Barrett Sallee is the lead SEC writer for Bleacher Report, but he’s also a diehard Atlanta Falcons fan. And, as a Falcons fan – or just an Atlanta fan in general – Sallee was not in any way surprised that the Falcons coughed up a 25-point lead in Super Bowl LI.
“No, not at all,” Sallee said on CBS Sports Radio’s The DA Show. “I still think the Falcons are a better team (than the Patriots). I’ll say that right now: I think the Falcons are a better football team. They play that game 10 times, the Falcons win six or seven of them. There’s not a doubt in my mind that happens. We all knew it here. It was not a surprise, to me, that they did what they did. The Patriots defense, I think, was overrated and maybe elevated a little bit (because of) who they played. Atlanta’s offense was and is a machine when it operates the way it should operate.”
However, Kyle Shanahan – considered by many the top offensive mind in football – perhaps didn’t manage the game as well as he should have. In fact, there are several calls he’d probably like to have back.
“It’s arrogance,” Sallee said of Shanahan’s late-game play-calling. “Because Kyle Shanahan wanted to prove he was the smartest person in the building, they decided to not do what they should do and run. They ran four running plays after going up 28-3. Four. That is absolutely unacceptable. The Falcons could have taken three snaps and knelt on the ball – each and every one – and punted in the fourth quarter, and they would have won the Super Bowl. They didn’t even do that. It was so frustrating.”
Indeed, that 28-3 lead turned into a 34-28 loss, as Tom Brady and the Patriots reeled off 31 straight points to end the game.
The Falcons have never won a Super Bowl, and Sallee doesn’t know if the franchise will ever live this down.
“Without a doubt, this will always be with the Falcons,” Sallee said. “If they get back to the Super Bowl, you’re going to hear about it for the whole time and completely suck the joy out of the next Super Bowl they go to. And even if they win a Super Bowl, this is something that people are going to talk about forever – just because they literally did everything they could do to win that game, and they did everything they needed to do to win that game, and yet at the same time, did everything they could to lose that game. It was the most Atlanta moment and the most Atlanta thing ever. I firmly believe that that pressure does mount. Cleveland’s had it for a while, too.
“I believe that the only reason the Braves have a World Series is because the only city that can out-Atlanta Atlanta is Cleveland – and that’s who they played in that World Series,” Sallee continued, referencing the 1995 Fall Classic. “So it’s going to stick around. It’s never going to go away. Like I said, it’s completely sucked the joy out of every other title from now on – just like the Braves. It’s not going to be unbridled joy, which is what I think Falcons fans think should be happening today. Instead, a title, whenever that is, is going to be a lot like ’95 with the Braves – and that’s just relief.”