Ryan, Falcons falter as No. 1 seed

Associated Press
Atlanta Falcons running back Michael Turner (33) scores a touchdown on a 12-yard run against the Green Bay Packers during the first half of an NFL divisional playoff football game on Saturday, Jan., 15, 2011, in Atlanta. Defending for the Packers are Desmond Bishop (55) and Ryan Pickett, right. (AP Photo/Dave Martin)
.

View gallery

Atlanta Falcons running back Michael Turner (33) scores a touchdown on a 12-yard run against the Green …

The Atlanta Falcons believed Matt Ryan's 20-2 home record would be their ticket to playoff success.

Instead, Ryan and the top-seeded Falcons fell flat in their 48-21 loss to the Green Bay Packers on Saturday night, leaving the third-year quarterback 0-2 in playoff games with six turnovers.

Ryan threw two interceptions, including one that was returned 70 yards for a touchdown by Tramon Williams, and also lost a fumble. He finished with 186 yards.

The Falcons also had a fourth-quarter fumble by receiver Michael Jenkins.

For Ryan, the postseason disappointment was painfully familiar. As a rookie in 2008, Ryan had three turnovers, including a fumble returned for a touchdown, and was sacked for a safety in Atlanta's 30-24 wild-card playoff loss at Arizona.

The Falcons have not won a playoff game since 2004, when they advanced to the NFC championship game with Michael Vick at quarterback and Jim Mora Jr. as the coach.

The Falcons had good reason for optimism in this postseason after winning the NFC's No. 1 seed for the first time since 1980. But the Falcons, who were off last week, couldn't continue momentum built in their 13-3 regular season.

Atlanta's only losses in the regular season were in overtime at Pittsburgh, by two touchdowns at Philadelphia, and by three points to New Orleans on Dec. 27.

The Falcons fell flat after taking an early lead against the Packers on Saturday night. A fumble forced by linebacker Stephen Nicholas gave Atlanta possession at the Green Bay 48 in the first quarter, and Ryan led a touchdown drive that ended with Michael Turner's 12-yard run.

Eric Weems gave Atlanta a 14-7 lead with a 102-yard kickoff return for a touchdown, the longest kickoff return for a touchdown in NFL postseason history.

Then the Packers scored 35 unanswered points, and Ryan could not lead a comeback.

The loss was especially painful for Falcons tight end Tony Gonzalez, the 14-year veteran who has more catches than any tight end in history but still is looking for his first postseason win.

Gonzalez limped off the field with an apparent right knee injury with 2:03 remaining in the third quarter. He did not return.

By the end of the game, Green Bay fans had taken over the Georgia Dome, moving down to the front rows of the otherwise empty building.

View Comments