In which a lifelong Falcons fan tries to come to terms with the soul-crushing, bone-shattering, faith-destroying brutality that was Atlanta’s loss in Super Bowl LI.
1. OK, first off – congratulations to the Patriots. That was a hell of a comeback. That was an astonishing performance by Tom Brady, and the man is now the GOAT. No argument from me. New England put on an outstanding performance, and deserves the W.
2. That said: s—.
3. My entire prediction for this game—a Falcons victory—revolved around the idea that the Atlanta offense had to produce enough points to outrun the defense’s shortcomings. Sort of like building a sandcastle as fast as you can before the ocean tears it away.
4. I also said this would be a shootout. And it was, except that Atlanta was that dumbass unnamed bad guy who empties his clip in the air while the cold, calculating hero waits for his shot.
5. And I figured this game would be a classic, coming down to a one-possession game inside the final five minutes. It gives me no pleasure to be right about any of those.
6. That said, if you’d told me prior to kickoff that this game would be tied with a minute left and Matt Ryan would be holding the football, I’d have accepted that in an instant. Funny world, huh?
7. I remember the moment I knew this could turn bad. It came midway through the third, right when Tevin Coleman scored to put the Falcons up 28-3. And I distinctly thought, “Wow, if Atlanta blows this, it’ll be the ugliest collapse in NFL history!” The thought, given life, took root in my skull.
8. As my colleague Eric Edholm noted, when Coleman scored that touchdown, there was 28:28 left in the game. The Patriots then controlled the ball for 20:34 of the remaining time. Tough to win with those numbers against you.
9. Unless, of course, said touchdown resulted in a 25-freaking-point lead.
10. Or maybe I cursed this team in this story—from October!—when I wrote the words “Atlanta Falcons, Super Bowl champions.” I probably doomed the entire team right then and there. Sorry, Atlanta.
11. Look, it’s the coldest of comforts to say that the Falcons weren’t even expected to get this far, but it’s still true. I’ve followed this team since it plodded through the skin-shredding infield of Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium, back when the Falcons and Braves shared that circular UFO. To think that bumbling crew would end up here …
12. Hope is always the cruelest of emotions. I allowed myself to hope. For about 90 minutes, I started thinking of my team as Super Bowl champions. Which, to be fair, is 90 more minutes than I’d been able to for my entire life before tonight.
13. Once again: s—.
14. Back when I used to live and die with every pitch of the Braves, I would experience this strange sensation every October. I knew every Atlanta pitch would be golfed into the seats, I knew every Atlanta batter would flail as if he was swinging a pool noodle. I hadn’t felt that way in a long time, until the fourth quarter of tonight’s game. I knew Tom Brady would find an open man on every snap, I knew the Falcons would get stuffed on every play, I knew every Atlanta defensive stop would get overturned with a stupid-ass penalty flag. I knew it as surely as I know my kids’ names.
15. Which are not Choke and Fumble, by the way.
16. Speaking of my kids … this moment here, the pick-six. Don’t ask me where this ranked in relation to the birth of my children:
17. Julio Jones made what should have been a career-defining catch with just over three minutes left in the game and Atlanta up by 8. Atlanta was on the New England 22. That’s a 39-yard field goal. Matt Bryant was 27 of 28 from inside 49 yards this season. One play, one kick, and Atlanta would have been up two possessions. That’s going to hurt for a long, long time.
18. One day I’ll be able to acknowledge that the Julian Edelman catch off Ricardo Allen’s leg was the greatest in Super Bowl history. Today is not that day.
19. Atlanta is now 1-for-168, championship-wise, in all its professional seasons. That’s a stat that just never gets any easier to stomach.
20. Oh, and we have the glorious joy of knowing that any time a team goes down by double digits in any Super Bowl forevermore, some chirpy announcer will say, “Remember how the Patriots came back against the Atla-” and I will have to buy a new TV because I will have just thrown a chair through mine.
21. When the Braves lost the 1992 World Series, I punched the brick wall of a bar. When Mark Wohlers gave up a home run to Jim Leyritz to effectively lose the 1996 World Series, I smashed my hands down on my Ikea computer desk hard enough to snap the keyboard shelf right off. This time, I destroyed no property or body parts. I couldn’t summon up the energy.
22. How would you handle being on the losing end of the greatest choke—yeah, we gotta own that—in NFL history? I mean, it’s not quite like being down 3-games-to-1 in the NBA Finals, but still … how would you handle it?
23. After the final touchdown, before the confetti even hit the turf, I was out the door with my dog, taking a walk to calm my head before getting back to, you know, my job. Out on the streets, I saw three neighbors doing the same thing. We all caught each other’s eyes, shook our heads in disbelief.
24. I am genuinely happy for my New England friends. I wish it wasn’t at my expense, but hey, you want to see your friends happy.
25. The New England trolls who have been slithering out from under their barstools at me, though … you guys can go choke on your chowder. Everything I wrote here about why Atlanta is better than Boston still holds true. And those of you who didn’t have a dog in this hunt but are still coming with your “funny” tweets … I’m taking names.
26. That said: this is pretty good.
27. I want to believe Atlanta will be back. Matt Ryan, Julio Jones, the running tandem—they’re all in the prime of their careers. But the football writer in me knows the long odds against a team losing the Super Bowl getting back to the big game—it hasn’t been done since the early 1990s with the Buffalo Bills.
28. If the Falcons DO get back into the Super Bowl, I won’t feel comfortable with a win until the Victory Parade.
29. Did I just plan a Victory Parade for an as-yet-unplayed Super Bowl in an indeterminate future season? Yes I did. That’s all we’ve got left right now.
30. No, seriously, s—. Also f— and g——– and x—- and w——- and whatever other curse words you know in other languages.
31. Speaking of which, anyone have any contacts in Third World countries? I’d still like a Super Bowl Champion Atlanta Falcons T-shirt.
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Jay Busbee is a writer for Yahoo Sports and the author of EARNHARDT NATION, on sale now at Amazon or wherever books are sold. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or find him on Twitter or on Facebook.