Tuesday, January 23, 2018
Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Falcons' Super Bowl collapse may rank as worst in sports history

HOUSTON — It's almost impossible for a football team to come back from a result like this. The hole can be way too deep, the outlook too dark.

We're talking about the Falcons, not the Patriots.

How did Atlanta blow a 25-point lead when no team had ever lost a Super Bowl when ahead by more than 10? The historic collapse may have an impact on the organization for years.

Tom Brady is the best NFL quarterback of all time. The debate ended Sunday night when he led the biggest comeback in the biggest game, beating the Falcons 34-28 in overtime to win his fifth Lombardi Trophy in Super Bowl LI.

"This is a hard one for us," Falcons coach Dan Quinn said after watching the devastation that comes with arguably the biggest choke in sports history. "There's not a place to put that one."

For nearly three quarters, the Falcons looked younger. They played faster. Their offense was explosive. Their defense was quick and relentless, sacking Brady five times. They led 21-0, 21-3, 28-3 and 28-9, then gave it all back.

Not only did Falcons owner Arthur Blank think the game was over, he went down on the field at NRG Stadium in the fourth quarter expecting to dance.

That was before the Patriots went touchdown, field goal, touchdown, overtime touchdown. Atlanta's defense was on the field for 93 plays. Defenders were gassed.

The Falcons were undone by the G.O.A.T. Not the greatest of all time. The goats of the game — offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan and Quinn.

For most of the game, the Patriots didn't look like they could stop Shanahan's offense. The Falcons ran the ball at will in the first half, with Devonta Freeman (six for 71) and Tevin Coleman (three for 15) averaging 9.6 yards per carry. But in the second half, they combined for 18 yards on only nine carries.

Even so, when superstar receiver Julio Jones made a remarkable catch while tightroping the sideline at the New England 22 when Atlanta led 28-20, the game should have been strangled away by the Falcons.

If Shanahan orders nothing but for Matt Ryan to take a knee three times, they force the Patriots to use their final two timeouts then bring on kicker Matt Bryant for a makeable field goal and an 11-point lead with likely less than three minutes to play. Bryant was perfect in nine field-goal attempts this season from 40-49 yards.

The Falcons did run Freeman on first down and he lost 1 yard. But on second down, Ryan took a deep drop and was sacked for a 12-yard loss by defensive end Trey Flowers, who beat center Alex Mack.

"We thought we had a good look for the personnel that was in the game," Quinn said. "We trust our guys. When it doesn't work, it's easy to question it."

Even after the sack, the Falcons were probably within Bryant's range, about 52 yards. He was 6-of-8 from 50 yards or longer this season. Shanahan seemed confused where the football was after the game.

"The thought is to get as many yards as you can. We're right on the fringe. It was not an easy field goal," he said.

So Shanahan called another pass that was completed for 9 yards to Mohamed Sanu. But tackle Jake Matthews was called for holding, pushing the Falcons back to the New England 45, and Ryan fired incomplete to Taylor Gabriel, allowing the Patriots to keep both timeouts.

"Too aggressive? No," Ryan said. "I thought Kyle did a good job. I thought we played the way we play. We always play aggressive and play to win."

The Falcons' possessions in the fourth quarter went punt, fumble, punt, punt. The fumble was lost by Ryan when he was sacked on third and 1 by Dont'a Hightower, and the ball was recovered by Alan Branch with the Falcons leading 28-12 and 8:24 remaining.

There's no question this will be remembered as Brady's great escape. He still needed to drive 91 yards for a touchdown and two-point conversion to send the game into overtime.

Quinn was the Seahawks' defensive coordinator when the Patriots' Malcolm Butler intercepted the pass at the 1-yard line to clinch Super Bowl XLIX. He should know what happens when you get too aggressive with the game at hand.

The Warriors lost the NBA Finals leading three games to one. The Cleveland Indians blew a 3-1 lead to the Chicago Cubs in the World Series.

This was much, much worse. Maybe the worst collapse of all time. How do you recover from that?

Comments
Back on right path, Robinson High’s Byron Pringle hopes to impress at Senior Bowl

Back on right path, Robinson High’s Byron Pringle hopes to impress at Senior Bowl

MOBILE, Ala. — Byron Pringle understands how easily his life could have gone another way."I’ve been through a lot, but I’m very blessed," he said. "What happened in the past, it made me who I am today. It’s made me realize you have to value the thing...
Updated: 5 hours ago
Senior Bowl journal: Washington State teammates playing with heavy hearts after QB’s suicide

Senior Bowl journal: Washington State teammates playing with heavy hearts after QB’s suicide

MOBILE, Ala. — Washington State QB Luke Falk and G Cole Madison began their practices at the Senior Bowl on Tuesday with heavy hearts, still reeling from last week’s news that Cougars QB Tyler Hilinski had committed suicide.They remembered their frie...
Updated: 5 hours ago
Rick and Tom podcast: Paying homage to Brady and Belichick

Rick and Tom podcast: Paying homage to Brady and Belichick

In their latest podcast, Rick Stroud and Tom Jones examine the wonder that is Tom Brady and Bill Belichick as the pair head to their eighth Super Bowl together and have cemented themselves as the greatest coach-QB duo in NFL history.The guys discuss ...
Published: 01/23/18
Q&A: Ex-Bucs RB Warrick Dunn on Brooks, Winston, Ring of Honor

Q&A: Ex-Bucs RB Warrick Dunn on Brooks, Winston, Ring of Honor

Former Bucs running back Warrick Dunn will be reunited with Derrick Brooks — his teammate both at Florida State and with the Bucs — when they work together Sunday as "Legends" captains for the NFC squad in Sunday's Pro Bowl in Orlando."Wh...
Published: 01/23/18
Oh Gahd, the Patriots are back in the Super Bowl! Don’t worry, lots of new story lines for LII vs. E-A-G-L-E-S

Oh Gahd, the Patriots are back in the Super Bowl! Don’t worry, lots of new story lines for LII vs. E-A-G-L-E-S

TAMPA – Unless you are a Chowd who drives the cah wicked fah and pahks in the yahd, you probably aren't all that jacked up about the Patriots returning to Super Bowl LII against the Philadelphia Eagles in Minneapolis. Anybody but Bill Belichick...
Published: 01/22/18
Updated: 01/23/18
Patriots, Eagles bring plenty of local ties to Super Bowl

Patriots, Eagles bring plenty of local ties to Super Bowl

The Bucs aren't playing for a Super Bowl, and the game itself won't come to Tampa for three more years. But there's no shortage of cool local connections and ties on the Patriots and Eagles' rosters. You've already heard some of these stories, and yo...
Published: 01/22/18
Lessons of another Belichick-Brady Super Bowl

Lessons of another Belichick-Brady Super Bowl

TAMPA — Next victim, please.Shouldn't we just start penciling the Patriots into the Super Bowl before every season?It would save us a lot of time.Mind you, the rest of the NFL is fighting Bill Belichick, Tom Brady and this foregone conclus...
Published: 01/22/18
Crisco, dune buggy and a face-plant: Fired-up Philly fans take to the streets

Crisco, dune buggy and a face-plant: Fired-up Philly fans take to the streets

PHILADELPHIA — Not even a coat of Crisco on light poles across the city could keep Philadelphia Eagles fans from scaling new heights in celebrating their team’s first Super Bowl appearance in 13 years and setting up a rematch with the AFC champion N...
Published: 01/22/18
Eagles blow out Vikings to win NFC title

Eagles blow out Vikings to win NFC title

PHILADELPHIA — Confetti filled the air, fireworks erupted overhead, and fans sang "Fly, Eagles Fly!" No one dared head for the exits. There was too much to celebrate.The Eagles are going to the Super Bowl.The makeshift podium hadn’t taken space on Ph...
Published: 01/21/18
Updated: 01/22/18
Patriots rally past Jaguars to return to Super Bowl

Patriots rally past Jaguars to return to Super Bowl

Published: 01/21/18