Leading 28-3 in the 3rd quarter, the Falcons looked to be on their way to a Super Bowl victory, a blowout of the best dynasty in sports.
And then … the Falcons slowly gagged the lead away, and an hour later, suffered the worst choke in Super Bowl history, losing to the Patriots 34-28 in overtime.
The post-mortem on the Falcons collapse will take days, maybe weeks. But two massive 4th quarter decisions by the Atlanta offense will live in infamy:
* The Patriots cut the lead to 28-12 in the 4th quarter and with 8:35 left in the game, facing 3rd and 1, the Falcons curiously decided to … pass? Atlanta was averaging over six yards per carry at the time. Matt Ryan was hit by Donta Hightower, fumbled, and New England recovered. Five plays later, the Patriots cut the score to 28-20.
* After this amazing Julio Jones catch at New England’s 22 with 4:47 left, the Falcons appeared to be in business. A few runs and a field goal would ice the game. But they lost a yard on a carry, then Matt Ryan inexplicably dropped back to pass, and was sacked by Trey Flowers (who was outstanding with 2.5 sacks and 2.0 tackles for loss). Facing 3rd and 23, they dropped back to pass again from the New England 35. A holding penalty was called, and it pushed them out of field goal range. It’s unclear why Kyle Shanahan kept passing when they were in position to run and get in field goal range.
The Patriots got the ball back with enough time for Tom Brady to go 91 yards against a tired defense and send the game to overtime.
Atlanta lost the coin toss, and never had a chance to stop the Patriots.