Looking back at Falcons' loss

NEWARK, N.J. -- Before I head back to NFC South Blog headquarters, let’s revisit Atlanta’s 24-2 playoff loss to the New York Giants just a bit more.

Let’s turn to ESPN Stats & Information for some perspective.

A lot was made of coach Mike Smith’s decision to go for it on fourth down on one play in the first half and another in the second half. Both times, Matt Ryan ran a quarterback sneak. Both times, Ryan came up short. The decisions look bad in hindsight. But the numbers coming into the game favored the Falcons.

On designed quarterback rushes of a yard or less on third or fourth down during the regular season, Ryan converted three of four into first downs. The Giants had allowed first downs on five of eight such rushes.

Ryan had virtually no success when trying to throw downfield. On throws that traveled more than five air yards, Ryan was nine of 21. That 48.2 percentage was the fifth worst of Ryan’s career in games in which he’s attempt 20 or more passes of five yards or more. He averaged only 5.8 yards per attempt on those throws, after averaging 8.7 yards and a 53-percent completion rate during the regular season.

Atlanta’s defense had big trouble stopping Eli Manning and the New York passing game inside the numbers. Manning completed 14 of 21 attempts for 206 yards and three touchdowns over the middle. During the regular season Manning never had a game in which he threw more than one touchdown over the middle. In the regular season, he had nine touchdowns and nine interceptions inside the numbers.

The Falcons also struggled with their tackling. New York running back Brandon Jacobs had 47 yards after contact and teammate Ahmad Bradshaw. The 90 combined yards after contact were more than Bradshaw and Jacobs combined for in any regular-season game.

Atlanta’s blitzes didn’t slow Manning. He completed seven of nine passes when faced with five or more pass rushers. Four of those went to Hakeem Nicks for 98 yards and two touchdowns.

Atlanta’s running game never got going. The Giants allowed just 27 of Atlanta’s 64 rushing yards to come before initial contact. That’s the fewest yards perfect contact the Giants have allowed all season. They had allowed an average of 75.4 yards before contact during the regular season.