The Atlanta Falcons were so sick of the 28-3 jokes that today, in a 40-39 defeat to the Dallas Cowboys, they decided to find an unprecedented way to choke away what would have been a secure lead for any other NFL team. Not an exaggeration: No one has ever lost like this in league history.
The Falcons looked like they were going to cruise from the first quarter, as they quickly built a 20-0 advantage and a 29-10 halftime lead off early lost fumbles by Dallas. That’s how they get you, though. The Cowboys scored two touchdowns on their first two drives of the second half to cut the deficit to 29-24, but Atlanta answered with an 11-play drive that took up 4:51 of game time and ended with quarterback Matt Ryan’s eight-yard touchdown pass to Russell Gage. With eight minutes left in the fourth quarter, a Younghoe Koo field goal put the Falcons up by 15, and they did not score again.
Even after Cowboys QB Dak Prescott threw a 10-yard TD pass to Dalton Schultz and ran one in himself to bring the score to 39-37, the Falcons were still in position to win. All they had to do was take possession. Dallas had no timeouts left, and the two-minute warning had passed. If the Falcons could just end it there, no one would be able to make fun of them mercilessly. OK, now as you watch this onside kick, keep in mind that the five Falcons players surrounding the ball could have recovered it at any point, and they simply didn’t. Only the Cowboys were required to wait for it to roll 10 yards or touch an opponent, and yet:
After the Dallas recovery, Prescott engineered one more drive to the Falcons’ 28-yard line, and Cowboys kicker Greg Zuerlein nailed the game-winner for three.
If you are a Falcons fan—still, after that performance—please know that you do not have to do this to yourself. These days your options on Sundays might be limited, but you can still do better than this. Get out now, while the season’s still early. No one will blame you. Take it from one of the Clippers players who blew a 3-1 lead to the Denver Nuggets: