Anatomy of a Fuck-up
- Updated: February 6, 2017
Super Bowl LI. Five minutes, fifty six seconds to go, and the Patriots, once down 28-3, have brought the score within 8 points. The Falcons had committed a number of errors in service of that comeback, but had just gotten the ball back with a chance to seal the game, or at least make a Patriots comeback all but unthinkable. Whatever sins may have led to that moment, all could be washed away with a score.
After starting with the ball on their own 10, the Falcons expertly move to the Patriots 22 yard line following a terrific catch by Julio Jones. With only 4:47 left on the clock, things were looking up for Atlanta once again. For Matt Bryant a 39-yard field goal is a virtual chip shot.
Then they screwed everything up. It started with the little things, like Matt Ryan twice snapping the ball with over 10 seconds remaining on the play clock, leaving New England precious seconds they may need down the stretch. On first down the Falcons ran the ball, a wise enough choice though they lost a yard. The clock ticked down to 3:56.
On second down Patriots Defensive End Trey Flowers had a free run at Matt Ryan and dumped him for a loss of 12. Suddenly instead of a 39-yard chip shot, the Falcons were looking at a difficult decision: to kick a field goal over 50 yards, risking a miss and putting the Patriots in excellent field position? Or to punt?
It turned out, of course, not to be a decision at all. On third-and-23 Matt Ryan found Mohammad Sanu for 9 yards, good enough to move back into comfortable field goal range. However, Jake Matthews of the NFL Matthewses was called for holding, and the Falcons forced to re-run a play on third and 33. Matt Ryan missed an ensuing attempt to Taylor Gabriel, and the rest is history. The Patriots, with the advantage of running twice as many plays as the Falcons, marched down for two more touchdowns and a 34-28 victory following perhaps the most gut-wrenching Super Bowl collapse we will ever see.