What started out as a promising day ended in disappointment. The Falcons were eliminated from the NFL playoff picture Sunday night as the Vikings beat the Giants 49-17.
Atlanta had hopes for a miracle after beating the Carolina Panthers 20-13 and then watched as the Rams beat the Seahawks. The Falcons needed the Vikings and the Giants to lose their last two games of the season to have a shot. The Falcons would have needed a win next week over the Saints to have a chance.
After starting the season 5-0, the Falcons lost seven of eight games to slip below .500. They beat the Jaguars last week to even the record at 7-7 and got back over the even mark with Sunday's win over previously-undefeated Carolina. Now the Falcons can finish with a winning record if they beat the arch-rival Saints next Sunday in the Georgia Dome.
The Falcons will look back on the season with a few regrets. They lost twice to Tampa Bay, who had a rookie (Jamies Winston) starting at quarterback. They also lost a tough game in San Francisco in which head coach Dan Quinn elected to kick a field goal with less than three minutes remaining instead of going for it on 4th-and-goal from the San Francisco 1-yard line. If the Falcons had won that game and one of the games against the Bucs, they'd be 10-5 and likely headed to the playoffs.
Atlanta will likely now pick in the middle of the first round of next year's NFL Draft with the record being near the .500 mark.
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