Matt Ryan Loses NFC Championship Behind Poor 2nd Half! Kaepernick and Niners Win Behind His Arm & Gore’s Legs
It had only been a week since San Francisco quarterback Colin Kaepernick rushed for 181 yards, the most by any NFL QB ever, on the way to blowing out the Packers. The Niners were up just 3 points at halftime in that game but turned it up in the 2nd half. Their opponents in the NFC Championship, the Atlanta Falcons, played in a polar opposite game. The Falcons jumped out to a 20 point lead before trailing the Seahawks by a single point with less than a minute left in the game. Falcons QB Matt Ryan made a couple of huge completions before Matt Bryant kicked the game-winning field goal.
The Falcons started the game fired up, playing with the passion from winning their first playoff game and believing that they could make it to the Super Bowl. Matt Ryan got the monkey off of his back and in the first quarter it didn’t matter anymore because he was playing with house money. Ryan could perform well and build from his first playoff win, or lose and chalk it up as yet another learning experience, either way he at least won a postseason game.
Ryan absolutely picked apart the San Francisco secondary in the first half and found Julio Jones on a couple of touchdowns. Ryan would lead the Falcons to 17 points on their first three drives throwing 2 touchdowns to Jones, while the Atlanta defense held the Niners scoreless. Matt Ryan would throw for more yards in the first half, 271, than he had thrown in any other playoff game. He hit Jones on touchdowns of 46 and 20 yards and found the ageless wonder, TE Tony Gonzalez, from 10 yards out with 25 seconds left in the half. Ryan had thrown for 271 yards, 3 touchdowns and had no turnovers finding Jones 7 times for 135 yards and 2 TDs in the first half.
The Niners would get on the board with a 15 yard TD run by the speedster, LaMichael James and Kaepernick hit Vernon Davis for a 4 yard touchdown to head into the locker room down 14-24. San Francisco was trailing 17-0 at one point but the Seahawks came back from more to take a lead before losing on the final drive of the game. Atlanta had prepared for the read-option, unlike the Packers last week, but Jim Harbaugh and San Francisco decided to comeback with the “old” Niners offense. Through the 3rd quarter Kaepernick had just 1 called rushing play for -2 yards but the former Chicago Cubs draft pick beat the Falcons with his arm, not his legs.
Kaepernick was 16-21 for 233 yards, 1 touchdown, 0 interceptions and all but 2 receptions for 24 yards went to Vernon Davis, Michael Crabtree or Randy Moss. Davis finished the day with 6 receptions for 106 yards and a touchdown, it was just his 2nd 100 yard receiving performance on the season, the other came in week 5 while Alex Smith was at the helm. Kaepernick nearly had a 2nd touchdown pass but Falcons defensive back Dunta Robinson stripped the ball from wide receiver Michael Crabtree at the goalline. San Francisco lost some more points when David Akers kicking woes continued doinking one off the upright from 37 yards, his 13th missed field goal of the year.
Behind the Kaepernick passing attack the Niners were able to keep the Falcons defense on their heels, allowing RB Frank Gore to pound his way up the middle. Gore would score 2 second half touchdowns to give the Niners a 28-24 lead but there was over 8 minutes left in the game. Franklin Delano Gore would finish the game with 90 yards on 21 attempts with his 2 touchdowns but as a team the Niners had 149 yards on 29 attempts. Nothing near the totals they put up last week but despite San Francisco having a couple of blunders on offense they had worked their way into a lead.
Luckily for San Francisco those lost points didn’t come back to bite them in the ass. As good as Matt Ryan was in the first half, he was equally bad in the 2nd half. Ryan would finish the game with a Falcons franchise record 396 passing yards, but had just 125 in the second half. He would throw his only interception of the game in the second half and lose a fumble. He has thrown for 125 yards, 0 touchdowns with 2 turnovers and making multiple poor decisions.
You take away the 22 yard catch by Harry Douglas, yes the same catch that Niners coach Jim Harbaugh acted like a lunatic once again, on the final drive and he had just 103 passing yards. To Jim Harbaugh’s dismay the referee ruled it a catch, although I personally disagree with the call, but Atlanta was wasting a lot of clock. At the time many were left to wonder if Ryan was orchestrating his second come-from-behind victory in the playoffs. He wasn’t and instead of running the ball on 3rd and 4 from the 10, they had plenty of time and timeouts, the Falcons threw the ball. Ryan’s pass was intended for Roddy White but it was batted down at the line by Ahmad Brooks.
With the Falcons season on the line Ryan was faced with 4th and 4 from the 10 with just over a minute left on the clock. He made a pass attempt to his left near the first down line intended for Roddy White but LB NaVorro Bowman broke up the play. There was questionable contact between the two players, with Bowman more at fault, but the refs let them play and kept their yellow hankies on their sides. Penalty or not, I blame Matt Ryan. The pass should have never even been thrown towards White because on the same play Tony Gonzalez, the TE 95% sure he’s retiring after this season, was open in the end-zone. He had a defender trailing behind him but a jump ball to a Hall of Fame tight end in single coverage is better than a short pass into the middle of a zone defense.
San Francisco would get the ball with 1:09 on the clock and Atlanta had just 2 timeouts meaning that if the Falcons could stop the Niners they would get the ball back. San Francisco rushed the ball, killing the Falcons timeouts and the clock. Andy Lee punted for the Niners and the Falcons had the ball back with 6 seconds left on the clock, enough for one last hail mary pass. Matt Ryan came on the field and threw a pass down the middle of the field to Julio Jones, it seemed like a failed hook and latter, for a 24 yard completion. Meaning if you take away the receptions from Douglas and the last from Jones, Julio’s only catch of the 2nd half, Matt Ryan had just 79 passing yards in the 2nd half and 2 turnovers. Falcons lose, Niners move on to the Super Bowl.