By Michael Battista
Minus a stellar halftime show by Lady Gaga, I disliked the outcome of the game. The commercials this year weren’t as memorable as previous years’ and the first half of the game had the beginnings of what could have been one of the ugliest Super Bowls of all time.
But Super Bowl LI between the Atlanta Falcons and New England Patriots turned out to be one of the best football games I’ve ever seen, and Tom Brady has cemented himself as the greatest quarterback in today’s era with the 34-28 overtime win in Houston.
Not a single NFL quarterback has taken a team that was trailing 28-3 and pull a one-of-a kind comeback. Down 19 points entering the fourth quarter, Brady was able to pull the upset without tight end Rob Gronkowski.
Instead, he used the hands of players like running back James White who caught 14 receptions for 110 yards and wide receiver Julian Edelman who caught five receptions for 87 yards. The fierce comeback led to the team forcing the first overtime in Super Bowl history. They ultimately took their first drive downfield and capped it off with a 2-yard run by White for the winning touchdown.
Patriots fans finally have their own version of the famous David Tyree helmet catch from Super Bowl XLII. Edelman was heading to the ground, surrounded by a handful of Falcons, and losing the ball before re-catching it as the ball bounces off a defender’s leg into his hands. These types of plays make a Super Bowl legendary.
The Brady and Belichick connection have earned their fifth Super Bowl with New England, and the former earned his fourth Super Bowl Most Valuable Player honor. An award he was happy to accept from NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell after his four-game suspension.
With every game comes the loser and now Atlanta can join the Golden State Warriors, Cleveland Indians and the University of North Carolina Tar Heels as this year’s squad of last minute chokers.
The Falcons were the best team this season on offense leading all NFL teams in scoring with 540 points. Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan, this season’s NFL MVP and AP NFL Offensive Player of the Year, ended the first half going seven for eight with 115 yards passing, one touchdown and a perfect 158.3 passer rating. The birds offense looked like it couldn’t be stopped with wide receivers Julio Jones and Taylor Gabriel going for a combined seven receptions and 163 yards.
Atlanta’s defense also seemed to have Brady’s number early on with the Patriots almost ending the first half shutout before a field goal gave them three points. Brady was sacked, the ball was picked twice, once by a strip and the other by a interception for a pick six.
The Falcons, led by New Jersey-native and head coach Dan Quinn, forgot that there’s four quarters to play. Atlanta’s defense, which totalled for five sacks and few penalties all game, could have finish the game earlier.
Brady was able to get downfield twice, score touchdowns and then convert two two-point conversions in the final quarter of the game. While that was a testament to their offensive play, the Falcons dropped the ball — both metaphorically and literally as late game play showed. The one drive in the end is going to hurt Atlanta’s fan base for a long time.
Just under five minutes to go with the Falcons still leading by eight, the Patriots needed at least two possessions to win. Cornerback Logan Ryan is at the 50-yard line, with defenders all around. He breaks through and throws it up to Jones who somehow catches it in the air before getting both feet in bounds at the 20-yard line. But a number of penalties and stellar defense turned the first and 10 into a third and 33, leading to a fourth down. Out of field goal range, the Falcons had to punt allowing Brady to work and lead his team to tie it up.
The game really featured the two best teams in the NFL, each one just shined at a different point. New England was able to shine when it mattered most and their star shone brightest deep in the heart of Texas.