The New England Patriots won their fifth Super Bowl this weekend, defeating the Atlanta Falcons 34-28 in the first ever Super Bowl to go to overtime. The win is New England’s fifth in the big game, while the Falcons remain winless in the National Football League’s marquee event. The quest for Atlanta’s first major sports title since 1995 will continue.
This was, in essence, the most Atlanta thing that could have happened. I’ve seen this movie before — an Atlanta team plays well in the regular season or early rounds of postseason matches, but for whatever reason something goes wrong when it matters most. The Falcons led by as many as 25, but gave up 31 unanswered points to the Brady/Belichick-led Patriots.
The silver lining of all this? I have never seen my city so vehemently back a professional team. Atlanta is the unofficial college football capital of this country — the College Football Hall of Fame is down the street from the Coca-Cola headquarters. Anyone in the city will tell you that a (University of) Georgia Bulldogs game in the Georgia Dome on a Saturday is a bigger deal than a Falcons game on a Sunday.
Anyone can get behind a team when they do well, but it’s hard to get behind a team and stick with them even when they lose like the Falcons did. The fact that the Falcons got so agonizingly close to winning makes us want to stay with the team. The hurt is real, but that’s what tells you that this was no fluke.
As much as it pains me to say this, the game only adds to the long list of postseason blunders in Atlanta’s sports history — Chipper Jones’ error against the Cardinals in the infamous ‘infield fly rule’ game; the Falcons relinquishing a 17 point lead in the 2013 NFC Championship Game against the San Francisco 49ers; or the Hawks insistence on getting swept by the Cleveland Cavaliers in the NBA playoffs. (Seriously, it’s not funny anymore.)
This time was different. Nobody expected the Falcons to jump out to a 28-3 lead against the Brady/Belichick-led New England Patriots. Nobody expected the Super Bowl to go to overtime. And nobody expected the Falcons to fold the way they did, given the way they demolished the Packers and the Seahawks on their way to the Super Bowl.
Let me be clear: Tom Brady is the greatest quarterback in the history of the NFL. Period. Teams do not just throw away leads like the Falcons did unless there’s an all-time great on the other end.
Maybe it was the team’s mantra of brotherhood that makes this loss feel like the beginning of a new chapter, rather than the devastating end of a season-long journey. To the Falcons, only one phrase will suffice: thank you. Thank you for showing the country that the biggest sports team in town doesn’t play on a Saturday.
They play on Sundays, in the fifth congressional district. #RiseUp
Owen Hill is a senior Economics major, Chinese Studies minor from Atlanta, GA. He is a sports editor for the Weekly and can be reached at [email protected] and on Twitter at @owen_lee_sports.