did yesterday - and yes, i know matt had phenomenal completion percentages this year.

Considering how many deep shots we took, it was phenomenal that Matt completed right on his season average = 68.5% (24/35) in this game.

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I disagree to some extent. The meltdown was as much on Offense that it was on Defense. Matt was very much responsible for the 4th quarter avalanche. He played really poorly in the first three possessions in the 4th quarter. SEA wouldn't have had a chance if we had sustained the drives and scored even FGs on two of those 3 possessions. Of course he redeemed himself more than enough with the last drive, but if someone needs to develop a killer mentality on this team, it's Matt Ryan. Rarely is he focused and composed for a full game. He's clutch in the crunch time, but he has this tendency to let things get to the crunch time by his poor play when we have a lead. This time Koetter remained aggressive, he called the plays, Matt simply didn't deliver. Matt is the leader of this team so he needs to have that killer mentality for this team to develop it too.

I wish I could make excuses for Nolan and Defense but you don't win lot of playoff games if you allow more than 21 points in a game let alone single quarter. Offense had two punts in the whole game and the second Interception should have been a PI. Last year in the playoffs neither Giants nor Niners scored lot nor converted ton of third downs for the whole game. Their defenses didn't give up 21 points because of three and outs, they forced three and outs back and forth. It was Offense in 3rd Qtr which went on 8 min plus drive to score TD on only possession they had in 3rd quarter. Defenses win championship and what we saw yesterday in 4th qtr was not a championship defense, the quarters 1-3 was a great defense.

Edited by falcons007
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It was a D fail, not O. The O scored 30 points. If anyone lacks it is the D.

It's not about points, it's about situations. The offense had three chances in the fourth to put the game away and they failed. Matt Ryan failed at that specifically. Sure, the D had 4 chances in 4th quarter to do the same and they failed too. But Matt Ryan is the leader of this team and he has to learn to be clutch not just at the absolutely last chance, but also when the opponent is down.

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I disagree to some extent. The meltdown was as much on Offense that it was on Defense.

Come on dude. #1 defense in the NFL isn't supposed to stop us ever? Offense had nothing to do with it -- yes they could have KEPT the comeback from happening, but that Seattle D was GOING TO MAKE A STOP at some point.

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It's not about points, it's about situations. The offense had three chances in the fourth to put the game away and they failed. Matt Ryan failed at that specifically. Sure, the D had 4 chances in 4th quarter to do the same and they failed too. But Matt Ryan is the leader of this team and he has to learn to be clutch not just at the absolutely last chance, but also when the opponent is down.

Offense should score every time against top defense? Its laughable, the D crapped the bed.

Edited by falcons007
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I'd replace the word "mentality" with "execution." I think we called the agressive, go for the throat, plays in the second half. We just didn't have the same execution. Passes were just off the hands instead of great throws and catches into strong coverage.

The fact is this team plays better with a sense of urgency. Our best moments have come in prime time, in big games, and against top QB's. We lost our sense of urgency and that lowered our level of execution that had been off the scale sharp in the 1st half. As soon as the urgency returned, so did the execution.

I think we were very agressive (end arounds, down field play action, toss sweeps, etc.), I just don't think we "cared" until we got behind.

I think the 9ers will keep us in a sense of urgency all day. I don't think we are going to have to worry about how to hold a 20 point lead. Make no mistake, we can win, but it will be our toughest test of the year. It will be a great tune up for the Superbowl for whoever wins.

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