Atlanta sat on the Patriots 23-yard line on second-and-11, up by eight. All they had to do was fall down with the ball twice and kick a field goal for a nearly insurmoutable 11-point lead.
Instead, quarterback Matt Ryan took an awful 13-yard sack for a third-and-24 scenario.
— Austin Kellerman (@AustinKellerman) February 6, 2017
No matter, right? A third-down draw play or something to gain a handful of yards would make it a manageable field goal for kicker Matt Bryant. They gained nine yards on a pass to Mohamed Sanu, but it was negated by a 10-yard holding penalty on Jake Matthews, resulting in a punt and leading to one of the most improbable comebacks in sports history.
"There's nothing you can really say,'' Ryan said after the defeat. "… There are no words.''
Ryan completed 17 of 23 passes for 284 yards, two touchdowns, and no picks. But the Falcons didn't score on their final four possessions, and the Patriots scored on their final five after trailing 28-3.
"There's nothing you can really say,'' Ryan said. "That's a tough loss. Obviously, very disappointed. [The Falcons] were very close to getting done what we wanted to get done, but it's hard to find the words.''
At the close of the third quarter, the Falcons had to punt after a Patriots onside kick failed. They were in field goal range up 28-9, but—stop me if this sounds familiar—the combination of a sack and a Matthews holding penalty forced a punt.
"We were in field-goal range [in the fourth quarter], and then we got pushed back out of field goal range,'' Ryan said. "We knew we had to come away with points in both of those.''
"We ran out of gas," said Falcons head coach Dan Quinn.