Smith bemoans his Falcons’ second-half woes

Coach Mike Smith says the Atlanta Falcons can’t take much

satisfaction from almost rallying against the San Francisco

49ers.

For Smith, Atlanta’s season-long inability to play a

mistake-free third quarter wiped out the gains made in an improved

final period Monday night.

”The explosive plays have been an issue for us all season

long,” Smith said Tuesday. ”We continue to not defend the deep

balls as well as we need to or we have a missed tackle on a running

play. We’ve given up way too many explosive plays.”

The Falcons have been outscored by 74 points in the second half

this year, due to big plays allowed by the defense, abundant

three-and-outs dragging down the offense and untimely penalties

hurting both sides.

Such was the case against San Francisco, which capitalized on

the miscues to keep Atlanta from winning consecutive games for the

first time since last December.

On the opening series of the third, the Falcons would have

forced a three-and-out had defensive end Osi Umenyiora not been

flagged for being offside.

Colin Kaepernick connected with Michael Crabtree on two of the

next three plays for 63 total yards, and the 49ers tied the score

one snap later on Anquan Boldin’s 10-yard touchdown catch.

”Once they got the momentum, it was hard to get it back,”

rookie cornerback Desmond Trufant said. ”They had the crowd behind

them. They’re a good team. We were holding them for a while. We

couldn’t get the stops when we needed them.”

Atlanta’s offense followed with a punt, and rookie linebacker

Paul Worrilow’s subsequent interference penalty on third down led

to a field goal that gave San Francisco the lead for good.

The flag on Worrilow looked questionable to safety William

Moore, but the Falcons likewise were undermined in the third by two

additional catches by Crabtree that netted 41 yards and a scramble

by Kaepernick that gained 22.

Midway through the fourth, Kendall Hunter ran past Stephen

Nicholas’ tackle attempt to break off a 44-yard run and set up

Frank Gore’s 1-yard run for a 10-point lead.

”That one play, we have to make the tackle and have

communication all the way around,” Moore said. ”It was just one

missed play, and you see what happened.”

The Falcons (4-11) have one last opportunity to change their

second-half fortunes when playoff-bound Carolina (11-4) visits the

Georgia Dome on Sunday.

Smith knows that close won’t be good enough against the Panthers

team that’s won two straight and 10 off 11, particularly after

watching the scenario play out in the last regular-season game at

Candlestick Park.

In the fourth quarter, Matt Ryan orchestrated two long drives

that ended with touchdown passes to Roddy White and Tony Gonzalez,

but after the Falcons recovered an onside kick, the quarterback’s

pass to Harry Douglas was tipped and intercepted by NaVorro Bowman

for an 89-yard TD return.

At least the yearlong nightmare is almost over for Atlanta,

which finished last season 10 yards shy of the Super Bowl in a

narrow NFC title game loss to San Francisco.

”We’re just not making the plays when they’re presented to us

to win those types of games,” Smith said. ”And that’s something

that we have to continue to work on and get right for this last

game against Carolina.”

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