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Why Atlanta's Super Bowl Loss Was Perhaps The Worst Bottle Job In Sports History

Michael McCarthy
By Michael McCarthy
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Last night, the New England Patriots and Tom Brady solidified their claim as the greatest team/quarterback combo in history. There isn't another team in sport you would even believe could come back from 28-3 in a Super Bowl midway through the 3rd Quarter. But they did. Brady led the Patriots to 31 straight points in five drives, after a horror show of a first half left them with a seemingly insurmountable deficit.

In fact, before this game, no team had ever overturned a lead of more than 10 points in a Super Bowl. 25 is unheard of.

While the Patriots turnaround was truly magical and some of the plays (like this one) were pure Hollywood, an aspect that hasn't been talked about enough since is that their opponents froze. Bottled it. Choked. Rabbits in headlights.

The Atlanta Falcons had an all time great offence going into the game, and for the first two and a half quarters yesterday, they lived up to it. They were dominating the Patriots.

Their defence, over which they were a few more questions, stepped up massively, making Brady look mortal (or worse, old) but predictably for a team playing with such intensity, they tired. When they did, the Pats made hay. But the massive lead they had built up should've been enough for any team to hold on to.

They just needed one score. One score in the final 25 minutes of a 60 minute game and it was over. Instead, they made every wrong decision imaginable. While the story today is rightly about Brady and New England dynasty, we have to acknowledge that this could be the worst loss in NFL (and maybe sports) history.

How the Falcons blew the Superbowl: 

Remember, the Falcons only had to do one of these things differently to win their first ever Super Bowl.


Make A Stop:

Fine, the defence was tired, and Brady had gone "full Brady", but having held New England to three points in the first 43 minutes of the game, they conceded 25 points in the next 17, in just four drives.

This included conceding two consecutive 2pt conversions to touchdowns, allowing a completion on a 4th down play, and even a miracle play that should have never been allowed to happen. They do one of those things differently, and it's a different story today.

Clock Management / Poor Coaching: 

A general trope of an American Football team blowing a lead is worrying far too early about keeping the clock moving and completely giving up on what got them there in the first place. They go conservative and continuously give the other team a chance to get back in the game.


If anything, the Falcons went too far last night. They stayed far too aggressive for a team with such a huge lead, not in anyway attempting to keep the clock moving, when to do so would've made a Patriots comeback almost impossible.


On the play which really turned the game around for example, quarterback Matt Ryan fumbles the ball after stepping back to throw on 3rd and 1. This despite the running game performing so well and the fact that even a failed run could have drained another 40 seconds off the clock.

This is something that occurred time and time again, and was especially terrible after this amazing play by Jones should have won the game.


This left Atlanta in easy field goal range - a field goal which leaves the Patriots needing two scores. Instead of running the clock down, and making New England use their timeouts, they take next to nothing off the clock, and they somehow lose 23 yards, taking them out of the range for the game clinching kick.

This was the Super Bowl for your franchise, and they completely blew it. The Jones catch was supposed to be the moment we talked about today, not the Edelman one.

Not only that, but for the Edelman miracle catch, Atlanta coach Dan Quinn foolishly challenged the play, just seconds before the 2-Minute warning, giving the Patriots a free clock stop while still chasing the game, and using their final timeout, which could have made their last drive a completely different story.

On that final drive, the shell shocked behaviour of the quarterback and coaching staff came into full view with play decisions that made no sense, including using nearly half of their time on a four yard check down play to the middle of the field. They played into the Patriots' hands and never threatened at all on a drive that could have been the perfect response to the greatest comeback of all time. It wasn't to be, and they never got their lost momentum back.

Matt Ryan: 

Yes, he made that amazing play to Jones, but other than that, Ryan was like a headless chicken when the heat came on. Along with his coaches, he didn't play the clock, snapping the ball with the clock moving sometimes with up to twenty seconds left on the play clock.

As well as that, his decision making late in the game was horrendous. On the fumble play above, he has to hold on to the ball and just take the sack. Later on, when sacked to move out of field goal range, he has to let it go. The best quarterbacks always know the game situation and what they can and can't do. Somehow, Matt Ryan consistently messed that up in the second half of the game last night. Unfortunately, for the newly crowned League MVP, it won't be something that's forgotten in a hurry.

So, everything that could go wrong, did. Yes it was a phenomenal comeback by the best ever, but it was also a total bottle job. Has there ever been a worse one in sport? Let us know what you think.

SEE ALSO: Patriots' Owner Goes All Father Ted Against Roger Goodell After Amazing Superbowl LI Victory


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