Gonzalez’s career ends with another Falcons loss
Tony Gonzalez is ready for the next chapter of his life.
The Atlanta Falcons, after wrapping up an ugly 4-12 season,
won’t be the same without their superstar tight end.
Gonzalez reaffirmed Sunday that he doesn’t plan to play another
NFL game after the Falcons lost 21-20 to the Carolina Panthers.
”It’s time for me to go into the next stage of life just like
everybody else,” he said. ”Nobody’s immune to this, and the way
I’ve been able to go out on my own terms, it’s a blessing. And like
I said, I have no regrets.”
If his remarkable career is indeed finished, Gonzalez will look
back on his last game as something special.
Over 40 family members and friends stood on the right side of
the field as he jogged through the tunnel of noise, smoke and
adulation during pregame introductions.
His wife and three kids greeted him with hugs at halftime after
Falcons owner Arthur Blank presented him with a commemorative
helmet and the Georgia Dome flashed video highlights of his 12
years with Kansas City and five with Atlanta.
”It was just snapping in and out and trying to control those
emotions because they were running through me today – everything,”
Gonzalez said. ”I felt like crying at times, and then the game
comes up and you’re all intense, trying to go out there and do what
I’ve been doing for the last 17 years.”
Gonzalez ended the game with 56 yards receiving on four catches,
leaving him as the league’s No. 2 career leading receiver, a
13-time Pro Bowl pick and a six-time All-Pro first-team selection
who ranks fifth in yards receiving and sixth in touchdown
”This is like graduating to me,” he said. ”I’m going to miss
it. I’m going to miss my classmates – my teammates. I’m going to
miss my coaches – my teachers. I’m going to miss them.”
Sunday’s loss followed the form of so many other setbacks for
the Falcons this year.
They took the lead, blew the lead and came up a few plays short.
But Gonzalez stayed true to form by putting a positive spin on
the outcome, which was doomed after center Joe Hawley blew an
assignment in the closing seconds by snapping the ball past
quarterback Matt Ryan for a 16-yard loss.
”It’s offense, defense and special teams and then the ball’s
got to go your way,” Gonzalez said. ”We didn’t have that this
year. It seemed like the horseshoe fell out of our butts. Even in
this game today. We were driving, and everybody felt confident and
we were going to get the job done (almost) like last week in San
Francisco and then all of a sudden, it’s a fluke-type play.”
Ryan’s day ended with nine sacks, a single-game career high.
Carolina’s Greg Hardy was deployed in several different roles along
the line and finished with four sacks to help the Panthers set a
single-game record for sacks.
The Falcons lost after leading 7-0 on Jason Snelling’s 9-yard
touchdown catch in the first quarter, 10-0 on Matt Bryant’s 42-yard
field goal in the second and 17-14 on Roddy White’s 39-yard TD
reception in the third.
It seemed appropriate that Ryan’s last completion went to
Gonzalez for a 9-yard gain with 5 seconds left. Atlanta’s season
ended on the next play, an overthrown ball to White.
Gonzalez maintained his season-long stance that he feels no
disappointment for putting off retirement to help the Falcons reach
the Super Bowl.
They had come up just 10 yards short in the NFC title game last
season and seemed to have the pieces in place to make another
But an abundance of injuries, a weak offensive line and a
defense prone to big plays ruined Atlanta’s chances, thus ending
Gonzalez’s career with just one playoff victory, a 30-28 thriller
last January against Seattle.
”Obviously it just wasn’t in my cards, and I’m OK with that,
honestly,” Gonzalez said. ”Don’t ever look at me and say, `Well,
he never won the big game.’ I hope there’s no glitch on my record
because of that, and if you think that way, I don’t know what
you’re talking about. I really don’t because this is the ultimate
White was among those bitterly disappointed that Gonzalez went
out with a loss after the Falcons went 45-19 over the previous four
”I just feel bad for Tony because we wanted to send him out
with a win,” White said. ”But we just haven’t found any ways to
win this year. The fourth quarter hasn’t been ours all year.”
NOTES: Ryan moved past Steve Bartkowski to become the Falcons’
career-leading passer with 23,472 yards. … CB Asante Samuel was
active but did not play. With Atlanta committing to playing rookies
Desmond Trufant and Robert Alford and fourth-year cornerback Robert
McClain late in the season, Samuel took only one snap over the last
four games. … LB Sean Weatherspoon (knee) missed his second
straight game and was sidelined for nine games this year.
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