Revisiting Week 17: Mike Smith’s Decision to Play Starters

Atlanta Falcons head coach Mike Smith’s decision to play the starters in a meaningless Week 17 game came back to haunt the team.

I said I was a fan of the decision to play the starters. It was a nice departure from what the Falcons had done in previous years, and as we all know, the Falcons fizzled out in the first game of the playoffs each of the past three times.

In the season finale, defensive end John Abraham ended up injuring his ankle. Smith said Abraham would be fine for the playoffs, but he clearly wasn’t. The defensive end was pulled early in the divisional round versus the Seattle Seahawks. Against the San Francisco 49ers in the NFC Championship game, Abraham didn’t record a single stat.

Abraham is the only player on the defense who can generate pressure on a consistent basis. With him being hobbled, the Falcons weren’t able to get any pressure on Russell Wilson and Colin Kaepernick.

At 34 years of age, Abraham shouldn’t have even dressed for the Week 17 game. He’s too important to the defense, and the decision to play him all game possibly cost the Falcons a chance at playing in Super Bowl XLVII.

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