FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- The snow that forced the Atlanta Falcons to practice indoors all last week had nearly thawed by Sunday.
It will take a lot longer for the sting of their final game to melt away.
"The expectations of this football team have grown since we got here three years ago," Smith said, referring to himself and general manager Thomas Dimitroff. "When expectations are raised, you're not necessarily talking about the regular season anymore. You're talking about the second season. That's something we've earned as a football team and an organization. We've got to deal with it because we plan on being in this situation again very shortly."
Dimitroff and Smith don't want to judge the season based solely on the way it ended, with Rodgers throwing for 366 yards to send the Falcons to the worst playoff loss in franchise history.
Atlanta (13-4) did so many things right during the regular season -- and so many things wrong against Green Bay, looking totally out of character with four turnovers (the most of the Dimitroff-Smith era) and a season-high five sacks of quarterback Matt Ryan.
"The sky has not fallen, I can assure you of that," Smith said. "We played a very poor football game last night. We coached a very poor football game. Everybody in that room has ownership of that, and it starts with me. But I don't think we can overreact. ... We have to make decisions in the calm after we've been able to take the emotion out of it."
With nickel back Brian Williams sidelined by a knee injury, the secondary looked totally overmatched. The defensive line also appears in need of an upgrade after squandering numerous chances to take down Rodgers.
But the biggest issue is the future of 34-year-old tight end Tony Gonzalez, who hasn't said for sure if he'll be back for a 15th season.
"A great, great, great season. Unbelievable. A lot of fun, a lot of success for this team and this city. A lot of people shared in it, and it's fun. A fun ride," Gonzalez said. "It just ended abruptly. We didn't expect it to end this way, and definitely not in the style that it did."
"I'm not going to think about that right now," he said. "I'm going to go home and enjoy myself, but I feel great physically. I'm fine. I feel like a 30-year-old. I'm just going to go home and relax and kick my feet up and enjoy my family a little bit ... and make my decisions."
"They're going to be one of the glamor teams in the NFL the next five or six years, I guarantee you that," he said. "That's definitely going to weigh into my decision of whether I come back."
But Ryan has struggled in two one-and-done playoff appearances, committing six turnovers and being tackled for a safety.
"We did a lot of things well this year and we've got a chance to build on some of the things we did this year," Ryan said. "We've got a lot of people coming back, a lot of talent and we certainly expect to be right back in this position next year and get a different outcome."
Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press