The Falcons literally let a chance to win the divisional round game , with Julio Jones missing on a 4th-and-2 catch that would have given the Falcons the lead. . Don't blame Julio entirely though: pin the problem on a terrible red-zone approach from Atlanta and offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian.
The approach was so obvious that Eagles players were calling out the final play, a sprint-out right by Matt Ryan, before it happened.
Safety Malcolm Jenkins said after the game the Eagles knew Ryan would be sprinting right "probably before they broke the huddle." Jenkins said this, according to Gregg Rosenthal of NFL.com, while laughing in way that "could haunt" Falcons fans this offseason.
"It was right hash. That's a lot of teams' tendencies for a sprint out. As soon as I saw the tight end come over, I was like, 'There it is!'" McLeod said. "This is everything you dream of as a player."
You can see it happening as soon as Toilolo (80) goes from left to right on the formation. McLeod (23) is screaming to the cornerbacks on Ryan's right side about what's going to happen.
The end result is a disaster for the Falcons. Not only did they cut the field in half, but they created a situation where there are two offensive players against five defensive players, all of whom are sprinting in the same direction as Ryan, fully aware of where the ball is going to go.
And making matters worse -- the only option on the left side of the field is fullback Derrick Coleman.
The "chess move" situation would have been to put a wide receiver on the left side, get man coverage on a slant route, fake the sprint right and fire back to the left. Who knows, maybe that's what Sarkisian was planning for the potential two-point conversion.
It's worth noting this play still had a chance for success. Not only did Jones barely miss catching the ball, but he was also being ridden like a pony by cornerback Jalen Mills.
For whatever it's worth, Julio didn't complain about going to the ground before the ball was thrown. And it's hard for him to complain too much because, again, the ball went threw his hands after he got up (although it's tough to adjust from being on the ground to making a play like that).
The entire red-zone sequence for the Falcons was a nightmare, from the underhanded pass on second down to final play that the Eagles saw coming.
Unfortunately for the Falcons it meant the end of their season, and about six-to-eight months of hand wringing over Sarkisian's play-calling.