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Did Super Bowl LI ruin the Atlanta Falcons?

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Fact: Keanu Neal can squeeze orange juice out a lemon

NFL: FEB 05 Super Bowl LI - Falcons v Patriots

The game itself was a bit of a blur. “We’re up! We’re way up! Oh no, there goes our big lead. They can’t do this, can they? Oh nooooo.” You lived it. And I’m sure your experience was similar to mine.

But the aftermath, well, that was crystal clear. The Falcons handed the Patriots the biggest Super Bowl comeback in NFL history. Two and a half years later, it still stings, and not just because every Saints fan on the planet likes to recycle tired 28-3 jokes. A decade, two decades, three decades from now; it will still sting. Sure, the Falcons could get their act together and win a Super Bowl at some point before I die in the interim. And that’d do a lot to dull the pain. But that loss and its fallout aren’t fading into obscurity any time soon.

ESPN’s Vaughn McClure shared a fun fact after last Sunday’s loss to the Titans.

That’s right, the Falcons are officially a .500 football team since the Super Bowl loss. What does that say about the state of the franchise? What does that say about its leadership?

A loss like that was never going to be easy to bounce back from. In fact, it’s arguably the hardest loss in the history of any professional sport to bounce back from. But most of us expected the fallout to come during the 2017 season. Instead, the Falcons went 10-6 and were the only 2016 NFC playoff team to make it back to the playoffs. They’d knock off the up-and-coming Rams in the Wild Card Round before a narrow loss to the Eagles in the Divisional Round. (And then the Eagles would go on to win it all.)

All things considered, about a year removed from the Super Bowl loss, the Falcons didn’t appear to be in decline. We all took a deep breath and looked forward to what lie ahead. But then 2018 happened.

The Falcons went 7-9 last season and missed the playoffs. And maybe that was the true turning point. Because at some point, losing gets frustrating. At some point, the prospect of letting your “window” slam shut starts to affect your mindset. No amount of creative sloganing will right the ship once the ship has a large hole in its hull and it’s taking on gratuitous amounts of water.

Look, I’ve never played professional football, and a lot of the current roster wasn’t part of that Super Bowl team, but for the veterans that were, I’d imagine it’s getting increasingly hard to push the doom and gloom out of their minds. It’s not that they don’t want to play the game anymore. It’s that playing for this team, or perhaps to a larger degree playing for this coach, is wearing on them.

What say you, Falcoholics? Is the Super Bowl loss part and parcel of what we’re currently witnessing at Flowery Branch? Or is it just ancient history? Discuss!