Ricardo Allen uses Falcons’ Super Bowl flop to inspire Bengals

Credit: D. Orlando Ledbetter

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Bengals defensive back will suit up in the Super Bowl Sunday.

Credit: D. Orlando Ledbetter

LOS ANGELES — Former Falcons safety Ricardo Allen has used the story of his former team blowing a 25-point lead in Super Bowl LI to help motivate the resurgent Cincinnati Bengals.

Perhaps that explains how the Bengals stormed back from a 21-3 deficit in the AFC Championship game to beat the Chiefs 27-24 in overtime Jan. 30 in Kansas City.

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The Bengals are set to face the Los Angeles Rams in Super Bowl LVI at 6:30 p.m. Sunday at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, California.

“Even when we have gotten into tough situations in this playoff run,” Allen said Thursday. “I’m always working on the sidelines, and one of the main things I say to some of them is ‘I’ve got to tell you a story about being up 25 points in the Super Bowl.’ It always seems to give us a kick that we need. We’re never out of fight.”

Allen was the Falcons’ starting free safety in Super Bowl LI. He played 98 of the 99 defensive snaps in the football marathon as the Falcons’ coaches were outmaneuvered and the players made too many blunders to hold off Tom Brady and the Patriots on Feb. 5, 2017.

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“That’s one thing that I know because I can tell you about being up 25 points in the Super Bowl,” said Allen, the only Bengals player with Super Bowl experience.

He played 171 defensive snaps (19%) and 109 snaps on special teams (27%) during the regular season.

“He’s a great guy who came in and in the spring as a kind of a free-agent tour, you know, see the city, see the stadium,” Bengals secondary coach/safeties Robert Livingston said. “He was already planning on where they’re going to live. Where he’s going to send his kids to school.”

Allen, who said he wants to be a coach, was slowed by injuries but was helpful to starting safeties Vonn Bell and Jessie Bates.

“His veteran leadership has been great,” Livingston said. “I can’t speak enough about it. I told him a long time ago that he was going to do more for me than I probably ever do for him.”

Since the victory against the Chiefs, Allen’s consultation business has been busy.

“They have reached out to me a lot,” Allen said. “They are asking me a lot of questions about how the Falcons lost a 28-3 lead in the Super Bowl. It’s just the experience that I’m able to tell them about that game. Just being able to play back through it and tell them what I believe could have helped us win.”

Allen was one of the nicest players in the Falcons’ locker room. He was a football survivor after being cut as a rookie in 2014. He went to the practice squad and fought his way back up.

In 2015, Dan Quinn’s staff converted him to free safety, and he started 76 of 77 games before he was released last offseason by the new regime.

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“Players just want to know how that game went,” Allen said. “I feel like I learned a lot from actually losing that game because, to be honest, there is not a point in time that I think I would have thought that we’d lose that game after being up 25 points.”

After all of the blunders – including Devonta Freeman’s missed block – and play-calling mistakes, the Falcons lost 34-28 in overtime.

“Even after losing that game, would I have wanted to win that game for us? Sure,” Allen said. “To lose a game like that and lose to one of the greatest of all time (Brady), it teaches you a lot. It teaches some things that winning that game probably couldn’t have taught me.”

“They are asking me a lot of questions about how the Falcons lost a 28-3 lead in the Super Bowl. It's just the experience that I'm able to tell them about that game. Just being able to play back through it and tell them what I believe could have helped us win."

- former Falcons safety Ricardo Allen, who is back at the Super Bowl with the Bengals

Allen acknowledged that there was plenty of blame to spread around for the loss.

“It’s a team thing,” Allen said. “(Quarterback) Matt (Ryan) got us on a good run. I’d rather blame myself. I would say it was us, a defense that … didn’t finish that game. I really look at it from that aspect.

“Playing against Brady, it was just a guy that we couldn’t stop no matter what. He just kept fighting. He kept fighting. He kept chipping away at the (deficit).”

After Quinn was fired, Allen said he was ready to move on, too.

“I kind of wanted out myself,” Allen said. “It was something that we all kind of wanted.”

Allen enjoyed his time with the Falcons.

“That’s something that I’m grateful for,” Allen said. “I was able to grow. I was able to build. They took the time to develop me. We got to go from not being a high-quality team, not a very good team at one point in time to getting a chance to play in the Super Bowl and almost two Super Bowls in a row. Then things got a little rough.”

Allen didn’t want any part of a new rebuild.

“I wasn’t ready to restart from ground zero again at a place where I had already worked up from the bottom before,” Allen said. “I knew that the new coaching staff was going to come in with not very much respect for me. That (is) kind of just how it goes when you are bringing in a new staff.

“I was kind of ready to go somewhere else and do something different, too. I got that opportunity. I never voiced that to anyone, but it came in free agency. It was kind of perfect timing for me and my family.”

Allen played 11 snaps on special teams in the AFC title game. On Sunday, he’ll work the sidelines mostly. But he has a motivational story to tell.