So, it has been a few days now. How are you doing Atlanta Falcons fans?
The shock hasn’t worn off. It won’t for a while. I think the one thing I’d like to ask you, the readers, is how many times have you thought about something with Sunday’s Super Bowl and just shook your head in disbelief.
It will never make sense. There is no explanation why the Falcons didn’t run out the clock. There is no explanation as to how the New England Patriots did every single thing they had to do to come back from a 25-point deficit.
The Falcons blew it. They had the Super Bowl and then lost it. And now the heartbreak has us searching for new words to describe how horrible this is for the fan base.
For 36 years, the low point in Falcons history was known as “the Dallas game.” I was just a 10-year-old kid in January, 1981. It was the first time I knew what the term “agony of defeat” really meant. It was horrible.
The Falcons were 12-4 that season and won their first division title. It was only the second winning season in the 15-year history of the franchise. They were really good, and it was the first time Atlanta fans really experienced championship-caliber football.
Leeman Bennett was the head coach. Steve Bartkowski was the quarterback. He had plenty of weapons. The defense was really good, with Tom Pridemore, Al Richardson and Buddy Curry just to name a few.
The Falcons had a home game in the NFC Divisional playoff game against Dallas, known then as America’s Team. Atlanta got up on Dallas 24-10. Everything looked perfect. The Falcons were on their way, and they were going to beat the mighty Cowboys to advance.
As Ric Flair said, “To be the man, you’ve got to beat the man.” The Falcons were about to do just that. Then, the fourth quarter started.
Let’s not rehash all the details. Those of us who saw it are still trying to forget it. Let’s just tell those of you who didn’t that Cowboys quarterback Danny White had the game and the best fourth quarter of his life. Wide receiver Drew Pearson made two unbelievable touchdown catches.
The Cowboys scored three touchdowns in the fourth quarter. The Falcons only produced a field goal. The two-touchdown lead evaporated quickly, and for the first real time in the franchise’s history, the Falcons let everyone down.
Does that sound familiar? Ring a bell with what happened Sunday?
For years, the Dallas game has been the benchmark. When I would ask, “What’s the worst game you’ve ever seen?” the answer would always be “the Dallas game.” There was nothing close, nothing that hurt people deep in their soul like that one.
Nothing compares to what we saw Sunday. The Falcons had it. They were going to win. They had the mighty Patriots, who trump what the Cowboys were back in 1981, down. Atlanta was going to have its first NFL champion.
And then, just like in 1981, the fourth quarter started.
To put the two box scores side-by-side is scary. There is the 20-3 advantage for Dallas in 1981. Then Sunday, you had New England outscoring Atlanta 19-0.
The Dallas game is why most Falcons were saying, “It’s not over,” even when Atlanta was up 28-3 Sunday night. But come on, 25 points?
Sunday’s game is the new benchmark, not only for the Falcons but for every sports team in this state. Forget about the Braves losing Game 7 of the 1991 World Series. Compared to this, the Braves would have had to be up 10-0 on the Minnesota Twins, only to lose 11-10 in the deciding game. Losing that game 1-0 hurt, but it was nothing like this.
There are a lot of things we’ll rehash in our mind from Sunday. I just keep repeating, “28-to-3.” That was the lead. That’s how big it was. All they had to do was kill the clock. All they had to do was not be the Falcons and finally win the biggest game in their history.
This is cruel and unusual punishment to a fan base that can’t take much more. Only a championship will heal it, and who knows how many will be left to watch it when it happens. The prospect of more disappointment may not make it worth watching.
Listen to “The Bill Shanks Show” from 3-7 p.m. weekdays on “Middle Georgia’s ESPN” – 93.1 FM in Macon and 99.5 FM in Warner Robins. Follow Bill at twitter.com/BillShanks and email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.