When I sat down to watch the Atlanta Falcons and New England Patriots Sunday night, I didn't expect to see almost an exact replay of Super Bowl 47. But that's what played out.
The Falcons took the role the Ravens assumed in New Orleans in February 2013. Remember? Stunning their favored opponents with an early surge, they jumped out to a big lead and led the San Francisco 49ers at halftime, 21-6. Sunday night in Houston, the Falcons led the Patriots at the half, 21-3.
Then, just as the Ravens scored again early in the third quarter to up their lead to 28-6, the Falcons reached the end zone early in the third quarter Sunday night, building their lead to 28-3.
By that point, I was contemplating the implications of a Falcons victory. How could I not? Having written some football history, I knew they were one of the 13 teams that haven't won a Super Bowl. That unfortunate group was about to shrink to a dirty dozen, I figured.
Then things began to change. Bigly. Just as they did in New Orleans four years ago.
That night, of course, the power went out, and after the lights came back on, the 49ers rallied furiously. They only needed to punch the ball over the goal line from a few yards out in the final minute to complete an epic comeback and consign the Ravens to a bitter defeat.
The lights didn't go out Sunday night, a big difference from Super Bowl 47, but the Patriots rallied just as furiously, caught the Falcons in the final minute and forced overtime.
Then came the biggest difference from Super Bowl 47: the team coming from way, way back completed the job. Tom Brady led the Patriots on a scoring drive to open overtime, and the Falcons walked off the field in disbelief, having blown a 25-point lead.
A handful of things occurred to me after witnessing the largest collapse in Super Bowl history.
For starters, I don't care what sport you're watching, you won't see many, if any, better displays of poise under pressure than Brady's Sunday night. The Ravens' fan base is one of many that can't stand him, but that was something special.
Also, the last-minute goal-line stand that saved the Ravens four years ago needs to be re-appreciated for the miracle it was. Baltimore's defense was in exactly the same shape as Atlanta's late Sunday night – gassed, overwhelmed, buckling fast. But unlike Atlanta's, it summoned the strength for a stand.
Those few yards the Ravens did NOT give up are the difference between them getting to enjoy a sunny history instead of something far darker, which the Falcons now face.
Another thing that occurred to me is just how hard it is to win a Super Bowl.
The Patriots have now won five, but they wandered the football desert for decades before that. When the Ravens hoisted the Vince Lombardi Trophy for the first time in January 2001, the Patriots had played 41 years without a Super Bowl triumph.
A handful of other teams, including the Cleveland Browns, Cincinnati Bengals and Philadelphia Eagles, still haven't won one. I'm sure it bugs them that the much-younger Ravens have won two.
The Falcons kicked off in 1966, and after some lean decades, their moment clearly was at hand Sunday night. Their stars were aligned. They had the league MVP under center. Their speedy, aggressive nucleus was playing lights-out. They had the NFL's superpower in a 25-point hole.
Their owner, Arthur Blank, came down to the field in the final minutes, presumably to take part in the celebration.
Watching the forlorn Blank stand helplessly on the sideline as his team collapsed was so awkward I almost had to look away.
The Falcons took solace in believing they can get back to the big game, but they'll be lucky to get anywhere close. The last 22 teams to lose the Super Bowl have failed to get back the next year. It's hard to do. Life goes on. Things happen. Your stars seldom align. The opportunity is rare.
When it presents itself, you need to take advantage. The Ravens did and they're viewed in an entirely different light as a result. The Falcons didn't, and oh, I fear they're going to be sorry.