McCarthy has struggled with game management in key situations during previous playoffs. As I wrote about on Sunday, McCarthy has shown little aptitude for handling his team’s fourth-quarter decisions, particularly as an underdog.
Against the Seahawks two years ago, McCarthy kicked twice on fourth-and-goal from the 1-yard line in the first quarter, then clung to a bizarre emphasis on the number of carries his team should have in the second half in an attempt to hold on to the lead.
Then, last season in the divisional round of the playoffs, he followed Aaron Rodgers’ miraculous Hail Mary on the road in Arizona by kicking the extra point to go into overtime in lieu of attacking a stunned Cardinals defense for a game-winning two-point conversion try. His team never touched the ball again.
The “Brotherhood” seems to be on a mission this season, as Quinn has established a winning mentality in everyone on the roster. Ryan might be adamant about “blocking out the noise” regarding his inability to reach a Super Bowl, but you can bet that some of the negativity has fueled him up to this moment.
This game could be a shootout, indeed, but the Falcons prevail behind Ryan’s arm and his running backs’ legs. The defense will hold up just enough, relying on the blazing speed of rookie linebacker Deion Jones and Beasley and the physical play of rookie safety Keanu Neal to come up with some key stops. Falcons 35, Packers 31
The one other concern with Tomlin is that he may get carried away with challenges, although that’s less of a concern under the league’s modern rules. He made a terrible mistake with challenges earlier in his career during a playoff game against the Ravens in 2010.