The 28-3 meme is still refusing to die

Two years later, Matt Ryan says he still hears it from fans.

In this photo taken Feb. 5, 2017, Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan reacts after losing Super Bowl 51 as the screen flashes New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady and confetti flies in Houston.  Hey, did you hear the one about Choking Awareness Day? It's held on 3-28. Rimshot, please! Of course, that punch line references the score late in the third quarter of last season's Super Bowl, when it looked as though the Atlanta Falcons would finally win their first championship. (Curtis Compton/Atlanta Journal-Constitution via AP)
Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan reacts after losing Super Bowl 51 to the Patriots in Houston. –Curtis Compton / Atlanta Journal-Constitution via AP

Matt Ryan can’t escape it.

With the Super Bowl — and the New England Patriots — back in Atlanta two years after the hometown Falcons infamously blew that 25-point lead in Houston, Ryan says he’s still getting heckled by fans wielding those two painful numbers: 28-3.

Asked by USA Today how much he hears 28-3, the Falcons quarterback said “more than I care to.”

“That’s become a popular thing to just yell at me randomly,” he said, chuckling, in the interview Thursday. “I’m like, ‘Oh yeah, I get it.'”

Ryan’s remarks are the latest, cruel example of how the 28-3 meme has refused to go away with time.

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Following the Patriots’ historic Super LI comeback, 28-3 became the meme of the 2017 offseason. The City of Boston (and many others) jokingly commemorated March 28 as “Falcons Day.” There were cheeky scoreboard tattoos. It was monumentalized everywhere from Maine license plates to San Francisco fire alarm boxes, from baseball stadiums to the Boston Marathon.

Even when the 2017 football season kicked back into gear, the Saints were ruthlessly trolled by rival NFC South teams on social media and in real life. Julian Edelman made subtle 28-3 references on social media. Patriots owner Robert Kraft made subtle 28-3 references via the team’s Super Bowl LI rings (much to the dismay of Falcons owner Arthur Blank).

Fans even trolled Ryan and his wife’s announcement that they were having twins.

By the 2018 season, the 28-3 jokes appeared to have calmed down. But with the Patriots traveling to Atlanta to play in yet another Super Bowl, some fans (and companies) couldn’t resist.

After the Patriots won the AFC Championship, JetBlue announced that they had added flights from Boston to Atlanta for the big game.

“More than 3. Fewer than 28,” the airline tweeted.

With some still wondering how that 2017 loss happened, the hoards of Patriots fans migrating to Atlanta aren’t helping the wounds heal. But if the Falcons faithful have one thing to celebrate, it’s that their conference rival New Orleans Saints lost to the Los Angles Rams in the NFC Championship, and thus won’t be playing the Patriots on the Falcons’s home turf this Sunday.

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“If it can’t be the Falcons, then hey, as long as it’s not the Saints then I am happy,” Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms told the New York Daily News this week.