Telling people not to underestimate Tom Brady, Bill Belichick and the Patriots seems like one of the oldest clichés in the book, but on Super Bowl Sunday, many people seemed to forget one of football’s most basic rules.
When the Atlanta Falcons soared to a 21-3 halftime lead, all appeared to be over. Not only had the Falcons generated a lead so secure that no other team in Super Bowl history had been able to overcome that deficit, but Matt Ryan and Atlanta’s offense would also receive the second-half kickoff.
It would take a major, major screw-up or an otherworldly comeback for the Patriots to win another Lombardi Trophy in Super Bowl 51. Many took to Twitter to express the opinion that the Falcons had already come away with the win, including Fox Sports’ Skip Bayless:
Well, that's it. The Atlanta Falcons are Super Bowl champions.— Skip Bayless (@RealSkipBayless) February 6, 2017
At the exact same minute Bayless sent out a Tweet that would eventually go viral upon the Patriots’ win, Bengals safety George Iloka tweeted something no one seemed to be thinking at the time:
In all seriousness game isn't over yet when playing the Patriots— George Iloka (@George_iloka) February 6, 2017
Entering the Super Bowl, I firmly believed the Patriots would beat the Falcons, but even my confidence was shot at halftime. The deficit just seemed too big to overcome, even for a team like the Patriots. Heck, the largest comeback in Super Bowl history was only from a 10-point deficit, and New England put itself in a 18-point hole by halftime before surrendering another touchdown to make it a 25-point deficit.
How Brady, Belichick and the Pats managed to come back — and how Ryan, Dan Quinn and the Falcons managed to squander a lead that commanding — is a story which has already been well-documented in the days following the Super Bowl.
But still, Iloka was one of very few to even suggest the Patriots could come back, let alone abstain from declaring the Patriots had already lost by halftime. He didn’t outright claim the Patriots would win, but I’m going to give it to him here. Impressive call, George.