For the record, I disagree with this take from the Minneapolis Star Tribune: I hated Atlanta for about two seasons (at most) after the demoralizing 1998 NFC Championship game outcome. (However, I still hate the “Saints”…)
The Atlanta Falcons, leading by a touchdown (and two-point conversion) 28-20 in Sunday’s Super Bowl, reached the New England 22-yard-line with less than 5 minutes to play after a remarkable catch by Julio Jones along the sidelines. At that point, all Atlanta *probably had to do, at the very worst, was run a few plays that didn’t lose yardage, attempt a reasonable field goal using a pretty much automatic kicker, and watch the time melt away while New England pushed uphill in desperation against a two-score deficit. If that set-up sounds familiar, dear Vikings fans, it should. Eighteen years ago in the NFC title game, the Vikings led these very same Falcons by almost exactly the same score (27-20) and pushed into Atlanta territory in the closing minutes *probably needing just a field goal from a very accurate kicker to salt the game away. (*Probably in both cases because you never know, but still). And, of course, we know what happened in next in both cases. Last night, Atlanta ran a series of plays that pushed the ball backwards — a sack and a penalty being the most damaging — and got driven out of field goal range. Instead of a Matt Bryant try — he missed just three field goals all year, and only one from inside 50 yards — the Falcons punted. New England predictably took that gift, marched down the field and tied the game. The Patriots then won in overtime. In the NFC title game following the 1998 season, Gary Anderson — who hadn’t missed a field goal all season, a fact that is seared into our brains and adds to the pain — missed his try wide left. Atlanta used that gift to march down the field and predictably tie the game. The Falcons then won in overtime. Vikings fans who secretly (or openly) have been wishing for some sort of revenge for that moment 18 years ago found it Sunday, albeit courtesy of a Patriots team that plenty of fans love to hate.
The Daily Norseman‘s Ted Glover offers words of comfort to ailing Falcons fans:
Not a lot of fanbases could mentally process what happened to the Falcons and come out sane on the other end. Vikings fans have been doing it since the 1960’s. And we’re here to help
Dear Falcons Fans,
Hi. I’m kind of at a loss for words for you guys, but I want you guys to know that you’re not alone. As Vikings fans, we’ve been there. Yes, every year one team loses the Super Bowl, and it sucks, but rarely is a loss this brutal, a collapse this complete; a disbelief this consuming that leaves you in a stupor. And right now it’s a feeling you don’t think you’ll ever get over. You’ve probably even considered cheering for another team after last night.
that’s just reactionary and stupid. You’re a Falcons fan, and you don’t change fandom because of one game. Even if that game was last night.
They say time heals all wounds. ‘They’ are wrong. Some things you will not ever get over, and this will be one of those things. And that’s okay. But time does put distance between what happened yesterday, and as the years pass, time also adds perspective, and will give you an appreciation of what was one hell of a 2016 season.
Even though there’s no way you believe that right now. I understand. I am a fan of the Minnesota Vikings, and processing sports grief is what we do. If I may have just a couple minutes of your time, I think we can help.
Right now you’re feeling a mix of grief, anger, and disbelief, and it’s all justifiable. Virtually no one blows a 25 point lead late in the third quarter, and never on football’s biggest stage. Seriously, how rare was this feat?
— Kevin Seifert (@SeifertESPN) February 6, 2017
That’s just brutal. And in the Super Bowl. Reading that, you’re pissed off all over again, and you think back to one or two plays that, if they go the other way, you win the Super Bowl. After Julio Jones’ eleventy third ridiculous catch, all you had to do was run the ball three times, kick a FG, and it’s over.
But that didn’t happen. And the Falcons lost. And it might have been the worst loss in NFL history, certainly in Falcons history. I’m going to be brutally honest with you, and you might not want to hear this, but this game will gnaw at you for the rest of your life, and you’ll never truly get over it. Most games, yeah, eventually you move on and shrug your shoulders over.
But there are moments that you will never, ever truly put aside, and it doesn’t matter how many championships or big games your team eventually wins.