We've been on an incredible run of startling championship endings and comebacks lately. Villanova won the most recent college basketball national championship over North Carolina on a buzzer-beating 3-pointer. The Cleveland Cavaliers came back from 3-1 down to beat the Golden State Warriors. The Chicago Cubs did the same to the Cleveland Indians. Clemson raced back from a 14-point deficit to beat Alabama in the College Football Playoff title game. And, of course, the mother of all comebacks: the New England Patriots erasing a 28-3 deficit to beat the Atlanta Falcons, 34-28 in overtime.
But as those parades danced their ways down the street, someone was left behind to clean up the mess left behind. Those teams unfortunate enough to watch glory slip through their fingers -- and then yelp in pain as those fingers are stepped on by the marching victors -- remain stuck in place and stuck in time. It's a pain so specific that only those who have felt its bite can truly know what it's like to live with it -- to eat with it, to sleep with it, to breathe it in with every inhale and exhale.
Which explains why Falcons head coach Dan Quinn reached out to Nick Saban and Steve Kerr shortly after the Super Bowl. There is no hiding from the pain, Kerr said, so embrace it.
As The MMQB's Greg Bishop details in this piece, Quinn digested the loss by watching film of the Super Bowl. Then watching it again. And again.
As the game unfolds in his office Quinn is flooded with pleasant memories and unpleasant ones. In the weeks that follow, he will watch his team’s epic collapse 10 times. The 25-point advantage always dwindles. His defense always tires. New England wideout Julian Edelman always grabs that ball between three defenders and myriad limbs, inches off the ground.
In each of those viewings, Quinn still defends the decision to throw the ball on second down with less than four minutes remaining and Atlanta clinging to a 28-20 advantage.
He pays particular attention to one sequence with 3:56 remaining in the fourth quarter when the Falcons, leading 28–20, drove to the Patriots’ 23-yard-line and elected to throw on second down. Ryan took a sack, and a subsequent holding call pushed Atlanta out of field goal range. It’s been widely argued that the Falcons blew the Super Bowl right there, and Quinn was torched on social media, but the coach says he heard the second-down play call going in and he had no issue with it. He wanted to remain aggressive, not holding s--- back. “Throwing a pass to our best player [Julio Jones], from the league MVP,” he says, “that usually works out pretty good for us.”
The reaction to that sequence and everything thereafter is reminiscent of another late-game Super Bowl disaster -- which Quinn also lived through on the wrong side of history.
History remembers the Seahawks' decision to throw the ball from the 1-yard line with 26 seconds left in the 2014 season's Super Bowl. What they don't remember is the view Russell Wilson had before he threw that fateful pass.
Bishop's piece is a great one on Quinn and getting over a crushing loss. Read it here.