On Sunday, we all witnessed the greatest comeback in Super Bowl history, and arguably one of the greatest comebacks in sports history. The New England Patriots overcame a 25-point deficit in the third quarter of Super Bowl LI to beat the Atlanta Falcons and win their fifth championship.
The must-talk-about story of the game is glaringly obvious: the comeback. But within that narrative is one much less exciting and almost downright somber. At some point, we have to realize that not only did a team come back from 25 points down, but a team also blew a 25 point lead.
History remembers the victors. This has always proven to be true. However, it also remembers the losers who can’t handle the loss. Those that become so overcome with the idea of losing that they become a spectacle of their own.
The morning after Sunday’s game, I couldn’t get over the poise of Atlanta quarterback Matt Ryan. The 31-year old had just concluded his roller coaster weekend; on Saturday he won the league’s MVP award, and on Sunday he was the face of the worst collapse in league history.
I can’t even begin to process that type of tidal wave.
Possibly the most disappointing part for Ryan is that he did almost everything he needed to do to put his name up there with the elite quarterbacks in the league. He posted a passer rating of 144.1, and threw for a little under 300 yards with two touchdowns. It didn’t matter, though. A few poor decisions at the games conclusion will forever be the story of Atlanta’s collapse. No one will remember the game Ryan had.
They will remember, though, Ryan after the game. After everything he went through, he stood tall in the face of press afterwards. Here he is less than an hour after the game’s conclusion.
“How crushing is it to have your season end like that?”
Goodness. Ed Werder cut right to the chase. It’s the question we all wanted asked, but the one that we all felt terrible having the loser receive. It’s a leading question used to try and incite as much emotion as you can get. Ryan, though, shrugged off the obvious disappointment and gave a clear, concise, and respectful answer.
There is not a person in sports today who could probably understand the pain of blowing that type of lead on the biggest stage in American sports.
Lets compare Ryan’s reaction to that of last year’s Super Bowl losing quarterback: Cam Newton. Now this is the easiest jab to throw, and I’m not attempting to rile anybody up, but there is an obvious contrast here that can’t go without comparison.
Two MVPs. Two quarterbacks that lost on the biggest stage. Two stark differences in how they handled themselves.
A lot has happened since Super Bowl 50, and Newton seems to have learned from that experience, but the comparison is still telling.
Matt Ryan is the definition of a professional. He’s a player who lets his actions on the field speak for him and seems to always be team first. He understand that the jersey he wears represents his teammates, his coaches, and the whole city of Atlanta and it’s fans.
If Ryan did anything on Sunday, he gave the golden example of how to hold yourself after a loss. Not just in sports, but in almost anything. You take your licks, pick yourself back up, and don’t feel sorry for yourself.