NFL playoffs: Gonzalez, Falcons miss on chance to go to Super bowl
Atlanta • The Falcons blew another postseason lead, and this time they were unable to pull out a win in Pro Bowl tight end Tony Gonzalez's last chance to reach the Super Bowl.
Matt Ryan passed for 396 yards and three touchdowns, but the Falcons were shut out in the second half of their 28-24 loss to the San Francisco 49ers in the NFC championship game Sunday.
"I'm not going to cry about it," Gonzalez said after his 16th NFL season. "I walk away with the satisfaction I left everything, absolutely everything, every time I was on the field.
"I wish it would have culminated with the Super Bowl, but it didn't."
The 36-year-old Gonzalez still has a 13th Pro Bowl to play in, but after spending the season saying he was 95 percent certain he'll retire after the season, he sounded like he's now at 100 percent.
The Falcons led 17-0 in the first half and 24-21 entering the fourth quarter. Frank Gore's second touchdown run midway through the final quarter gave San Francisco its first lead.
Ryan and the Falcons were left 10 yards short of their chance for a second straight last-minute comeback of the postseason. The quarterback led the Falcons from the Atlanta 20 to the 49ers 10. On fourth-and-4 from the 10, Ryan's pass over the middle for Roddy White was deflected by linebacker NaVorro Bowman.
"On fourth down we tried to make something happen and we just couldn't get it done," Ryan said. "We fell a little short. I thought everybody battled real hard; we just didn't make enough plays to get it done."
It was the second straight week the Falcons blew a big lead. They led Seattle 20-0 in the first half of last week's divisional playoff game but needed a late field goal by Matt Bryant for a 30-28 victory.
This time, Ryan, Gonzalez and the Falcons came up short in the fourth quarter.
Gonzalez had eight catches for 72 yards including a 10-yard touchdown reception with 25 seconds remaining in the first half.
Despite all the passing yards Ryan was hurt by two turnovers an interception and a lost fumble on a shotgun snap. Penalties didn't help, either.
The Falcons set NFL record lows for a 16-game schedule with 55 penalties for 415 yards, but coach Mike Smith bemoaned two personal fouls against his team. Linebacker Stephen Nicholas was called for unnecessary roughness in the first half.
A more crucial call came late in the third quarter when defensive end Cliff Matthews hit 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick's helmet. If not for the roughing the passer penalty, the Falcons would have had a third-down stop.
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