The Atlanta Falcons might have felt a little heartache as Super Bowl XLVII began. Having been so close to playing in the game, the Falcons could not help but wonder how they would have fared. As the game progressed, that heartache may have turned to heartburn.
The Super Bowl would have some eery similarities to the NFC Championship Game. The Super Bowl's ending might have even been bittersweet for the Falcons and their fans.
As a whole, the Super Bowl presented questions far beyond the "what if" realm.
Falcons See What Luck Looks Like
The Falcons were accused of being more lucky than good in 2012. Yet on the NFL's biggest stage, the Falcons got to see how things can go a team's way. During the first half of the Super Bowl, Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco could seemingly do no wrong.
Flacco made some incredible plays, but some defied explanation. Tipped balls fell harmlessly to the ground as San Francisco defenders watched. Ravens receivers made desperation throws look like well orchestrated plays.
The best example was Flacco's 30-yard completion to Anquan Boldin in the first half. On a 3rd-and-7, the 49ers had chased Flacco from the pocket. Nearing the sideline, Flacco heaved the ball downfield rather than losing ground.
Under pressure, Flacco's pass fails to get out of bounds. Boldin recognized the ball is still in play and rushed to the ball's destination. The 49er defending Boldin seemed to have assumed that Flacco had thrown the ball away.
Boldin's reception looked more like he was receiving a punt. This was the only thing that kept the play from becoming bigger. It allowed the 49ers enough time to react the catch and only allow Boldin a single yard after the reception.
The Falcons certainly could have used a few of those happy accidents in the postseason.
49ers Find Karma is Less Than Friendly
The Falcons had seen this script before. The Ravens were dominating the 49ers early. In the second half, the 49ers would launch a comeback. This seemed to be the NFCCG Part II. The game's final moments became a fun house mirror of the Falcons' demise.
Down by five, the 49ers faced a 4th-and-goal situation. There was heavy contact between 49ers receiver Michael Crabtree and the Ravens defender. The 49ers watched their Super Bowl dreams sail over Crabtree's head.
49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh did not mince words about how he felt. Harbaugh said of the play, "There was no question in my mind that was pass interference and then a hold on Crabtree.”
It is doubtful that the Falcons or any of their fans could muster any sympathy for him. In fact, Harbaugh's words made the Falcons look like an even classier organization.
The Falcons had just been through that situation. With everything on the line, an injured Matt Ryan threw a first-down strike to Roddy White. White was positioned in front of the 49ers defender on what should have been a drive-extending play.
The 49ers defender blew up Roddy White a second before the ball arrived. White, the ball and the Falcons Super Bowl dreams all hit the ground. What did not hit the ground? A flag for pass-interference.
Unlike the Falcons Mike Smith, Harbaugh was quick to point out how the officials affected the game. One wonders if Harbaugh sees the irony of being on both sides of the no-call victory.
Could the Falcons Have Won?
The unavoidable question is whether the Falcons could have beaten the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday. There is a big difference between "would" and "could."
Would the Falcons have won Sunday? No one will ever know.
Could the Falcons have won on Sunday? Yes.
The Falcons two of the best defenses in the NFL during the postseason. The Falcons put up 30 points on the Seattle Seahawks and 28 on the 49ers. So the Falcons should have been able to score on the Ravens.
Oddly enough, the Falcons defense may have fared better against the Flacco-led offense than Wilson or Kaepernick. The Falcons struggled with mobile quarterbacks in 2012, and faced them back-to-back in the postseason.
The Falcons defense had actually performed better against pure passers in 2012. The Falcons had their biggest success against Peyton Manning, Drew Brees and Eli Manning. Flacco is much closer to those three than he is Cam Newton.
Despite the irony in the 49ers final moments, the Falcons can find little solace in the outcome of Super Bowl XLVII. It merely served as a reminder that the Falcons were far closer to glory than anyone realizes.