Curran: Patriots' Super Bowl win is America's nightmare

Curran: Patriots' Super Bowl win is America's nightmare

HOUSTON – At 5:50 p.m. EST, the New England Patriots took the long way down their sideline, all the way to a tunnel leading to their locker room.

The last song they heard as they left the field: “Hate Me Now” by Nas.

It's been a long time, been a long time comin'
Looks like the death of me now
But you know, there's no turning back now
This is what makes me; this is what I am
You can hate me now, but I won't stop now 
Cause I can't stop now, you can hate me now

All season, that song has played during warmups. It’s an embrace of the hate, fear and loathing that turned this franchise from the most beloved champions in NFL history in February, 2002 to one of its most reviled here in February, 2017.

So much revulsion caused by this one team from a little area in the top right corner of the country. All caused by 15 years of the team’s excellence, arrogance, petulance and perfection, the fanbase’s insanity, insufferability and never-ending persecution complex. To say nothing of the media’s catty, smarmy, condescension.

For 37 minutes of football, the country luxuriated in watching the Patriots finally get their nuts stomped in public. A whole damn season of hearing how Roger Goodell would rue the day he suspended Tom Brady and had to hand him the MVP Trophy. HA! The Patriots were on their way to losing by 40.

The rumpled genius Bill Belichick was halfway to being stripped bare. Things were proceeding so that the fanbase and media might even be forced to shut up for 15 minutes about their precious Tawwwwmmmmyyyyy and the miscarriage of justice the NFL visited upon them.

Then America’s dream Super Bowl turned into America’s nightmare.

Brady reached into the mouth of the Falcons, jammed his hand down through their esophagus, fished around until he found their heart, pulled it out in one long, slow tug, let them look at it and squeezed.

The Patriots erased a 28-3 deficit by outscoring Atlanta 31-0 over the last 17 minutes of play plus overtime. The 25-point comeback was the biggest comeback by a Super Bowl winner ever. The next-closest was 10. The Patriots did that too just two years ago when New England was on the winning end of another “Can you believe this?!” Super Bowl win over Seattle.

Belichick and Brady have won five Super Bowls meaning both men are unsurpassed in Super Bowl wins. Brady’s walked past Montana and Bradshaw in Super Bowl wins. The idea that people are even bothering to ask any more if Brady is the greatest quarterback ever is testimony to how much he’s reviled.

The real question? Is Tom Brady the Michael Jordan of the NFL? Or was Jordan the Brady of the NBA?

For the country? For the country this has to be the … Worst. Super Bowl. Ever. Sunday started with SNL’s Michael Che calling Boston the most racist city in America and pledging to cheer his ass off for Atlanta.

It ended with Brady breaking down after James White’s OT touchdown, a flood of emotions buckling him after he’d kept everything boxed up and filed away for months on end. Good job America. That’s the guy you can’t stand.

The Patriots definitely dragged out the drama though in trying to make Matt Ryan the first MVP to win the Super Bowl since Kurt Warner did in 1999.

The first quarter was a scoreless rock fight but the first play of the second quarter was a Brady redirect of Julian Edelman on third-and-1 and the Patriots got 33 and the Patriots were in business. Then they weren’t.

A strip by rookie Deion Jones of LeGarrette Blount got Atlanta the ball and then the Falcons ripped downfield with Julio Jones winning on a deep in-cut against Logan Ryan for 19 followed by a terrific 24-yard throw by Matt Ryan to Jones on the left sideline. Then it was Devonta Freeman ripping off 15 and 9 to put Atlanta down deep with 12:40 left in the half. And Freeman walked in.

The Patriots went three-and-out and then the Falcons did it again. From the Blount fumble on, the Falcons gained 19, 23, 15, 9 and the Freeman touchdown. The next drive had completions of 24, 18, a 1-yard run, an incompletion and then a 19-yard touchdown to tight end Austin Hooper with Pat Chung in coverage.

Then it got really bad. Despite having a drive propped up by three third-down flags against the Falcons, the Patriots weren’t able to cash in as a third-and-6 from the Atlanta 23 was picked by Robert Alford and took it 82 yards the other way to make it 21-0.

A 10-play, 52-yard drive that had the Patriots down inside the Atlanta 5 with fewer than 30 seconds left on the clock but a Martellus Bennett hold wiped out the gain that got them there, and New England had to settle for a field goal that left it at 21-3 going into halftime.

Post-Gaga, it got worse. The Patriots got a three-and-out and had decent field position after an Edelman punt return, but a first down drop by Chris Hogan and a third-down drop by Edelman forced a punt and the Falcons scored again.

And in doing so saw Malcolm Butler turned inside out by wide receiver Taylor Gabriel for a 35-yard gain, and Shanahan outscheme Belichick and Patricia with their touchdown pass to Tevin Coleman who they isolated on defensive end Rob Ninkovich on the perimeter.

The Patriots got themselves downfield to make it 28-9 on a drive that seemed to take longer than it needed to as the Patriots went heavy inside the 20 and took a long time to score. After they did, Stephen Gostkowski shanked the extra point in the direction of San Antonio.

He promptly followed that up with an illegal touch on the ensuing onsides kick. Atlanta recovered and you 35-9 seemed reasonable. But the Falcons luxury liner sprung the tiniest of leaks in the boiler room.

After a 9-yard completion to the Patriots 32, Jake Matthews got called for a hold on second-and-1.  Then Ryan took a 9-yard sack on third-and-11 and Atlanta had to punt.

The Patriots, going shotgun and up-tempo, ripped downfield on a 12-play drive but had to settle for a field goal making it 28-12. Sixteen points was two scores but what were the odds of no Atlanta points, two Patriot touchdowns and two two-point conversions. Almost nil.

They needed a play. They got it. Dont'a Hightower, who saved a Super Bowl before Malcolm Butler really saved it in SB49, got a strip sack of Ryan and the Patriots cashed in five plays later. Amendola got the two-point conversion and it was 28-20.

It took Atlanta three plays to get to the Patriots 22, though. There was 4:40 left. Run the ball, make the Patriots burn timeouts, kick a field goal to go up 11. Done and done. But instead, Ryan dropped to throw and was sacked back at the Patriots 33. Another hold on Matthews and suddenly it was third-and-33 and the Falcons were out of field goal range and Brady was getting the ball again.

The country gulped. The smart ones turned it off then. The rest? They saw the Patriots put it all to bed.

NFL Notes: Vikings' Mike Zimmer says he'll coach with 1 eye if necessary

NFL Notes: Vikings' Mike Zimmer says he'll coach with 1 eye if necessary

MINNEAPOLIS -- Minnesota Vikings coach Mike Zimmer has had a lot of time on his hands this week while sitting at home on his Kentucky ranch as his team went through optional practices in the Twin Cities.

Zimmer was under strict orders to leave the team and rest his right eye, which has needed eight surgeries to try to repair a detached retina. The lingering issues have led some to wonder if he would be forced to shorten his career.

Zimmer has heard the speculation all week long. The hard-nosed coach said he has reached out to some of those doubters personally this week.

"I'll be back shortly," Zimmer vowed in a conference call with reporters on Friday. "One eye or two, it doesn't matter. I'll be back. We can put that retiring thing to bed quickly."

Zimmer missed one game last season due to the problems with his eye . He tried to work through the issues, but said on Friday that he was told to skip this week's practices and go home to allow his eye to recover.

"It's not much fun," he said. "Usually I love it down here in my place here. But I don't love it too much this week. It was kind of a forced situation. But for the long run it's the best thing for me."

Giants: Smith trying to resurrect career
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Geno Smith didn't catch a break in his final two seasons with the New York Jets, and it seems his chances of resurrecting his career with the Giants are facing obstacles.

Not only does Smith have to beat out incumbent Josh Johnson for the backup quarterback job to Eli Manning, his prospects of making the team took another hit in the NFL draft when the Giants selected Davis Webb with their third-round draft pick.

The 26-year-old Smith doesn't seem concerned.

Speaking after the Giants organized training activities Thursday, Smith sounded confident for a player who had a promising rookie season four years ago and then regressed, in large part due to inconsistency.

"Honestly, I don't feel like I have to prove anything to anyone other than myself," said Smith, who has played in only three games in the past two seasons, starting one. "I am just trying to be my best every single day, focusing on trying to be perfect. I know that is a far goal to try and reach, but just trying to be perfect every day and understanding what is required of me once I step onto the field, and then trying to get it done."

Redskins: Injured Moreau final draft pick to sign
ASHBURN, Va. -- The Washington Redskins have signed the final member of their 10-player draft class, third-round pick Fabian Moreau.

The team announced the deal Friday.

The cornerback out of UCLA tore a pectoral muscle at his pro day in March. He was projected to be a first- or second-round pick before the injury and went 81st overall to the Redskins.

Moreau says doctors told him it was a five-month recovery, putting him on track to be ready by late in the preseason. The 23-year-old was at Washington's practice facility for rookie minicamp and the first sessions of organized team activities.

Coach Jay Gruden says the team is playing by ear the injury situations of Moreau and fourth-round pick Montae Nicholson and hopes they learn the schemes for the secondary as they rehab.

NFL: Judge tosses lawsuit over cheerleader wages
SAN FRANCISCO -- A lawsuit accusing the NFL and team owners of conspiring to suppress wages for cheerleaders lacks evidence to support that claim, a federal judge said.

U.S. District Judge William Alsup dismissed the lawsuit by a former San Francisco 49ers cheerleader. The suit sought class action status on behalf of all NFL cheerleaders.

"To state an antitrust claim here, plaintiff must plead not only `ultimate facts, such as conspiracy, and legal conclusions,'" Alsup said. "The complaint must answer the basic questions of `who, did what, to whom (or with whom), where, and when?'"

An email to an attorney for the 49ers cheerleader, Drexel Bradshaw, was not immediately returned. The cheerleader was only identified in the suit as "Kelsey K."

Alsup gave her an opportunity to amend the lawsuit and refile it by June 15.

The lawsuit was among a spate of legal actions in recent years accusing NFL teams of failing to pay cheerleaders for hours they spent practicing and making public appearances.

ESPN hires Chip Kelly as college football studio analyst

ESPN hires Chip Kelly as college football studio analyst

Former Oregon coach Chip Kelly is joining ESPN as a studio analyst next season.

ESPN announced Friday it has signed Kelly to a multiyear deal.

Kelly will primarily be part of Saturday pregame, halftime and wrap-up shows on ESPN2. He'll also provide NFL analysis on Sundays during SportsCenter.

The 53-year-old Kelly spent the last four seasons in the NFL, coaching the Philadelphia for three years and San Francisco for one. Kelly was fired by the 49ers after going 2-14 last season. He was 26-21 with a playoff appearance for the Eagles.

Before jumping to the NFL, Kelly spent four seasons as Oregon head coach and went 46-7. In 2010, Kelly led the Ducks to the BCS title game and was The Associated Press coach of the year.

"I spoke with a lot of people this offseason about different situations for me -- in coaching and TV," Kelly said in a statement. "I had various opportunities in both. In the end, I have had a relationship with ESPN for many years from when I was coaching and after speaking with them, I decided it was the best step for me to take."

Kelly figures to be in demand at the college level when head coaching jobs begin opening next season. Spending a season or two doing television has been a common path for coaches between jobs. Urban Meyer spent a season at ESPN between resigning from Florida and landing at Ohio State. So did Rich Rodriguez after being fired by Michigan and before being hired by Arizona.

"I have been a coach for nearly the last 30 years," Kelly said. "Working in television will allow me to see the game from a different perspective, but I didn't take the job with the intention it will lead to something specific. I love the game of football and working with good, smart people; ESPN presents an opportunity to combine those two things."

Kelly will fill an opening left by Butch Davis, who became head coach at Florida International.

Kelly was considered one of the most innovative coaches in college football. His up-tempo spread offenses dominated defenses and were mimicked by teams all over the country.

"As a coach, he saw the game from a unique perspective, never afraid to take an unconventional approach," said Lee Fitting, ESPN senior coordinating producer. "We want him to bring that mentality to our college football coverage each week, offering fans a varying viewpoint outside of the conventional thought process."