Have you heard this story before? A football team jumps out to a big lead early, thanks to a dominating and opportunistic defense that forces a couple of turnovers and an efficient offense that puts plenty of points on the board early. Then, late in the game, that defense has to spend a ton of its time on the field, as the offense can't sustain a drive, ultimately leading to the opposing team coming back from a multiple-possession deficit to tie the game and win in overtime.
No, I'm not talking about the Green Bay Packers' loss in the 2014 NFC Championship Game. That was how the New England Patriots beat the Atlanta Falcons last night in Houston to win Super Bowl LI.
There are plenty of parallels here, but the fact is that this blown lead will be more painful for Falcons fans than the Packers' loss two years ago. First, you of course have the bigger stage - the Super Bowl rather than the NFC title game - but you also have a bigger lead that vanished. The Packers' biggest lead was 16 points, which they had into the third quarter, and they were up 19-7 in the fourth. The Falcons, meanwhile, were up 28-3 with just three minutes left in the third.
Both losing teams featured that year's MVP, but while Rodgers was mediocre throughout the game in 2014, Ryan was great - at least for much of the game. Rodgers did have to lead a late tying drive to send the game to overtime with a Mason Crosby field goal; on Ryan's final series, he had a chance to win the game, but picked up just one first down and completed several passes in the field of play. Those late mistakes, along with several others that were critical, set the stage for the Patriots to complete their comeback.
And now we begin the long, arduous offseason. Here at APC we'll be chock-full of content for the Scouting Combine, free agency, the NFL Draft, and spring practices, so keep it here throughout the next several months as we look forward to the 2017 season.
Brett Hundley was watching closely in second season | Packers.com
Although Hundley played very little this season - including in the preseason - he absorbed a ton of information and is poised to have another big offseason.
No sign of Packers' Jordy Nelson slowing down after comeback season - ESPN
Jordy's yards-per-reception average dipped from over 15 in 2014 to just under 13 this year, but he proved that he's still a lethal weapon when used properly. Expect to see more of #87 in the slot moving forward, but he should still be put to use along the sideline as well.
Why the Falcons Defense Collapsed in Super Bowl 51 | The MMQB with Peter King
Packers fans have seen this story too often - a gassed defense is on the field for almost an entire half of football, and they break down at the end. Just look at the snap count - Atlanta ran just 46 plays on offense all game, while the Patriots had TWICE that with 93.
How the Patriots engineered the greatest comeback in Super Bowl history | PFF
During the comeback, New England was totally one-dimensional, but it didn't matter; shorter routes and quick passes got the ball out of Tom Brady's hands quickly, which eased the Falcons' pass rush and eventually led to the win.
Matt Ryan wishes he avoided sack on key, late play - NFL.com
You don't say? A field goal there likely ends the game, or at least makes it vastly more difficult for the Patriots to pull even.
The Super Bowl MVP should have been James White, but had to be Tom Brady | For The Win
As a proud Wisconsin alumnus, I agree with this sentiment wholeheartedly.
6 things you missed on Super Bowl Sunday - SBNation.com
Instead of Julio Jones' ridiculous sideline catch going down in history, Julian Edelman's grab will be the one remembered from this game.