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Buccaneers vs Falcons: Mike Smith says Atlanta played to win game

While the Falcons already had the No. 1 seed in the NFC locked up, coach Mike Smith never intended on resting players against the Buccaneers.

USA TODAY Sports

The Atlanta Falcons enter the postseason on a down note after falling 22-17 to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday. Despite the fact that the Falcons had the No. 1 seed in the NFC wrapped up beforehand, head coach Mike Smith decided to play most of his key players the entire game. Smith said after the game that he never had any plans to rest starters (via AtlantaFalcons.com):

"Absolutely not. We've said from the very beginning that we're going to play this game to win. I think we did that. We just didn't get it done today. We were low on DB's when we started the game. We only had seven dressed. We were getting low where we were going to have to change our packages, but absolutely not. We were going to continue to play to win this ballgame."

Atlanta's offense struggled much of the day, not getting into the end zone until late in the third quarter. Matt Ryan had a very pedestrian day, completing 28-of-44 passes for 238 yards and one score. Smith said he felt like the Falcons went into the game with a solid plan, but an offensive rhythm was simply never found:

"Obviously, we didn't get the outcome that we wanted in today's ballgame. I felt like we had a good plan. I felt like the guys went out there and tried to execute it. I just think we just never got in a rhythm. We kept ending up in third and ones and third and halves or fourth and one or fourth and half yards. Not being able to get in drives and I felt that was important in the ballgame. We didn't play to our standards. My hat's off to Tampa."

Atlanta will now regroup and prepare for the postseason, where Ryan has never won. The Falcons earned one of the two NFC byes and must wait until next weekend to see who they will be playing:

"The second season is getting ready to start. Everybody is 0- 0. We're very excited about that as a football team. We'll watch this tape and learn from it just like we always do and start our preparation for Falcons-on-Falcons during our Bye week. As soon as we're informed of who are opponent is and when we are playing, we'll start our preparation then."

Photographs by coka_koehler used in background montage under Creative Commons. Thank you.