There have been some huge choke jobs in sports history. The 2004 New York Yankees blowing a 3-0 series lead to the Boston Red Sox in the ALCS come to mind immediately when discussing major chokes. The Northern Iowa Panthers blowing a 12 point lead to the Texas A&M Aggies with only 33 seconds remaining in last year;s NCAA Tournament has to be right there too. There have also been some huge chokes in the PGA such as Greg Norman blowing a six shot lead in the 1996 masters or Arnold Palmer choking away a seven shot lead on the back nine of the 1966 U.S. Open.
But the Atlanta Falcons choke in Super Bowl 51 may top then all. Yes, it was the New England Patriots, winners of five Super Bowls and Tom Brady, the newly-minted Greatest Quarterback of All-Time, taking the title away from Atlanta, but make no mistake about it, the Falcons blew it.
They so dominated the first two-and-a-half quarters of this game that nobody should have had any thoughts of a New England win. The biggest comeback in the first 50 Super Bowls was 10 points. Atlanta was up by 25 in the third quarter. They had a pick six in the second quarter when it looked like the Pats might be getting back into the game that went for 82 yards and a 21-0 lead. Brady was getting pummelled by the Falcons pass rush all game long. Matt Ryan was having a great game as was Devonte Freeman. It was a cake walk.
Then the Pats pass rush made a big play, causing a fumble from Ryan.This made many folks decide not to change the channel just yet. But that led to a field goal which cut the lead to 28-12 in the fourth quarter. Not yet time to get concerned. The Pats needed two touchdowns and two two point conversions just to get the game to overtime. In the meantime they also had to stop the Falcons.When the Falcons took possession on their own 10 after New England had cut it to 28-20, it looked like the choke might be on. But Ryan hooked up with Freeman on first down for a 39 yard gain and then he found Julio Jones on a spectacular play on the sideline to put them in field goal range.
Then on another nine yard run on first down and it looked like the Falcons would put the game away. But Atlanta made two hugely awful play calls, opting to throw the ball, resulting in a sack on second down and then a holding penalty on the next play which moved them out of field goal range. For the second time in three Super Bowls, the Pats benefitted greatly from a stupid play call from their opponents.
To blow a 25-point third quarter lead in the Super Bowl has to be right up there with some of sports greatest chokes. The Falcons may never get over this one.