Defensive end John Abraham wasn't just ineffective in the Falcons' NFC Championship Game loss to San Francisco -- he was basically invisible.
Limited by a left-ankle injury suffered in the fourth quarter of the meaningless regular-season finale, Atlanta's top pass rusher played 44 snaps Sunday without getting a tackle, a quarterback hit or even a hurry.
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The analytical website Pro Football Focus called it Abraham's worst performance of the season by far.
“John did everything in his power to get back,” coach Mike Smith said Monday. “We didn't have the production that he would like to have or we would like to have. In hindsight, it did hamper him. He was not 100 percent, but at this time of year nobody's 100 percent.”
But Smith, when questioned, suggested he did not regret playing Abraham in the 22-17 loss to Tampa Bay on Dec. 30 even though the Falcons had locked up the NFC's top seed a week earlier. In the fourth quarter, Abraham injured his ankle and had to be carted off the field.
“In terms of Game 16, no, you can't second-guess yourself as a coach,” he said. “You evaluate at the end of the season, you evaluate after every game and you can't look back.”
Abraham led the team with 10 sacks and six forced fumbles in the regular season. After a two-week break, he played just 15 snaps in Atlanta's playoff win over Seattle because he aggravated the injury in the second quarter. Sunday he was rendered a non-factor by 49ers left tackle Joe Staley.
Abraham finished the playoffs with no tackles.
Smith said the 28-24 loss, in which the 49ers' Colin Kaepernick was 21 of 26 for 233 yards, came down to five or six plays.
Too bad for Falcons fans Abraham couldn't make an impact on one or two of those plays. If he had, Atlanta might be headed to Super Bowl XLVII.
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