Naturally, Falcons vs Patriots brings back memories of 28-3
Atlanta Tom Brady moved on to win the seventh championship in Tampa Bay.
There were only a few Atlanta players left from that fateful night in Houston.
However, memories of the greatest comeback – and failure – in Super Bowl history still linger, especially when the Falcons face the New England Patriots.
The two teams meet Thursday night at Mercedes-Benz Stadium, exactly 1,747 days since the Brady-led Patriots recovered from a 28-3 delay to defeat the Falcons 34-28 in overtime at the 51st Super Bowl.
Atlanta quarterback Matt Ryan, one of the few players left on the team who couldn’t lead by 25 points, said he long ago put that miserable evening in the rear-view mirror.
“I am not worried about what happened in the winter of 2017,” he said. “You can’t go back and win that match.”
Brady had another championship with the Patriots—in the Super Bowl he played in Atlanta, no less—before signing in 2020 with the Buccaneers, who face the Falcons twice a year as a divisional contender.
Rubbing more salt into the wound, Brady won three more games against Atlanta with his new team.
None of that matters to Ryan, who is more concerned about these Hawks (4-5) and how poorly he performed in an ugly 43-3 loss to the Dallas Cowboys last Sunday.
Nothing happening Thursday night will have any impact on the Super Bowl in five seasons.
“You have to move on from that and try to do everything we can to get ourselves back to the .500,” Ryan said. “I really don’t think he’s expelling any demons or anything like that. That game is over and it’s played.”
After missing the playoffs last season, the Patriots seem to have finally found their footing in the post-Brady era behind rising quarterback Mac Jones.
New England (6-4) is one of the most exciting teams in the league, having won four straight games and five of the past six. The Patriots are coming off their most impressive showing of the season, 45-7 for the Cleveland Browns.
After just 10 games into his career, Jones has already established himself as a captain in the Patriots locker room.
“I think it happens naturally,” he said. “Really good leaders, themselves. They don’t try to be anyone else. They just do what they are supposed to do, and do it the best they can.”
Having fallen out of the lowest rated game of his 14-year career, Ryan must find a way to increase his involvement in crime.
They were essentially invisible in the Dallas disaster, gathering for just 36 yards on four grabs.
Tight end Kyle Pitts is a massive weapon, but the Hawks are in big trouble for their receiver position after trading Julio Jones and losing his apparent heir, Calvin Ridley, who will miss his fourth game in a row as he deals with mental health issues.
Against Dallas, the Falcons trailed 36-3 in the first half. They went on to suffer their worst loss since 2004.
“We’re still 4-5,” said Ryan, who was 9 of 21 passing for just 117 yards with two interceptions. “I was in the worst situations, sure. It was obviously an ugly match, but it was only one.”
The Patriots kept two opponents in a row within 100 yards of the rush, and they will look to extend that streak against an Atlanta team that struggled to run the ball.
The Hawks average 82.9 yards per game on the ground, and are ranked 29th in the NFL.
Compounding their problems, full-back Cordarelli Patterson – who won the Super Bowl with the Patriots in 2018 – could miss the game with an ankle injury.
“They’re missing some good players, but they have some players on their roster and I’m sure they’re ready to go,” said New England midfielder Donta Hightower.
I am happy to be back
The Patriots’ correct treatment for Trent Brown’s comeback last weekend was bittersweet.
Not only was his first game back from a calf injury in the season opener that put him in the injured reserve, it was against the Cleveland team he was about to face last November when he “nearly died.”
While playing with the Raiders, Brown was going through his usual pre-game routine, including getting some extra fluids via an IV. That’s when air was accidentally injected into his bloodstream, causing him to have cardiac arrest.
He spent three days in the hospital, took about eight months to fully recover, and is even considering retirement.
“It was scary,” Brown said. “I definitely thought about my children.”
Now that he’s back from a calf injury, the Patriots are almost full force up front for the first time since their opener.
Another thing about this game
The Patriots have only 12 players on their roster who were part of their historic Super Bowl victory over the Falcons.
Linebacker Matt Judon wasn’t one of them, having just finished his junior season in Baltimore. But he said he remembered watching it from afar.
“That screenshot (showing Atlanta in front of 28-3) and then Brady’s head down. And Godon said they came back and won.” That’s what this team is all about — it’s resilient. Never die. never say never. It’s not over until it’s over.”
Follow Paul Newberry on Twitter at https://twitter.com/pnewberry1963 and find his work at https://apnews.com/search/paulnewberry
AP sports writer Kyle Hightower in Boston contributed to this report.
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