The sun still rose on Monday morning and life moves on, but a week of agony resides with sports fans in the Atlanta market. Some laughable, others mind-boggling.
Throughout a seven-day span, the Braves, Falcons, Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets and Georgia Bulldogs combined for a 1-6 record — at least Georgia State beat Coastal Carolina 31-21. There’s a supposed bad history of success in this city nowadays, but a week-long debacle has to rank toward the top of worsts.
Fans of the teams took to social media to express that frustration as the week wore on. After the Falcons brought things full circle on the night of Oct. 13, many realized just how diabolical the fates had been over the previous seven days.
Only improvements can happen from here (well, at least we think). So, let’s look back at the Georgia sports collapse that had many in disbelief.
Sunday, Oct. 6
Falcons lose to the Texans, 53-32: The week started in Houston, site of one of the city’s lowest sports moments, the Atlanta Falcons’ 28-3 come-from-ahead loss to the New England Patriots in Super Bowl LI.
On this trip to Houston, the 1-3 Falcons started well, taking a 17-16 lead into halftime. Playing with desperation in an attempt to get back into the playoff race, it looked as if Atlanta had a shot at its second win of the year.
But after creating false hope in the first half, the defense turned back into its usual self. The Falcons imploded in the second half, being outscored by the Texans 37-15 in what ended up being a 53-32 loss.
You thought a 29-point defeat was bad? Embarrassing, certainly, but the pendulum just began its swing.
Braves beat the Cardinals, 3-1, in Game 3 of the NLDS: A moment that brought Braves fans brief joy, Atlanta’s rookie ace Mike Soroka led the team to a comeback win at Busch Stadium in St. Louis. Soroka, 21, toyed with the home-standing offense and looked like a postseason veteran. He allowed one run through seven innings.
Only problem was that the Braves were haunted — again — by former farmhand and postseason veteran Adam Wainwright. The Cardinals’ pitcher relied on a 75 mph curveball and had the Braves off-balance. By the time Atlanta first baseman Freddie Freeman couldn’t score a runner with the bases loaded, the fan base’s hope evaporated.
As has been the theme all season, the Braves ignited a ninth-inning rally toward a two-run victory. Third baseman Josh Donaldson led off with a double down the left field line. But Nick Markakis and Adeiny Hechavarria followed with strikeouts and the good ‘ol false hope heartbreak recipe seemed to be brewing. Then, Dansby Swanson and Adam Duvall laced consecutive hits and gave Atlanta a 3-1 lead it would keep.
Atlanta hadn’t won a playoff series since 2001, and surely this was the swing game for it to happen. Two games to win one.
*nervous laughter* What could go wrong?
Monday, Oct. 7
Braves lose to the Cardinals 4-3 in Game 4 of the NLDS: They had beer and champagne ready for a long-awaited celebration. Twenty-seven outs were needed for the cork to be popped. But, Atlanta wanted to make things interesting.
Braves’ starter Dallas Keuchel pitched on short rest, and gave up back-to-back home runs. Atlanta was in an immediate hole, but a two-run home run by Ozzie Albies eventually gave the visitors a lead.
But you know it couldn’t be easy.
The Braves had consecutive innings with the bases loaded and couldn’t garner a run in either scenario. Cardinals’ catcher Yadier Molina notched an RBI single which narrowly missed the reach of Freeman’s glove. Molina later walked it off with a sacrifice fly off of Julio Teheran — who originally didn’t make the playoff roster.
One chance missed, but the Braves would return to SunTrust Park for a winner-take-all game. Surely, surely, the trend could break. It would only get more mind-numbing.
Wednesday, Oct. 8
Braves lose to the Cardinals 13-1 in Game 5 of the NLDS: In the famous words of Lewis Grizzard, I don’t want to talk about it. This is still a loss that’s hard to fathom.
In an elimination game, Atlanta hosted thousands of fans for an early-evening first pitch. But before people could even sit down, St. Louis scored 10 runs in the first inning — an MLB postseason record — and an error from Freeman proved to be one of the detrimental mistakes.
It was over at that point. A 13-1 loss sent a 97-win season down the toilet ,and the Braves’ streak of first-round exits continues on to 19 seasons in the most flabbergasting manner possible. Atlanta became the laughingstock and meme factory of the major leagues for a few hours, and fans couldn’t believe what they had paid money to see.
Saturday, Oct. 11
No. 3 Georgia loses to South Carolina 20-17 (OT) - This game was supposed to be the salve on the wounds left by the past few days. After all, the Bulldogs were 24-point favorites over an opponent that was starting a freshman quarterback in Ryan Hilinski.
However, as is so often the case with Georgia sports, things didn’t go according to plan.
The Georgia offense struggled all day, and the playcalling of offensive coordinator James Coley drew boos from the capacity crowd at times. Quarterback Jake Fromm threw three interceptions after throwing none the entire season, including one that was returned for a touchdown to give the Gamecocks a 17-10 lead just before halftime.
The Bulldogs forced overtime with a late touchdown, sending their fans on an emotional roller coaster only a Georgia sports fan has a ticket to.
Fromm’s third interception came on the first possession of overtime, meaning any South Carolina score ended the game. However, a missed short field goal called for another period.
A Gamecock field goal connected in the second overtime, giving Georgia a chance to win with a touchdown. But three plays netted no yards, and a 42-yard field goal by Rodrigo Blankenship, who had already had one kick blocked after entering the game 11-for-11 on field goals this season, drifted wide left, ending Georgia’s perfect season.
Georgia Tech loses at Duke, 41-23: Maybe it’s time for Geoff Collins to give his team a gold star and participation trophy to say “at least you tried.” Maybe one should go to the fans, too, because bless all of your souls.
In all seriousness -- they’re trying, but this rebuilding project is such a heavy task. The #404TheCulture movement, Waffle House cups and an above-the-line philosophy give this some energy, but the losses keep coming.
There was a sign of life for Georgia Tech as it scored on its first possession, but allowing 31 unanswered points gave Duke a 41-23 victory. The Yellow Jackets fell to 1-5, and don’t have a clear-cut win remaining on their schedule — The Citadel was the best bet, but not to be.
Best of luck, Tech fans. Hopefully good fortunes come your way soon.
Sunday, Oct. 13
Falcons lose (again) to Arizona Cardinals, 34-33 - The Georgia sports week from hell ended the same way it began, with a loss by the Falcons. But while the loss to the Texans went from close to a blowout, the Cardinals game flipped the script.
Atlanta trailed 20-10 at halftime after giving up 300 first half yards to rookie quarterback Kyler Murray. After a third quarter touchdown by Arizona, the lead grew to 27-10 and it looked as if the Falcons were ready to fold.
But as Georgia sports teams often do, Atlanta made it interesting. After allowing points on 13 consecutive possessions, the defense mercifully forced Cardinal punts on consecutive possessions. The Falcons tied the game at 27 with 10:50 remaining on a touchdown from Matt Ryan to Austin Hooper, only to see the Cardinals seize a 34-27 advantage with 5:12 to play.
Ryan added a scoring strike with 1:53 left and looked primed to send the game to overtime. But longtime Falcon kicker Matt Bryant, who has been so reliable over his tenure in Atlanta, missed the extra point wide left, just like Blankenship did for Georgia the day before.
Following the week’s trend, the scoreboard read Arizona 34, Atlanta 33.The Falcons’ defense couldn’t get a final stop (not that many expected it to based on previous results), and Atlanta fell to 1-5.