Four years before Falcons' collapse, the Ravens narrowly avoided a similar fate

After a first half in which he played like that impostor in a Tom Brady mask, the New England Patriots quarterback put on a Super Bowl performance for the ages Sunday, leading his team back from a 25-point deficit to beat the Atlanta Falcons in overtime, 34-28.

The morning after and with some time to digest the New England Patriots' 34-28 overtime victory Sunday in Super Bowl LI, it remains inconceivable that the Atlanta Falcons squandered a 25-point mid-third quarter lead.

Surely, there are some Ravens' fans who are thinking back to four years ago when their team narrowly avoided a similar fate in Super Bowl XLVII.


Before the Ravens needed a goal-line stand to preserve a 34-31 victory over the San Francisco 49ers, before the lights went out at the Mercedez-Benz Superdome in New Orleans and before Colin Kaepernick and Frank Gore started to run wild on the AFC champions, the Ravens were primed to turn the Super Bowl into a rout.

Jacoby Jones' electric 108-yard touchdown return of the second half's opening kickoff gave the Ravens a 28-6 lead. The Ravens' defense then forced a punt on the next 49ers' drive, which was interrupted by the power outage in the stadium.


When the Ravens went three-and-out on the next possession, the 49ers took over on their own 20-yard line, trailing by 22 points with 10:26 remaining in the third quarter. That's when the momentum completely changed.

Kaepernick hit Michael Crabtree for a 31-yard touchdown pass to cut the Ravens' lead to 28-13 with 7:28 to play in the third quarter. The Ravens then went three-and-out again and after a long punt return by Ted Ginn Jr., San Francisco needed just two plays to get back in the end zone. Gore scored on a 6-yard touchdown run and suddenly it was a 28-20 game and there was still five minutes to play in the third quarter.

A Ray Rice fumble in Ravens' territory gave the 49ers another opportunity, but they were forced to settle for a 34-yard David Akers field goal and a five-point deficit. Akers missed his first attempt, but he got another chance when Ravens cornerback Chykie Brown was called for running into the kicker.

The Ravens then did what the Falcons were unable to do last night. They tacked onto their lead and ate some clock. A five-plus minute drive spanning the third and fourth quarters ended with Justin Tucker kicking a 19-yard field goal for a 31-23 lead. The Ravens settled for the field goal after being stopped on consecutive plays from the 1-yard line.

San Francisco answered immediately with another quick scoring drive as Kaepernick scrambled for a 15-yard touchdown. An unsuccessful two-point conversion attempt made it a 31-29 game with just over 10 minutes left to play.

However, the Ravens again were able to mount a drive, run some clock and add to their lead. Joe Flacco's 15-yard pass to Anquan Boldin on 3rd-and-1 in Ravens territory eventually set up a Tucker 38-yard field goal for a 34-29 Ravens' lead with just over four minutes remaining.

Needing a touchdown to win the Super Bowl and having scored on three straight possessions, the 49ers needed just five plays and less than two minutes to drive down to the Ravens' 5-yard line. But Kaepernick misfired on three straight passes, all intended for Crabtree, and the Ravens' held on to win their second Super Bowl. Ravens punter Sam Koch took a safety to make the final score 34-31.

Watching last night's miraculous comeback unfold, it was hard not to think about that game. Last night, the Falcons led 28-3 at the 8:36 mark of the third quarter after Matt Ryan hit Tevin Coleman for a 6-yard touchdown. The 49ers' deficit against the Ravens was 28-6 when their comeback started with a touchdown midway through the third quarter.

The 49ers rattled off 17 consecutive points on the Ravens in just four minutes, 10 seconds in the third quarter. The Patriots scored 17 points in an 11 minute, 10-second stretch spanning the third and fourth quarters to make it a one-possession game. They then tied it with a touchdown and two-point conversion with 57 seconds remaining in regulation.

A turnover – Rice's fumble and Dont'a Hightower's strip sack of Ryan – both were key factors in the swings of momentum. The Ravens' defense, which was running on fumes, allowed points on four consecutive possessions before the goal-line stand. The Falcons, whose defense ran out of gas, surrendered points on the Patriots' last five possessions, counting James White's overtime winner but not New England's fake kneel-down at the end of regulation.

But there were two significant differences in the games. One, the Ravens managed at least two fourth-quarter field goals while the Falcons went scoreless in the fourth quarter. Two, the Ravens made the one defensive stand and the Falcons couldn't.

Ultimately, that's really all that's separating Ravens' fans from knowing exactly how Falcons' supporters are feeling today.

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