You know it's coming. The Falcons came into the NFC playoff game with the Packers here Saturday night with a 13-3 record, but dragging a ball-and-chain called doubt. They won so many close games that they lacked the look of a dominant team and it was held against them.
Then they went out and got hammered by the Packers, 48-21.
But overrated is too easy an explanation and a pretty nasty thing to say to a team that beat four playoff teams in the regular season: Green Bay, New Orleans, Seattle, and Baltimore.
"13-3, you can't take that away from us," said linebacker Mike Peterson. "We earned that 13-3. We accomplished a lot of things; we've got a lot of things to be proud of."
What was it then? Why did the Falcons look so helpless?
"Tell me," said Falcons left tackle Sam Baker. "Has anybody answered that question for you tonight?"
Was it mental? The Falcons were the least penalized team in the NFL this season, but they were flagged seven times in Saturday's game. Mike Smith, the Falcons coach, did not think lack of mental toughness had as much to do with the penalties as questionable calls by officials.
Did they have a rattled quarterback?
Matt Ryan made poor decisions on several passes. One was poorly underthrown and should have been incomplete in the end zone, but Michael Jenkins slipped on the newly painted NFL logo in the corner of the end zone and the ball was picked off by Tramon Williams.
On the last play of the first half, Ryan did a half roll-out to the sideline. Williams never backpedaled in coverage; he saw the play all the way and jumped the route and intercepted the pass. He took the ball 70 yards the other way for a score.
Were the Falcons overmatched? That is closer to the truth.
Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers was better than the Falcons' secondary ... by a large margin. The Atlanta secondary is still being built. The Falcons need another corner. They missed nickel back Brian Williams who was injured and replaced by second-year man Christopher Owens.
Owens was the nickel early in the season and lost his job against Cincinnati for a reason.
The Falcons will go into the 2011 season as a favorite to win the NFC South. The Saints are facing numerous personnel decisions; the Buccaneers are still young and building. The Panthers, well, never mind.
In the quiet of the Atlanta locker room, Roddy White considered what just happened to the Falcons. And here is the question to ask.
Did they get stage fright?
"It might be something about the big game," White said. "We might not be ready for the stage yet. We might need to go through times like this to get where you need to be. Sometimes you need to go through times likes this to see what it's about.
"Then come back the following year and do what you got to do."
More from NFL.com: