The Seattle Seahawks got some help from the Miami Dolphins, whose moribund offense rattled off four consecutive scoring drives to turn a 17-0 halftime deficit into a 20-17 road win over the Atlanta Falcons. Matt Ryan drove Atlanta into field goal range, but in going for the win, the reigning MVP threw an interception in the closing seconds. After a 3-0 start calmed early concerns about a “Super Bowl loss hangover” for the defending NFC champions, consecutive home losses on either side of the bye week has some Falcons fans panicking, especially since they have three straight road games coming up.
While 28-3 vs. the Patriots at Super Bowl LI is the crème de la crème of collapses (if there is such a thing), this is the third time in a year that Dan Quinn’s Falcons have lost a game when leading by 17+ points. You may remember that the week after Atlanta’s loss to Seattle last October, the Falcons were up 27-10 at home against the 2-4 Chargers, only for San Diego to outscore them 23-3 and win 33-30 in overtime. In the extra session, Quinn went for it on 4th and 1 at his own 45, and the Chargers stuffed Devonta Freeman in the backfield. The gamble didn’t pay off and San Diego came away with an unexpected victory.
Another notable second-half collapse came in Quinn’s rookie season, as the Falcons were up 21-7 in the 3rd quarter against the Matt Hasselbeck-led Indianapolis Colts, but Indy scored 17 unanswered in 16 minutes to win 24-21 in Atlanta. The Falcons dropped to 6-4 after this puzzling defeat, ultimately spiraling out of playoff contention after starting the season 6-1.
In fairness to our great ex-Seahawks defensive coordinator, you could argue that Atlanta’s propensity to blow big leads is more damning of Matt Ryan than anything else. Back in 2014, the Mike Smith-era Falcons tossed away a 21-0 halftime lead against the Lions in London, losing 22-21 on a last-second field goal. Among the lowlights of that second-half meltdown was Matty Ice throwing one of the worst interceptions you’ll ever see.
Lest we forget that they raced to a 17-0 start against the San Francisco 49ers in the 2013 NFC Championship Game, and still came up short 28-24 in what is the largest lead squandered by a home team in Conference Championship history. Of course, Atlanta was fortunate to have even made it that far, as they nearly lost to the Seahawks in the divisional round despite entering the 4th quarter up 27-7. (I know, it still hurts)
I don’t know what it is about this team and their tendency to step off the gas pedal when comfortably ahead — even more bizarre is every single game I’ve reference was either at home or neutral site — but it’s a problem that Quinn has to sort out soon, or else he’s going to develop a reputation that he may ever be able to shake off. And unlike last season, the Falcons have serious competition in the NFC South, so they cannot afford to keep throwing away winnable games like they did on Sunday, or else the Monday Night Football showdown in Seattle may actually end up being really important for just the Seahawks.