It may have been just a pipedream, but it was a dream, nonetheless.
Let's be perfectly clear here: The Atlanta Falcons' playoffs chances were extremely minute before Sunday's game against the New Orleans Saints even kicked off.
Still, there was a chance, and they were inching closer in recent weeks to being in contention. And with 27 seconds left in regulation, the Falcons had the ball and a chance to knock off New Orleans, currently the NFC's No. 1 seed, and get a win.
Atlanta had won four of its last six games under interim coach Raheem Morris and a win over the Saints would have not only improved the Falcons record to 5-7 but put them in the mix with a slew of other NFC teams still jockeying for three playoff spots that'll go to non-division winners. Keep in mind that 11 teams across the league entered the weekend with five to seven wins, too.
It didn't happen.
With nine seconds left in regulation and the ball on the Saints' 39-yard line, Matt Ryan hurled the ball toward the end zone where Julio Jones was waiting with several Saints defenders. The ball was tipped and bobbled before falling to the ground.
With the win and the Chicago Bears' loss to the Detroit Lions, the Saints (10-2) officially clinched a playoff spot. Atlanta is now 4-8 and all eight of its' defeats have come to NFC teams, which doesn't bode well at all when it comes to tie-breaker scenarios.
No one – and by that, I mean Falcons fans – cares how and why the Falcons lost by five points to their bitter rivals on Sunday. It's not important now. However, the fact Atlanta had a chance to beat the Saints and keep pace with a pack of NFC teams still fighting for playoff spots does sting.
A week ago, after dismantling the Raiders 43-6, I noted that no one is talking about playoffs around here. And that holds true now, even more so.
The hated Saints, though, are heading to the postseason, and the Falcons had a chance to at least hurt their playoff positioning – and let it get away.
New Orleans has beaten the Falcons in six of the last seven matchups between these two teams, including three straight now. Outside of the 26-9 shocker down in New Orleans last year, a win that I still think was Dan Quinn’s biggest as coach here, the Falcons' previous win over the Saints came on Dec. 7, 2017.
Simply put, the Saints have dominated the Falcons over the last three seasons and that's really why this loss hurts a little more tonight.
Get an inside look at the matchup between the Atlanta Falcons and New Orleans Saints with top photos from Week 13.