Mark Bradley

Mark Bradley is a sports columnist and blogger for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

The Patriots' 283 diamonds aren't trolling. They're, alas, reality

When the Tampa Bay Buccaneers made reference via social media to the Atlanta Falcons and the numbers "28" and "3," that was -- as those on social media are wont to say -- trolling. Bucs coach Dirk Koetter, who worked for the Falcons not long ago, apologized for his organization and said the Falcons were, after all, participants in the game every team aspires to reach.

When the New England Patriots announced their championship rings would bear "more than 280" diamonds -- and subsequent reports put that number at exactly 283 -- and would include the inscription, "Greatest Comeback Ever" ... that wasn't trolling. Those same Pats were, duh, participants in that very game. If you're the Falcons (or a Falcons fan) and you've taken umbrage at that, you need to sit yourself down and have a little reality check.

The Patriots did in fact trail 28-3 with 17 minutes and seven seconds remaining in Super Bowl LI. They did in fact win the thing. The Falcons did in fact lose. If the Falcons are still sore about it, they have only themselves to blame. If they care to commission runner-up rings, they should bear these inscriptions:

"Run The Ball."

"Don't Get Sacked."

"Kick The Field Goal."

And this above all: "Never Again."

Even as the Falcons insist they've moved past their Super stupor, we still wonder if that's possible. That partial score -- 28-3 -- is already the most famous/infamous in Super Bowl annals. It's the most famous/infamous score in Falcons history. If they don't like it (and I'm sure they don't), they need to put a happier score on the ol' board, this time a final one. Toward that end ...

Run the ball. Don't get sacked. Kick the field goal. Never again.

Historical footnote: After Houston upset UCLA 71-69 in the Astrodome on Jan. 20, 1968, Sports Illustrated ran a cover photo of Elvin Hayes -- who'd scored 39 of the Cougars' 71 points -- shooting a jump shot over the earthbound Lew Alcindor , who was coming off a scratched cornea and would score only 10 points on 3-of-10 shooting in his worst game as a collegian. Alcindor, later Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, took the SI cover and taped it in his Pauley Pavilion locker, adding the words, "Never again."

UCLA and Houston would meet in the Final Four, which wasn't yet known as such, two months and two days later.  The Bruins won 101-69 in what is considered the greatest performance in the history of college hoops. Hayes was held to 10 points -- UCLA assistant coach Jerry Norman suggested the Bruins play a diamond-and-one zone with Lynn Shackelford chasing the Big E -- on 3-of-10 shooting. (Note the word "diamond.")

I do believe the Falcons and Patriots are scheduled to meet on Oct. 22 in Foxborough. If you want any more inspiration, there you go.

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About the Author

Mark Bradley is a sports columnist and blogger for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. He has been with the AJC since 1984.