by Anthony Cooper
Sigh… Where to start? I barely watched the game tying drive or any of overtime. I had my head buried in my hands. I felt what you all felt… we had somehow found a way to blow the biggest lead in Super Bowl history. I had a slight jump when it looked like Beasley might come down with an endzone INT, but it was as brief as a classy moment from a Pats fan.
I walked outside quietly. There was no yelling… I broke nothing… I just sat alone on my back porch. MY family gave me space as we all began to feel our hearts break. It felt as though I had just got the call that a loved one had passed with no warning. I couldn’t even muster shock. It was one of the emptiest, heart wrenching feelings of my life.
I could not sleep at all. Replaying the last 10 minutes over and again in my head, I was inconsolable. To add to my misery, I was up at 4:30 am to fly to DC for work. All day in airports filled with TVs reliving our horror. Throngs on travelers all talking about the biggest choke in history. I avoided contact with everyone. Put my headphones on and tried to escape the world. Once I finally got in my rental and drove to the hotel, I broke down for the first time. 45 years old, having traveled the world, seen more than my share of hard times… I cried like I had lost my best friend.
I’m sure that many of you can empathize or even share worse renditions of your reactions. I feel for you all. But, then this morning I saw a slight glimmer of light. Matt Ryan posted on Instagram that fed to my Twitter a short note. A picture of him walking away with his hand raised, saying “We came up short last night and my heart hurts for you Atlanta. Hats off to New England they played a heck of a game. We will adapt, we will overcome, we will #RiseUp again.”
What class! What an amazing post! Here I am feeling sorry for myself and wringing my hands like a child, and here he is the LEADER of my Brotherhood saying, he hurts for us. He would have been the Super Bowl MVP. Almost a guaranteed HOF spot with the win that he had earned. Yet, he chose to make his first post to basically apologize (something it took Mike Vick nearly 10 years to do).
It was at that moment that I started to heal.
Nothing will ever take away what happened a few days ago. We will always carry that with us. And we may never get back to the Super Bowl again in my lifetime. But let me share with you some things we will also carry with us…
We just went on the greatest ride in Falcons history. We started the season with yours truly predicting a 9-7 finish (while believing in my heart it was more likely to be 6-10). We had just come of an 8-8 campaign with a growing majority wanting to rid themselves of Matt Ryan. Yet we finished with 56 minutes of knowing we were about to hoist the Lombardi.
That’s right. For 59 minutes, we led the greatest dynasty in Football history. Remember that we never led for one second in the Super Bowl against Denver. Honestly, we never thought we had a chance. And with Eugene Robinson crushing us the night before, most of us started that game saying we were happy to be there.
But this Sunday, we had soundly beaten the Seahawks, destroyed the Pack and A-A- Ron, and for 56 glorious minutes had given the Dynasty of all football dynasties all they could handle. Matt Ryan had his highest completion percentage, QBR, and Y/A of the playoffs. That’s right… better than against the Pack or Hawks. 73% with 2 TD and no INT and a 144 QBR.
Yes, we can dissect all that went wrong in the second half… 5 sacks, not running from the 20 and taking a FG to salt the game, Freeman’s missed block, etc. But I urge you to let everyone in the media do that for you. Let the Saints’ fans, Pats’ fans, and other assholes remind you of the end.
But I want you to stop every once in a while, and remember how you felt. Remember how you felt when Alford jumped a route and left a diving Brady laying as he ran 82 yards for an incredible, improbably pick 6. Remember Grady Jarret (in his 2nd year) wreaking havoc on the Pats and sacking Brady 3 times. Remember Deion Jones stripping another runner to force a drive stopping fumble. And remember one of the most incredible throws and catches you will ever see in football. I figure Matt had no choice and just threw it up and that Julio did what Avatars do… but Matty Ice knows what he is doing almost all the time. That was the best throw I have ever seen him make.
Up until 2:38 left in the game, we had a 92.3% chance of winning the game. Now I know that stings. I feel it too. I know we were all so very disappointed and there is likely nothing anyone will ever say that will make that go away. But every time you hurt, remember this… It took the greatest comeback in Super Bowl history by the greatest QB and greatest HC of all time to beat your Falcons.
It may be little solace. But I smiled today for the first time remembering Alford’s run. I smiled remembering Matt’s incredible pass to Hooper for a TD. I smiled remembering Brady with HIS head in his hands on the sideline. No, we didn’t win it all… but I will be able to remember those moments too.
No other team in the league could have beaten us. It took the greatest dynasty of all time… Over Time… to miraculously beat our Birds.
I hope you will start to find peace with this game. I know it will always hurt, but I refuse to abandon my team. If Matt Ryan in what must be one of the toughest times in his life can reach out to my heart and not talk about his feelings… how can I not reach out to my team and put my feelings aside.
Support these guys. More than any team in Atlanta Sports history… I believe they earned it.