HOUSTON -- It wasn't supposed to end like this for the Atlanta Falcons. The way Super Bowl LI was unfolding, the likely scenario was something involving these images: a second half filled with constant laughter and frequent hugs, a joyous celebration followed by a Gatorade bath for head coach Dan Quinn and predictable debates about the start of a new dynasty. Few people had the nerve to imagine Atlanta melting down in epic fashion. Even now, it's impossible to fathom how a team could go from being so dominant to so dysfunctional in the span of roughly nine minutes.
As much as we'll praise the New England Patriots for their 34-28 overtime win, we can't tell this story without pointing out that Atlanta gave away a championship. That's the only way to look at a contest that ended with the victor overcoming a 25-point deficit. Yes, Patriots head coach Bill Belichick and quarterback Tom Brady are as dynamic a duo as you'll ever find in the NFL. That doesn't mean they were brilliant enough to pull off this miraculous comeback without a little help from the team wearing red and black.
This was the worst choke job in Super Bowl history. This was a young, athletic team being on the verge of sending a strong message to the rest of the NFL and then ending up as another highlight for Brady's legacy as the best quarterback in history.
The Falcons are such a likeable team that it's difficult to not feel sorry for them right now. They preach brotherhood and coach Quinn is as classy a man as you'll find in that profession. As the first half of this game also proved, they also have enough talent to be back on this stage in the near future. That's why they should be so sick after this defeat -- they were whipping the league's top franchise for more than three quarters and making it look easy in the process.
The Falcons shouldn't need a day or two to review film to see what wrong for them. Anybody who watched this game in real time knows the critical turning points. It included a missed block by Falcons running back Devonta Freeman on a fourth-quarter pass play, a whiff that led to Patriots linebacker Dont'a Hightower sacking Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan and forcing a fumble that Patriots defensive tackle Alan Branch recovered. It was Atlanta moving the ball down to the New England 22-yard line with just under five minutes left in the game, only to fall out of field-goal range with bizarre play-calling and critical penalties. It also was the Falcons' defense wearing down at the worst possible time.Read More...
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