Ouch. For the Atlanta Falcons, one good half by the defense, plus no good halves by the offense, plus another substandard playoff game by Matt Ryan, plus two dumb coaching decisions equals a 24-2 season-spoiler Sunday to the New York Giants.
Two points. In a way, that total is worth than zero for an offense because it emphasizes how much the defense contributed with minimal support.
Eli Manning and receivers, after considerable probing, finally found gaps in the Atlanta secondary, which had overachieved without cornerback Brent Grimes (knee). It mattered little because the offense would not have scored yet if the game were still unfolding today.
Ryan fell to 0-3 in these win-or-else games. As in the others, he did not play horribly. Nor did he live up to the expectations of a former No. 3 overall draft pick in his fourth season.
Coach Mike Smith, too, is 0-3, and a pair of brain farts in strategy was a foundation to the loss.
Toward the end of the first half, Smith had Ryan throwing despite using none of three timeouts at his disposal. Either run the clock out on the ground or spend the timeouts to get downfield for a field goal. What, was this a compromise between two disagreeing coaches?
Then, in the third quarter, Smith called a quarterback sneak on fourth-and-inches with no running back lined up behind Ryan. (Julio Jones was sent in motion, but no way he would get the handoff here). Based on the alignment, either Ryan would throw -- highly unlikely -- or keep it. He was stone-walled by a knowing Giants' line, the second time it denied Ryan on fourth down in scoring range. Not to have Michael Turner on the field was baffling.
In truth, the NFL has two seasons, regular and post. Once again, the Dirty Birds had one rewarding segment, one regrettable one. Falcons Nation would be delighted to see what a flip-flop feels like.