The Standard Journal

Falcons’ flop a new low for Atlanta’s sad sporting history

- Atlanta wide receiver Julio Jones makes a sideline catch over New England’s Eric Row. Associated Press Sports Writer

HOUSTON — Well, Atlanta, there’s nothing left to say.

The city once known as “Loserville” was cruising toward its first Super Bowl championsh­ip, leading Tom Brady and the mighty New England Patriots by 25 points. Twenty-five! Back in Atlanta, the city was all ready to bust loose in a celebratio­n like no other, seemingly assured of finally putting to rest its history of sports flops. Then, it happened. The greatest flop of them all.

This one will take a long, long time to get over.

“I’m kind of numb,” said Falcons safety Ricardo Allen, who might as well been speaking for an entire city. “I don’t really know what to feel. I’m broken inside, because this is not us. I’m kind of numb to the feeling, man. It’s terrible. It’s one of the worst feelings ever. I’m not a guy that forgets very easy. I’ll probably never forget this. It will always be haunting.”

Brady engineered a stunning comeback, leading the Patriots to a pair of touchdowns and a pair of 2- point conversion­s that sent the Super Bowl to overtime for the first time.

At that point, it was a mere formality.

The Patriots won the coin toss. Of course. The Patriots drove right down the field for the championsh­ip- winning touchdown. Of course. The final: New England 34, Atlanta 28.

Brady will long be remembered for his record- breaking performanc­e, completing 43 of 62 passes for 466 yards, and this will certainly go down as one of the greatest title games in NFL history.

That’s little consolatio­n to the Falcons.

“That’s a hard one in the locker room,” coach Dan Quinn said. “No place to put that one mentally for us. But I am proud of the fight these guys have. The brotherhoo­d this group has built, it’s as strong as I’ve ever seen.”

In the A- T- L, this will join the Braves blowing a 6-0 lead in Game 4 of the 1996 World Series, the Hawks squanderin­g a chance to eliminate Larry Bird and the Boston Celtics in the 1988 NBA playoffs, and Danny White leading the Dallas Cowboys back from 10 points down in the fourth quarter to beat the Falcons in a 1981 playoff game.

But, really, nothing comes close to this level of sporting disappoint­ment.

The Falcons spent 2½ quarters playing with the swagger and confidence of a team that wasn’t the least bit concerned about their city’s history. Heading to the fourth quarter, they were still up 28- 9. The Patriots tacked on a field goal early in the fourth, but Atlanta was still comfortabl­y ahead.

Then, t he play t hat turned the momentum solidly in New England’s favor.

MVP Matt Ryan dropped back to pass, was hit by Dont’a Hightower just before his arm came forward to pass, and the ball popped lose. The Patriots recovered at the Atlanta 25. FLOWERY BRANCH — After only one game as Alabama’s offensive coordinato­r, Steve Sarkisian is heading to the NFL.

To work with MVP quarterbac­k Matt Ryan and the league’s highest-scoring offense, no less.

Less than 24 hours after Kyle Shanahan left to become head coach of the San Francisco 49ers, the Falcons announced Tuesday that Sarkisian would be his replacemen­t.

The stunning move came with Sarkisian less than a month into what was to be his first full season running Alabama’s offense, a job he took over for the national championsh­ip game in place of Lane Kiffin. But Falcons coach Dan Quinn said he’s had his eye on Sarkisian since l ast spring, figuring it was only a matter of time before Shanahan moved on to a team of his own.

“I knew how good Kyle is,” Quinn said. “I wanted to make sure I had contingenc­y plans in place.”

The two have known each other since Sarkisian coached at Washington and Quinn was Seattle’s defensive coordinato­r. Sarkisian stopped by Atlanta last year to check out the Falcons’ offseason workouts, as well as training camp.

Even though Sarkisian has only one year of pro experience, Quinn expects a smooth transition for the new coordinato­r, who i s f amiliar with many of the wide zone blocking schemes that worked so well for Atlanta on its way to the Super Bowl.

“We love the way we attack,” Quinn said. “It took a lot of work to put that system in place. We have a real emphasis on the personnel and how we can feature the guys in that system. So it’s very important that we stay consistent with that.”

Sarkisian will certainly

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