The Patriots’ two previous trips to the Super Bowl

A fourth-quarter interception by Falcons safety Ricardo Allen on a fluttering Wilson pass was the final nail in the proverbial coffin. The turnover led to a 3-yard touchdown pass from Ryan to Mohamed Sanu to give Atlanta a 36-13 lead with under four minutes remaining.

Wilson finished 17 of 30 for 225 yards and two touchdowns and a pair of fourth-quarter interceptions.

The Falcons advance to next weekend’s NFC championship game and will hope for the Packers (11-6) to beat the Cowboys on Sunday. A Green Bay win means the Falcons would host the NFC title tilt. The Cowboys (13-3) own homefield advantage throughout the NFC playoffs and would host the Falcons if they beat the Packers at AT&T Stadium.

Yet there are reasons for optimism. The Patriots’ two previous trips to the Super Bowl, 2012 against the Giants and 2015 against the Seahawks, were the two highest-rated editions since 1986 (another Patriots game, though well before the Brady and Belichick era). It has been nearly that long since Super Bowl ratings fell in consecutive years (1987 and 1988). And for all the talk of the NFL’s slump, the Super Bowl is a different animal from any other game a cultural event more immune to viewer apathy.

So which way to go Considering how divisive New England has been over the past decade, it’s tempting to predict a modest increase, yet there may be no more appropriate way to close out this NFL season than with a multiyear low for the league’s biggest game. Broncos-Panthers last year had a 46.6, and no Super Bowl has dipped below a 46.0 rating in seven years. Prediction: 45.7.sharks_084

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