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Super Bowl LI: Patriots Comeback Makes High-Flying Falcons Eat Crow

Somewhere, Steph Curry and the Golden State Warriors feel the pain in seeing the Atlanta Falcons choke away a lead in Super Bowl LI to the New England Patriots.

The Falcons, who were up 28-3 in the third quarter, with roughly 20-plus minutes left in the game, allowed the New England Patriots to score 31 unanswered points—including the game-winning two-yard touchdown run by James White—to complete an improbable 34-28 comeback win in the first-ever Super Bowl to go into overtime.

Not to come down hard on the young and up-and-coming Falcons in blowing a 20-plus point lead in the biggest game of the NFL and on the biggest stage in front of millions worldwide, but it will take a long time for the Falcons, their organization, players and a transient, down-on-their-luck fan base to recover from this one.

Heck, even the one-day bandwagon Falcons fans/Patriots hate-watchers are going to have a hard time stomaching this latest Atlanta sports collapse.

T.I., Usher and Ludacris can’t rap or save the ATL from this farrago

And it will take a LONG time to get back to this, considering the current era of free agency, and the tendency for players to chase a ring.

What still has to sting and hurt the most is how and most importantly WHY it happened, considering that they had the NFL’s newly-crowned NFL MVP in Matt Ryan and the top scoring offense in the league.

If you would have said that Atlanta would race out to a 21-0 lead and then 28-3 lead in the third quarter after Tevin Coleman scored on a six-yard touchdown reception with 8:31 remaining in the third quarter, and then blow it, you’d look at me sideways, right?

28-3 Falcons.

If you’re a Bills, Dolphins or Jets—or any NFL team, really—fan, your deepest, darkest fantasy of seeing Tom Lady getting embarrassed in another Super Bowl was twenty-ish minutes away from actually happening and a chance to troll and shut up those smug Patriots fans on social media right!

At this point, one had to think that thanks to rattling and hitting the eventual Super Bowl MVP, returning a pick-six, causing LeGarrette Blount to fumble, drops from the usually reliable Julian Edelman, Chris Hogan and Danny Amendola early, a missed PAT from Stephen Gostowski and just simply being too fast for the slower Patriots, that you’d think that this was over right?

I mean, it was RIGHT there for the taking for the Falcons?

Much like those 73-win Warriors, who led the NBA in points, three-pointers and had the leagues first-ever unanimous MVP in Curry, the Falcons were a bunch of showmen who loved running up the points and got accustomed to winning comfortably and looking pretty in doing it.

While they didn’t have the constant media love and attention that Dubs got—and still do—you’d swear that Atlanta was just going to run the Patriots off the NRG Stadium FieldTurf, right?

Like the Warriors, when things got tight late in crunch time and the hitting got more physical, they faltered down the stretch, a la Golden State vs. the gritty underdog Cleveland Cavaliers this past spring.

But one cannot help but see the correlation of how Atlanta wilted under the pressure once things got physical and close late in seeing how they blew a 25-point lead.

While blowing a 3-1 lead in the NBA Finals is one thing, a double-digit 25-point lead in THE Super Bowl with 20 minutes left to play?

Ouch!

While there is no Kevin Durant-like free agent defector in this latest Southern tragedy, everyone knows that Bill Belichick is a master of making in-game adjustments, and one could see that gradually the once-fast high-flying Falcons just seemed to slow down and gradually wore down late.

Hands on their hips, breathing heavily and looking simply gassed, the loud and brash Dirty Birds suddenly had the look of a grounded bunch of quails caught in a hunter’s snare.

Despite seeming to get to Brady, the Falcons could never seem to stop him late, and in a weird sense, actually helped him in committing questionable holding, pass interference penalties.

Suspect offensive line play in allowing Ryan to get sacked—and fumble that would be recovered by Dont’a Hightower, which would fuel the Amendola TD catch to make it 28-20 and the Pats comeback—along with conservative play-calling, doomed Atlanta.

And just like that, the Falcons once insurmountable 25-point lead got whittled all the way down to zero, after the Patriots scored on a White touchdown and two-point conversion catch by Amendola.

So to recap, the Falcons, who led by 25 points in the THIRD quarter of the Super Bowl, gave up 25 unanswered points to the greatest quarterback and head coach tandem in NFL history, AND lost the coin toss to them in overtime?

Check!

In what was another display of vintage Brady, and a painful lesson for the young and brash Falcons, Brady carved up the rest of the Falcons now-exhausted defense like it was Thanksgiving, en route to a record-breaking night and even more storybook comeback.

And just like that, the Falcons went from being on the precipice of a Super Bowl champion to Fal-Cant’s

I know one thing is for sure, is the Falcons head coach—and former Seattle Seahawks defensive coordinator— in Dan Quinn is tired of seeing the Patriots in the Super Bowl and losing to Brady for the second time in three years.

This loss will sting and haunt the Falcons for a long, long, long time, but if they need any advice on what its like to blow a lead, surely they can get in touch with the aforementioned Curry, who will gladly offer up some free advice.

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Robert D. Cobb
Founder, Publisher and CEO of INSCMagazine. Works have appeared and featured in places such as Forbes, Huffington Post, ESPN and NBC Sports to name a few. Follow me on Twitter at @RobCobb_INSC, email me at [email protected]

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