Any storybook comeback in sports must come at the peril of a team that gives up a monumental lead. Credit must be given where it’s due, and there’s no question that the Patriots played phenomenal football in the past two Super Bowls they participated in. There’s also no question that both the Atlanta Falcons and the Seattle Seahawks were about a couple of plays away (or literally just one if you’re Seattle) from cementing what could’ve been a Super Bowl victory for each respective team. However, the fact that the Falcons held a 25-point lead midway through the third quarter, were handed even more opportunities to build upon it and still blew the lead, holds greater magnitude than one unsuccessful playcall.
The Seahawks already experienced the feeling of winning during Super Bowl 48. They knew what it felt like to be on top of the world, and heading into Super Bowl 49, who’s to say they didn’t like their chances of repeating? If they didn’t end up repeating, there always would’ve been the year after. Besides, Russell Wilson wasn’t yet entering his prime at the time. He already proved himself as an elite quarterback, and with a young core surrounding him, they were expected to make deep playoff runs year in and year out — if not reach the big game. Point is, all the Seahawks had at stake was the opportunity to repeat as champions.
On the other hand, Atlanta was still a team yet to prove their worth. In the post-Michael Vick era, the Falcons were mostly known for having Julio Jones as a wideout, and for infamously giving up a 17-point lead to the 49ers in the 2013 NFC Championship. In all honesty, Super Bowl 51 may have been Atlanta’s best shot of bringing home a Super Bowl title. Think about the outlook of the NFC: Both Seattle and Green Bay are more likely to be at full strength next season than not, and the Cowboys are set to have a bright future with Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott running the show. Green Bay is about to enter year eight of the Super Bowl hiatus, and Seattle hasn’t even returned to a conference championship game since failing to run the ball. Both teams can be expected to be more motivated than ever.
Whether you like it or not, the rule of thumb suggests that being at least a one-time champion cements a team’s culture for years to come. Truth is, until they get that Super Bowl victory that’s been eluding them, the Falcons will be notoriously known as the team that can’t hold a double-digit lead.