Falcons write most painful chapter in Atlanta's history of sports torment

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The recent American sporting landscape has been defined by miraculous comebacks, or to look at it from another perspective, historic collapses.

In last season's NBA Finals, the juggernaut Golden State Warriors blew a 3-1 series lead over the Cleveland Cavaliers and lost in seven games.

Cleveland was then dealt its own dose of heartbreak as the Indians let slip a 3-1 lead in the World Series, the Chicago Cubs prevailing, again in seven games.

Both those turnarounds were suitably mourned by devastated fanbases in the Bay Area and in Ohio.

But what Atlanta Falcons fans experienced on Sunday undoubtedly outranks those reversals, and will stand as the most painful collapse in the history of American sports.

With less than 25 minutes to play, the Falcons held a 28-3 lead in Super Bowl LI and were in complete command against a New England Patriots team looking a shadow of the side that has long been the dominant force in the NFL.

The Falcons had been too fast, too potent and quite simply had too many weapons for the Patriots to handle for the best part of three quarters in Houston.

However, whether it was down to inexperience, or whether they simply ran out of gas, the Falcons could not finish the job, and were stunningly undone as Tom Brady cemented his status as the greatest quarterback of all time, leading the Patriots on the largest comeback in Super Bowl history to claim a 34-28 overtime triumph.

And, as Brady celebrates becoming the first quarterback to win five Super Bowl titles, there will likely be a feeling of injustice to go with the feeling of devastation in Atlanta.

That is not to say Brady does not deserve his fifth title, his performance in the circumstances on the biggest stage was nothing short of mind-boggling.

However, many already viewed him as the best quarterback to ever play the game. And the game arguably carried a greater significance for the Falcons, who were looking to win the city of Atlanta's second title in 179 seasons of major sport.

The city's sole success came in 1995 when the Braves triumphed in the World Series in a strike-shortened MLB season.

For that reason this astonishing defeat is beyond compare in the realm of American sports. The Warriors had won the title the season before and many more NBA crowns are likely coming their way.

Cleveland fans, meanwhile, could at least console themselves by looking back on the Cavs' triumph following the Indians' dramatic defeat to the Cubs.

There will be no such comfort for Falcons fans, for whom the defeat will linger until they are back on the same stage. 

With the young core they have at their disposal, the Falcons have every shot of being back at Super LII in Minnesota in February next year.

But, as linebacker Deion Jones knows, for now they have to shoulder the burden of the most infamous defeat in the history of this tormented sports city.

"This is a feeling I won't forget," Jones said. "It sucks."