It has taken me a day to process exactly what happened Sunday night. Bill Belichick, Tom Brady, and the New England Patriots won their fifth Super Bowl in the most dramatic fashion imaginable by overcoming a 25-point deficit to win in the Super Bowl’s first-ever overtime game. This was amazing for them.
However, what most are overlooking is what allowed the Patriots to make this improbable comeback. The Atlanta Falcons had the number one offense in the league this year, led by quarterback and league MVP Matt Ryan and a strong running game.
All 28 of Atlanta’s points were scored in the second quarter, and they led 28-3 at halftime. Now, any ten-year-old kid who has played a Madden video game will tell you what to do in this situation if you are the team in the lead: RUN THE BALL!!!
Unfortunately, the Falcons did not do this. In fact, they only ran the ball five times in the second half. In the fourth quarter, Atlanta is holding on to an eight-point lead with a little over four minutes remaining. Ryan hits receiver Julio Jones (Bama boy!) for a highlight-reel catch down to the Patriots’ 22-yardline. Everyone was sure that the Falcons would run the ball three consecutive times, force New England to burn their timeouts, and then kick a fairly simple field goal, putting the game practically on ice.
Regrettably, they opted to pass, took a sack, then committed a holding penalty, which took them out of field goal range, allowing the Pats to do what they did. This series was an example of terrible coaching, but it is not the full extent of the issue.
Why did the Falcons offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan abandon the run game after halftime? Why did head coach Dan Quinn allow this and choose not to take over? I feel that I have the answer.
Complacency. It is defined as “a feeling of quiet pleasure or security, often while unaware of some potential danger, defect, or the like; self-satisfaction or smug satisfaction with an existing, situation, condition, etc.”
Atlanta did what we sometimes do when things are going well in our lives: they took their foot off the gas. They thought they could coast to victory, but Tom Brady and company had other plans.
As easy as it could be to write this from the Patriots perspective and make it about determination and never giving up, I feel that the Falcons give us as vital of a lesson, and that is that we should never stop fighting until the fight is finished.
The apostle Paul says to us in 1 Corinthians 9:24, “Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives a prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain it.” (NKJV) As much as this society wants everyone to get a prize just for trying, only one team can win the Super Bowl trophy. There are no ties. There are no participation ribbons. There is a winner, and there is a loser.
There is no point in our lives when we have “made it” or achieved perfection to the point where we deserve Heaven, and we do not have to try anymore. We will never be good enough to earn eternal life, but we can fall away and pass the point of no return.
Hebrews 6:4-6 says “For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted the heavenly gift, and have become partakers of the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, if they fall away, to renew them again to repentance, since they crucify again for themselves the Son of God, and put Him to an open shame.” This is a very hard doctrine to accept, but the Bible does not preach “Once saved, always saved.”
We should continue to strive to live a life worthy of wearing the name of Christian. It is not a walk in the park, but a daily battle. It is not a pointless fight, but there is a great reward. This is why Paul later in 1 Corinthians 9 said that “I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified.”
Never give up. Never stop fighting. It ain’t over til the fat lady sings, so don’t try to coast to the finish line. Let the 2016-17 Atlanta Falcons be a cautionary tale of how tragic complacency can be.
Peace. Love. Roll Tide.