Philadelphia Eagles

Falcons' flop a new low for Atlanta's sad sporting history

Falcons' flop a new low for Atlanta's sad sporting history

HOUSTON -- Well, Atlanta, there's nothing left to say.

The city once known as "Loserville" was cruising toward its first Super Bowl championship, leading Tom Brady and the mighty New England Patriots by 25 points.

TWENTY-FIVE!

Back in Atlanta, the city was all ready to bust loose in a celebration like no other, seemingly assured of finally putting to rest its history of sports flops.

Then, it happened.

The greatest flop of them all.

This one will take a long, long time to get over.

"I'm kind of numb," said Falcons safety Ricardo Allen, who might as well been speaking for an entire city. "I don't really know what to feel. I'm broken inside, because this is not us. I'm kind of numb to the feeling, man. It's terrible. It's one of the worst feelings ever. I'm not a guy that forgets very easy. I'll probably never forget this. It will always be haunting."

Brady engineered a stunning comeback, leading the Patriots to a pair of touchdowns and a pair of 2-point conversions that sent the Super Bowl to overtime for the first time.

At that point, it was a mere formality.

The Patriots won the coin toss.

Of course.

The Patriots drove right down the field for the championship-winning touchdown.

Of course.

The final: New England 34, Atlanta 28.

Brady will long be remembered for his record-breaking performance, completing 43 of 62 passes for 466 yards, and this will certainly go down as one of the greatest title games in NFL history.

That's little consolation to the Falcons.

"That's a hard one in the locker room," coach Dan Quinn said. "No place to put that one mentally for us. But I am proud of the fight these guys have. The brotherhood this group has built, it's as strong as I've ever seen."

In the A-T-L, this will join the Braves blowing a 6-0 lead in Game 4 of the 1996 World Series, the Hawks squandering a chance to eliminate Larry Bird and the Boston Celtics in the 1988 NBA playoffs, and Danny White leading the Dallas Cowboys back from 10 points down in the fourth quarter to beat the Falcons in a 1981 playoff game.

But, really, nothing comes close to this level of sporting disappointment.

The Falcons spent nearly three quarters playing with the swagger and confidence of a team that wasn't the least bit concerned about their city's history. Heading to the fourth quarter, they were still up 28-9. The Patriots tacked on a field goal early in the fourth, but Atlanta was still comfortably ahead.

Then, the play that turned the momentum solidly in New England's favor.

MVP Matt Ryan dropped back to pass, was hit by Dont'a Hightower just before his arm came forward to pass, and the ball popped lose. The Patriots recovered at the Atlanta 25.

It was the only Falcons' turnover of the postseason.

"We had some opportunities to make plays," Ryan said. "We just missed on a couple of things and just made a few mistakes and ultimately, when you're playing a real good football team like New England, those mistakes ended up costing us."

Even after Ryan's turnover and the ensuing Patriots touchdown, Atlanta was still in position to put the victory away when Julio Jones made a stunning catch along the sideline, ripping the ball away from a defender and somehow getting both feet down before tumbling out of bounds at the New England 22.

With under 5 minutes remaining and the Falcons still up 28-20, all they needed to do was run three more plays and set up for a field goal by Pro Bowl kicker Matt Bryant that would finally put the Patriots away.

Devonta Freeman was thrown for a 1-yard loss, but that wasn't a huge deal.

What happened next was a big deal.

Instead of another run, Ryan set up for a pass. He was thrown for a 12-yard loss and, just like that, the Falcons were on the fringe of Bryant's range.

Any hope for a field goal was lost when Jake Matthews was called for a holding penalty that set Atlanta back another 10 yards.

That sequence will surely haunt outgoing offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan , who was acclaimed for his work with the league's highest-scoring team and will shortly be named head coach of the San Francisco 49ers.

"You always want to run the ball if you can," Shanahan said. "We got into field-goal range, where we would've ended it. But getting that sack and that hold call was tough."

The Falcons were forced to punt it back to Brady and a Patriots team that was brimming with bravado.

It wasn't the least bit shocking when they marched right down the field, 91 yards, for James White's short touchdown run.

It wasn't the least bit shocking when Brady hooked up with Danny Amendola on a 2-point pass that tied the game with 57 seconds remaining.

It wasn't the least bit shocking when the Falcons, without any timeouts, failed to muster anything on their final offensive possession.

It wasn't the least bit shocking when the Patriots won the toss and drove down the field one more time, 75 yards in just eight plays, and finished off the Falcons with a 2-yard touchdown run.

The city of Atlanta had seen it all before.

For complete Super Bowl LI coverage, see CSNNE.com.

NFL Notes: Rookie QB DeShone Kizer to start in Browns' 3rd preseason game

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AP Images

NFL Notes: Rookie QB DeShone Kizer to start in Browns' 3rd preseason game

BEREA, Ohio -- Rookie DeShone Kizer is Cleveland's new starting quarterback.

Coach Hue Jackson has elected to go with Kizer, a second-round pick from Notre Dame, over veterans Brock Osweiler and Cody Kessler. Kizer has been the most consistent of the three during training camp and led the Browns to three touchdowns during his two exhibition appearances.

Jackson said Kizer will start Saturday's exhibition in Tamp Bay and "is certainly positioning himself well to earn the starting job heading into the regular season."

The Browns open the season on Sept. 10 against Pittsburgh.

Unless he stumbles against the Buccaneers, Kizer will be the 27th different quarterback to start for the Browns since 1999. The big-armed 21-year-old has shown no signs of being intimidated by the jump to the pros after making 23 starts in two seasons for the Fighting Irish (see full story).

Bears: OT Charles Leno Jr. signs extension
CHICAGO -- The Chicago Bears have signed offensive lineman Charles Leno Jr. to a contract extension.

The Bears announced the extension Wednesday.

Leno started all 16 games at left tackle last year and is entering his fourth season with the Bears. Last year marked the second straight season in which Leno made 16 starts. He was one of two Bears offensive players to start every game in 2016.

He helped Chicago finish third in the NFL in rushing as Jordan Howard rushed for 1,313 yards, the most by a Bears rookie.

Leno, a former seventh-round pick from Boise State, has 30 career NFL starts.

Steelers: Bell hints at return date
PITTSBURGH -- Steelers star Le'Veon Bell has suggested on Twitter that he will return to the team on Sept. 1, the day after Pittsburgh's final preseason game.

Bell hasn't signed his franchise tender and has been holding out through training camp. Responding to a fan Tuesday night asking when he plans to end his holdout, Bell wrote: "9-1-17" and added a wink.

The franchise tender offered Bell will guarantee him $12.1 million for the upcoming season. The two-time Pro Bowl running back has been seeking a long-term deal.

Bell rushed for 1,268 yards and seven touchdowns last season and also caught 75 passes for 616 yards and two TDs.

Redskins: Jordan Reed makes on-field debut at practice
ASHBURN, Va. -- Jordan Reed is back at practice with the Washington Redskins.

The 27-year-old tight end made his on-field debut Wednesday after missing almost the first month of practices with a toe injury. Reed missed the team's first two preseason games and was activated off the physically unable to perform list on Sunday.

Reed was examined by a foot specialist Aug. 1 and recently started using wider shoes and orthotics to help alleviate the soreness in the big toe on his left foot. Last week he said it felt better when running routes and walking around and doesn't expect the injury to affect him during the season.

One of quarterback Kirk Cousins' most consistent and effective targets, Reed had 66 catches for 686 yards and six touchdowns last season despite missing four games with injury.

Giants: OL Bowie waived after domestic charges disclosed 
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- The New York Giants have waived Michael Bowie days after finding out that the offensive lineman had been charged with assault and battery in Oklahoma.

The Giants announced the decision Wednesday along with three moves.

The team learned of the charges on Saturday and did not allow the 25-year-old free agent to make the trip to Cleveland for a preseason game against the Browns on Monday night.

Bowie is accused of grabbing his girlfriend by the neck during a fight at her home in Bixby, Oklahoma, then broke two televisions and punched a hole in the wall.

Court records don't list an attorney for Bowie, a Tulsa resident. His agent says Bowie is working to prove his innocence, saying there was no physical contact with the girlfriend.

New York also waived offensive linemen Corin Brooks, and waived/injured wideouts Darius Powe and Andrew Turzilli (see full story).

Former Eagles special teamer Bryan Braman heading to Saints

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USA Today Images

Former Eagles special teamer Bryan Braman heading to Saints

Former Eagles special teamer Bryan Braman has agreed to terms to join the New Orleans Saints on a one-year deal, according to his agent Sean Stellato. 

NFL Network's Ian Rapoport first reported the deal. 

Braman, 30, spent the last three seasons with the Eagles and played a major role on Dave Fipp's unit, which has been considered one of the top in the NFL during that span. He had been a free agent throughout the spring and summer after his contract ran out with the Eagles. 

Braman came to Philadelphia as a free agent from the Texans before the 2014 season on a two-year deal and later restructured his contract to take a pay cut and give him an extra year in Philly. 

While Braman rarely made it on the field for the defense in those next three seasons, he played a total of 1,214 special teams snaps, the most of any player on the team. He played in all 48 games over the last three seasons. 

Even without Braman, the Eagles still have plenty of key special teams players like Chris Maragos, Najee Goode and Kamu Grugier-Hill.