Stop me if you’ve heard this before: A football team from Georgia held a double-digit lead midway through the third quarter of a championship game, and then proceeded to blow the advantage and lose in overtime to its sport’s reigning dynasty.
Yup, Monday’s College Football Playoff championship game took plenty of surprising turns, but ultimately, it was all too inevitable that the Georgia Bulldogs would inspire a slew of unfortunate comparisons to the Atlanta Falcons.
For the Bulldogs, it was a 20-7 lead that vanished as the team’s offense sputtered and the defense could no longer hold back its talented opponent. Of course, the Falcons have been haunted for 11 months by the infamous 28-3 advantage they squandered in Super Bowl LI to the Patriots, whose head coach, Bill Belichick, was already widely viewed as the NFL’s answer to Alabama’s Nick Saban (or vice versa).
In contrast to Tom Brady, the veteran quarterback who, in the eyes of many, cemented his greatest-ever status by leading New England’s comeback last February, Alabama was rallied Monday by a true freshman who didn’t even start the game. But while Tua Tagovailoa was throwing late-game touchdowns to force overtime and then win a title for the Crimson Tide, many online observers were looking at his hapless foe and thinking they’d seen this kind of thing before.
In fairness to the Bulldogs, 20-7 is clearly a more tenuous lead than 28-3, so the magnitude of their loss should not be considered as awful as the Falcons’. However, given the overlap between the two fan bases, not to mention the CFP championship game having been played in the Falcons’ own home stadium — one that employed its retractable roof Monday, just as was done with Houston’s NRG Stadium for Super Bowl LI — the comparisons held merit.
“Maybe there really [is] something in our water,” wrote Atlanta Journal-Constitution columnist Mark Bradley, following the Bulldogs’ 26-23 loss to the Crimson Tide. That was a popular sentiment online, as were the “Spider-Man Pointing at Spider-Man” memes.
The only good news for beleaguered fans of both the Falcons and Bulldogs is that the former, having dispatched the favored Rams in the first round of the NFC playoffs, now appears to have caught a break by being able to face an Eagles squad without star quarterback Carson Wentz. Win that matchup and Atlanta will be in the NFC championship game, with a great chance to get back to the Super Bowl and avenge last year’s debacle, quite possibly against the very Patriots, now with a seemingly injury-weakened Brady, who caused it.
It’s a plausible scenario, but there’s also the possibility, as Monday reminded football fans in Georgia, that an advantageous situation could just go horribly, soul-crushingly wrong.
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