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Falcons disappoint again in playoff loss

January 8th, 2012
Getty Images from Yahoo! Sports

Peters hangs his head

The Falcons remained winless in the playoffs under head coach Mike Smith with a 24-2 loss to the New York Giants. The Falcons offense struggled converting on third and fourth downs lead to the paltry offensive output. The Falcons have been ousted in their first playoff game for the third time in four seasons. The Falcons record for the year ends at 10-7.

Matt Ryan completed 24 of 41 for 199 yards, as the Falcons were unable to really be effective throwing the ball downfield. The running game was meager, with Michael Turner rushing 15 times for 41 yards. Julio Jones led the team in receptions with 7 catches for 64 yards. Roddy White had 5 catches for 52 yards, while Tony Gonzalez had 4 catches for 44 yards. Matt Bosher punted 7 times, matching a season high, for an average of 46 yards, with only 1 being placed inside the 20-yard line. Eric Weems averaged 20.8 yards on 4 kickoff returns, but did not return a punt. The Falcons offense only converted on 4 of 14 (29%) of their third down attempts, and was 0 for 3 on fourth downs. All of their fourth down tries came inside the Giants own 25-yard line, all representing chances for the Falcons to settle for field goals to put additional points on the board.

Defensively, the Falcons played the Giants very tough in the first half. They only converted 2 of 9 third downs and were held to 7 points. But the Giants found little stopping them in the second half, converting all of their third down attempts, and putting up 17 points and 314 total yards. Curtis Lofton and Sean Weatherspoon tied for the team lead of 12 tackles. John Abraham (4 tackles, 1 sack), Spencer Adkins (4 tackles), Jonathan Babineaux (3 tackles), Kroy Biermann (4 tackles), Thomas DeCoud (9 tackles, 2 for loss), Dominique Franks (5 tackles), Chris Owens (6 tackles, 2 passes defended), Dunta Robinson (3 tackles, 1 pass defended), and James Sanders (6 tackles) had noteworthy games.

Both teams exchanged a pair of three-and-outs to start the game, indicating the sluggishness of both offenses in the first half. After a third Giants three-and-out the Falcons received the ball and were able to start to move the ball. A 20-yard pass to ones, an 11-yard run by Turner, and a pair of third conversions helped close out the first quarter with the Falcons having the ball at the Giants own 25-yard line. But on the opening play of the second quarter, the Falcons were in a 4th & 1 situation with a chance to take an early 3-0 lead or go for it in the hopes that they could get more. Ryan’s sneak up the middle was stopped short and the Giants took over on downs  at their own 24-yard line. But the defense stepped up and three plays later, James Sanders came streaking off the edge to force an intentional grounding penalty by Eli Mannign in the endzone. That resulted in a safety, and a 2-0 lead by the Falcons with the ball coming back to them. But the Falcons next five plays did little and they were forced to punt the ball back to New York. With the momentum in their favor, the Giants were able to match the ball down the field. A 34-yard run by Brandon Jacobs put them at the Falcons 15-yard line. And five plays later, Manning found Hakeem Nicks in the endzone on a 4-yard scoring pass to take a 7-3 lead with less than two minutes remaining in the first half. The Falcons followed up with a three-and-out, which the Giants also mimicked on their next drive. The Falcons would get the ball back with 1:08 left in the half at their own 20, but were unsuccessful in trying to move the ball before the clock ran out.

The Falcons opening series of the second half stalled after Roddy White dropped a pass on 3rd & 11. The Giants converted two 3rd & longs on their ensuing drive, including a 3rd & 12 where Manning was able to avoid pressure and find Victor Cruz for a 22-yard gain, beating Franks. The next play, Ahmad Bradshaw ran right for 30 yards to put the ball on the Falcons five-yard line. The defense managed to hold however, and the Giants had to settle for a 22-yard field goal. Things started well on the Falcons next drive, with Ryan finding Roddy White for a 21-yard gain on first down. White would convert a 3rd & 4 three plays later and Jones would scurry 13 yards on a reverse on the next play to set up the ball at the Giants 30. But the Falcons followed with two incomplete passes, and then an illegal substitution penalty would put them at 3rd & 15. But Ryan found White for a 14-yard gain to give them another 4th & 1 from the Giants 21-yard line. But the sneak by Ryan was stuffed again, and the Giants had the ball back on a turnover on downs. Three plays later, Hakeem Nicks broke open over the middle, beating Robinson and then broke a couple of tackles to break a 72-yard touchdown run with just under 3 minutes to go in the third quarter. The Falcons retaliated with a three-and-out as the fourth quarter began. The Giants would then seal the game with a 10-play, 85-yard drive that ended with a 27-yard pass to Mario Manningham to give the Giants a 24-2 lead. The Falcons responded with another three-and-out. The Giants would then consume six minutes off the clock before the Falcons would get the ball back with 2:57 to go in the game. Ryan would complete his next six passes for a total of 47 yards to get the ball into the redzone. But then two incompletions would bring up a 4th & 10. And the Giants kept the Falcons off the board with a sack on Ryan by Osi Umenyiora. THe Giants would run one more play before kneeling on the ball to achieve a victory.

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