The Atlanta Falcons had their best season in 1998. They went 14-2 and won 11 straight games heading into Super Bowl XXXIII.
Then they lost to the Broncos, 34-19.
It seemed that game was not a proper representation of how good that Falcons team was.
“It wasn’t,” former Falcons wideout Terance Mathis said on CBS Sports Radio’s The DA Show. “It wasn’t. From every player defensively and offensively – and even Dan Reeves admitted it a few years ago – we did some things leading up to that game that we shouldn’t have done. We changed our whole offensive and defensive philosophies going into that game. So on Wednesday when we come in for practice where you usually get the game plan, it was something we hadn’t done all year. It wasn’t our bread and butter. It wasn’t things we were confident in doing. So basically you had to go out and execute a game plan that was not what you had been doing when you went on that 11-game winning streak. So a lot of guys were frustrated. We couldn’t adjust. We made some mistakes early in the game. We should have scored on the opening drive, we miss a blitz on third down, we kick a field goal, we miss a field goal, we don’t get a first down on 4th-and-less-than-a-yard, we turn the ball over three times – this was the worst game we played all year, and we waited to the Super Bowl to do it.”
It didn’t help that safety Eugene Robinson was arrested the night before the Super Bowl for soliciting a prostitute. Mathis, however, doesn’t think that had any effect on the game.
“I don’t think so,” he said. “I’ve said it time and time again for the last 18 years: We’re grown men. When you have a job to do and you’re the best at what you do, things that happen off the field shouldn’t affect what you do on the field. That’s the way I feel about things. Hey, if it didn’t happen, we don’t know how the game would have turned out. It’s always, ‘Well, this happened and that’s why this happened.’ But if it didn’t happen, we don’t know if the game would have been any different. But at the same time, it happened. No one talked about the great run; they always talk about what happened at the Super Bowl the night before, and I hate that we’ve got to wear that anchor for the phenomenal year we had in ’98.”
Mathis, 49, believes that this year’s Falcons will win Super Bowl LI on Feb. 5.
“I know the Patriots have a dynasty,” he said. “I know they’re playing for history, but it’s time for the new guard and why not us? Why not us right now?”