This is going to hurt … forever
Falcons head home after blowing 25-point lead in Super Bowl
HOUSTON — The Atlanta Falcons headed home Monday, still in a bit of shock after blowing a 25-point lead in the Super Bowl.
While the future looks bright for a team with National Football League MVP quarterback Matt Ryan and a promising young defence, let’s not forget the psychological impact of what happened in Houston. That could take a while to get over.
The Falcons were ready to celebrate the first championship in their 51-year history when they built a 28-3 lead on the New England Patriots. Alas, Tom Brady led the greatest comeback in Super Bowl history — and, really, nothing else comes close — to pull out a 3428 overtime victory .
“I was thinking what anyone would be thinking — we had the game,” Atlanta receiver Taylor Gabriel said after the first overtime game in Super Bowl history. “At the same time, it’s Tom Brady. If you give him chances to come back and win the game, he’s going to do that.”
No one seemed to take it harder than running back Devonta Freeman, who fought back tears and could barely speak above a whisper.
“I’ll always remember this game,” he said, “for the rest of my life.”
The Falcons flew back to a gloomy city that has only one major sports championship in 169 combined seasons for its NFL team, Major League Baseball’s Braves, the NBA’s Hawks and two now-departed NHL teams, the Flames and the Thrashers.
Instead of returning to a massive celebration, the Falcons will face an off-season filled with questions about how they let a title slip away, overshadowing a year when so many things went right.
“We have to learn from this,” safety Ricardo Allen said. “It’s a tough learning lesson. This is one of the worst learning lessons you can get in this world, but we’re just going to keep building. We have something good going here.”
The most immediate issue facing the team will be finding a new offensive co-ordinator.
Kyle Shanahan is leaving to become head coach of San Francisco 49ers, and his replacement will take over a unit that led the league in scoring, has two of the game’s elite players in Ryan and receiver Julio Jones, and showed enormous versatility with 1,000-yard rusher Freeman and a record 13 players catching touchdown passes.
For coach Dan Quinn, it will be important to bring in someone who meshes well with Ryan and carries on the wide zone blocking scheme that worked so well this season.
As for Shanahan, he moves on to a new job with some emotional scars.
“This is the first time I’ve had this feeling,” he said. “It’s as tough as it gets. It’s not just me, it’s everybody in this organization.”
However, this is a team that likely will make only minor tweaks heading into its first season at MercedesBenz Stadium , a $1.5 billion, retractable-roof facility that replaces the Georgia Dome.
The Falcons were hoping to open the new place by hanging a championship banner.
Instead, they’ll be trying to forget a monumental meltdown.
Matt Ryan walks off the field after losing to the New England Pats, 34-28 in overtime.