We see it time and time again in sports. Teams experience heartbreak on the biggest stage, only to come back the next year – or in the coming years – and win it all. But we’ve also seen the reverse: teams getting embarrassed on the biggest stage, only to never be heard from again.
What will happen to the Atlanta Falcons, who blew a 25-point Super Bowl lead in the blink of an eye?
“I think that this team has a chance to (come back),” NFL on Fox analyst Charles Davis said on CBS Sports Radio’s The DA Show. “Remember the Cowboys had to go through that? Losing a Super Bowl before coming back and getting there? I think they’re young enough and callow enough that I don’t think it’s going to stay with them quite the same way. They’re resilient. Quarterback that’s hitting his stride in his prime, second-year head coach that the team likes playing for – I’m not going to call him a clone of Pete Carroll, (but) he’s got some Pete Carroll elements because of his time with them. I think that they have a chance of bouncing back. I don’t think the Super Bowl hangover effects them the same way it does others because I think it’s a team that’s going to get better. They’ll get Desmond Trufant back in the secondary. We’ll have to see (how offensive tackle Ryan) Schraeder is (with his ankle). But all in all, I like this Atlanta Falcons team, and I don’t think they come back next year and go, ‘Oh, my God, what just happened?’
“My only caveat,” Davis continued, “(is) if all of a sudden you look up and you see about 10 Falcons guys with national radio deals or TV ads and things of that nature, then I’d start to get a little bit nervous. Because outside of that Cowboys team with Irvin and those guys – they all had their own radio show – most of the time that’s a recipe for disaster. But I don’t think that’s going to happen with this Falcons team. I like their chances to bounce back and be a factor again.”
The key sequence came late in the fourth quarter Sunday night. Atlanta was up 28-20 and had a first down in field-goal range. But instead of pounding Devonta Freeman and bleeding the clock and going up by two scores, Kyle Shanahan kept calling passes.
And the Falcons keeps going backward. And backward. And backward.
“Yes, be aggressive, but know when to say when,” Davis said. “If they kick a field goal there, you’re up 11. You bleed the clock, force the Patriots to maybe have to use some timeouts – do all those things – and I take my shot with the field goal. Run it three times and ensure I have that as opposed to what we saw happen. Remember: the sack happens. They come back on third down having to throw the ball again in order to try to get back into field-goal range. Now you’re 4th-and-33 and you have to punt the ball. The whole idea was you got to get some points on the board because you can’t give the ball back to Tom Brady as hot as he was. So I question that sequence in a big way. You wonder what the discussion was between the head coach and the offensive coordinator. I know they wanted to be aggressive . . . but right there at that point, someone’s got to come in and say, ‘Three points is all we want here. Three points is what we need. We don’t need to continue to be that aggressive there.’ That’s my own opinion on it.”