Lets be clear. The Falcons deserved to lose Super Bowl LI.
They allowed 31 straight points, ruined a late field goal try to insure the game due to spotty play calling and were man-handled in overtime as Tom Brady helped New England close a 25-point gap to win a fifth Super Bowl.
But the way the game ended — on a walk-off touchdown scored by James White — wasn't fair.
Pats captain James Slater called "heads" before overtime kicked off, all but assuring the Patriots would be in control in the overtime period. Historically, the receiving team is 9.6 percent more likely to win in NFL's overtime (45 times in 82 nonties), under the new rules structure — which says that a team can win if it scores a touchdown first.
That may seem like a small percentage but it is a huge edge in pro sports, especially in the Super Bowl. Before the Patriots ran even one OT play, they were spotted a huge advantage.
After surrendering five straight scoring drives to end regulation, the Falcons defense was exhausted. They were broken down by New England, which eventually ran 93 plays. What chance did they have?
The Falcons sport one of the best offenses in NFL history and, lets be honest, they had a much better chance on offense than defense in the Super Bowl. But the flip of a coin decided which unit would appear on the field. What other sport works that way?
In baseball, the home team always gets to bat in extra innings. In hockey, both teams also get a chance to score during the three-on-three, which is timed (or indefinite five-on-five in the Stanley Cup Playoffs). In basketball they play for five minutes.
Nearly half the overtime had passed Sunday as Brady led the Pats on their game-winning march. In the biggest game in all of sports, they should have played the full 15 minutes.
Imagine the strategy, the drama and the anticipation had the Falcons been able to take the field with a chance to win. What's a few more minutes? Players push themselves to the limit all season long and with nothing to play for until next September, playing a full overtime period would have been a fair way to decide the NFL title. If the game is tied after 15 minutes, then it can go to sudden death having given each team a fair shot — with no detrimental coin toss.
The college system, which allows each team to take the field and go 25 yards alternatively, would be too much of a structure shift and would greatly change the way stats and records are compiled. That method would never take be adopted by the NFL. But a full 15 minutes is a viable option.
It was the first ever Super Bowl overtime, and of course, it didn't disappoint. And the better team probably won. But it wasn't fair.