HOUSTON – What a devastating loss by the Atlanta Falcons.
After holding a 25-point lead with 8:31 left in the third quarter, the Falcons collapsed — I think choked is too harsh — and lost 34-28 to the great Tom Brady and the New England Patriots in overtime.
Kudos to defensive tackle Grady Jarrett, who had three sacks and did what he could to lift the defense.
Here are five reasons why the Falcons loss the Super Bowl:
1. Falcons got too cute. Why did the Falcons try to pass after moving to New England’s 23-yard line. If they run the ball three times and don’t gain a yard, they keep the clock moving and stay in field goal range. A 12-yard sack by Trey Flowers, who had 2.5 sacks for minus 26.5 yards, made it third-and-23 from the 35. A holding call on left tackle Jake Matthews moved the ball back to the 45. After an incomplete pass to Taylor Gabriel, the Falcons were forced to punt.
2. Edelman catch. On first-and-10 from New England’s 36, Robert Alford tipped a pass intended for Julian Edelman and he fought through traffic to make a spectacular grab. The Falcons challenged the play, but the play was upheld and gave the Patriots a 23-yard gain and continued life. The Falcons loss their third time out on the challenge.
3. Defense wore down. The Falcons’ defense came out strong, but ran out of gas while playing 95 plays, including the two two-point conversions.
4. Falcons didn’t try to run up the middle. The Falcons ran the ball successfully outside early, but once the Patriots adjusted, the Falcons didn’t try to run the ball up the middle. The lack of a running game with a lead was vital.
5. Pass protection was porous. Ryan was under siege. He was sacked five times and hit 12 times. The offensive line, playing with a limited Alex Mack, did not play at a championship level. Matthews was sub-par and Ryan Schraeder left the game with an injury.
SUPER BOWL LI: Patriots 34, Falcons 28 — OVERTIME
Five things that change the outcome of the Falcons’ Super Bowl loss
REPORT CARD: Falcons earn low marks in Super Bowl collapse
NFC CHAMPIONSHIP GAME: FALCONS 44, PACKERS 21
NFC DIVISIONAL ROUND: FALCONS 36, SEAHAWKS 20