At halftime, the game was over.
The Patriots had gotten on the board, but only by the instep of Stephen Gostkowski, who scored a field goal as a backup plan. By the third quarter, the scoreboard was napping. The Patriots hadn't drained the Falcon's first quarter juice. And, with Tevin Coleman sipping Mai Tais in the end zone, the 25-point lead could be cemented and left to dry.
The pundits. The fans. The experts. Everyone knew Super Bowl 51 was done. Just ask them.
If you want to make God laugh, tell Him your Super Bowl predictions.
People are calling it the "greatest comeback in Super Bowl history" and it's the first to ever go into overtime.
The year of the underdog, apparently, isn't over. Not even after the Cleveland Cavaliers won the NBA finals, Coastal Carolina won the College World Series, Brexit won in the UK, Donald Trump won in the US, and the Chicago Clubs' defeated the Curse of the Billy Goat.
Everyone destined to lose just keeps winning. How glorious.
If anything, 2016, and now 2017, is teaching us there are no guaranteed winners and no written in stone losers. What is guaranteed, however, is that there'll always be a buttload of doubters.
Discouragement approaching from the north.
But separating the doubters from someone only speaking the hard truth is like peeling apart two layers of phyllo dough. Pieces of one often stick to the other. Even people only doubting for doubt's sake often have historical precedence and even reality on their side.
Think about it. Who wins a Super Bowl in overtime? Until Sunday, no one.
So how do we tell the difference between what is doubt and what is reality?
Um, yeah. I don't think we can. But do we need to? Fourth quarter comebacks are only thrilling when we don't know they're coming.
Take doubt with a stiff upper lip.
I have a doubter in my own life. (Several actually, this guy's just more vocal about it.) He thinks my dream of being a novelist is a joke that just keeps on giving. I try to avoid him but my tries don't always work.
When we do cross paths, I'm forced to go through the exact same conversation every time. Not kidding. Exact.
"So...sold any books lately?" Laugh, laugh, laugh.
"Are you going to write another one?" Laugh, laugh, laugh.
"Look! Up in the sky! Is that an asteroid on a collision course with earth?" Run, run, run.
Now is not the time to take a knee.
We will get discouraged. There's an entire world out there itching to predict our failure. But no one can see the future. (Refer to, pretty much, the entire freaking year of 2016 for evidence.)
Tom Brady could have slowed down, let the inevitable happen, and accept what everyone else was seeing on the scoreboard.
But, he and the Patriots decided...nah...we'll keep playing football.
I love how one sport's writer explained the game's sudden shift in the fourth quarter, "Brady was making clutch throw after clutch throw..."
Confession: I had no idea what that meant so I looked up the definition of "clutch" and it's awesome.
"...the phenomenon of athletes under pressure, often in the last minutes of a game, to summon strength, concentration and whatever else necessary to succeed, to perform well, and perhaps change the outcome of the game."
Whatever else. Whatever is necessary. Whatever energy you have. Whatever talent is untapped. Whatever diligence you can maintain. Whatever ideas you can execute. Whatever courage you can summon. Whatever humility is required. Whatever hard knocks you have to take.
Whatever else is needed to prove the doubters wrong. Do whatever else.
What's my whatever else? Book number two. It's coming out this year, hopefully. And, who knows, maybe the next time I see my doubter I can hand him an autographed box set.