As we all watched the Atlanta Falcons disintegrate before our very eyes during Super Bowl 51, it was hard not to think back to Super Bowl 47.
The Ravens held a 28-6 lead early in the third quarter when the lights went out. When the lights were restored, the Ravens barely held off a seemingly revitalized 49ers team, and they escaped New Orleans with a 34-31 win. The win felt more like relief than jubilation. It felt more like a survival than a conquering.
I can only imagine what it feels like today to be a fan of the Atlanta Falcons who did not survive, but instead blew a 28-3 lead.
FALCONING INTENSIFIES pic.twitter.com/vEOq0ddtMj
— sad (@EagleEye1906) February 6, 2017
It was like one of those Hollywood football movies but in the case of Super Bowl 51, the villains and the heroes’ roles were flipped. The heroes held a commanding lead and it appeared as if the Falcons would be removed from the list of 13 NFL franchises never to win The Lombardi Trophy.
Instead, it was the villains who mounted the comeback. The good guys didn’t win. It was another Patriots Super Bowl victory – their greatest ever, in a game that will long be remembered for record setting performances, the first Super Bowl overtime and the greatest comeback in Super Bowl history led by the greatest quarterback in NFL history.
It’s easy to hate the Patriots. It’s easy to despise Tom Brady and Bill Belichick. We place asterisks beside their achievements because of their cheating hearts. Last night cheating had nothing to do with the outcome. But heart did.
As cameras focused in on Brady and his teammates along the sideline, they looked like a beaten bunch. But somehow, someway, they mustered up the intestinal fortitude to keep playing hard, play after play after play. And slowly but surely they crept back in the game thanks to their collective indomitable spirit, great plays and their magnanimous opponent.
The story would be so different. Game over vs Game on/ pic.twitter.com/1BwUkzktRT
— Sam Monson (@PFF_Sam) February 6, 2017
“Dynasty” will be recited often for weeks and months, perhaps years, as it relates to the New England Patriots. They’ve earned it really. In a league that prides itself on parity and does its best to prevent dominant franchises as the rosters of successful teams are flushed each year by the salary cap, the Patriots not only keep their heads above water, they continue to flourish led by the genius, competitive drive and work ethics of Brady and Belichick.
On the other side of the field was a young team led by a young head coach who will be challenged in 2017. It’s easy to assume that the Falcons will continue to flourish but collapses like they just experienced can resonate. Their locker room mettle will be tested. A return to this big stage will not come easy. Just ask the Carolina Panthers who vowed to return.
Speaking of 2017, the next big game is Super Bowl LII – that’s Super Bowl 52, and it will be played at US Bank Stadium in Minneapolis. In Baltimore that number is a special one. Coincidentally Ray Lewis is eligible for induction in 2018. At this time next season, we’ll know if we can all start planning a trip to Canton, OH in July of 2018 for Ray’s induction ceremony.
You’d have to think his induction is a slam dunk but it’s hard not to worry a bit about the night of January 30, 2000 in Atlanta when mayhem broke out following Super Bowl 34. Could the sordid details of that dark night prevent Lewis from being a first-ballot Hall of Famer?
By the way, the odds of the Ravens winning Super Bowl 52 are 38:1. No worries, the odds of the Falcons winning Super Bowl 51 were 40:1 and they nearly pulled it off.
But back to the Hall of Fame…
Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones was inducted this past weekend. He’s credited with three Super Bowl victories (largely due to the things Jimmy Johnson did) and with restoring the luster to the Cowboys, a team that reportedly was losing $1 million per month when he bought them.
There’s no denying that Jones is a brilliant businessman and his contributions to the business of football are the things that paved the way for his induction. But those contributions are arguably not even on par with another owner who remains on the outside looking in when it comes to the hallowed halls of Canton.
Arthur. Bertram. Modell.
Modell was a huge philanthropist contributing millions to the cities of Cleveland and Baltimore. The Brooklyn, NY native was heavily involved in the league’s first collective bargaining agreement. He won championships in Cleveland (pre-Super Bowl era) and Baltimore. And, borrowing from his experiences in the advertising business, Modell was instrumental in connecting the NFL with prime time television. He intimately understood the synergies between the NFL and TV and he was a driving force behind Monday Night Football.
Without Art Modell, the NFL would not be what it is today.
Jones is arguably deserving. By comparison, Modell is even more deserving.
The denial of Modell to his righteous place in Canton is criminal. Those blocking his path will point to the move in Cleveland and his shortcomings as a businessman. But the same things didn’t stop the induction committee members from inducting the NFL’s wayward son, the Raiders’ Al Davis.