Super Bowl LI delivered one of the most incredible games you will ever see, a comeback for the ages in a game that looked all but dead in the third quarter. If you went to bed early then you missed quite possibly the single greatest performances in NFL history, but how did we get to that point?
I wrote a short preview prior to the match where I picked the Falcons to win because I felt that they had the defence to stop the Pats and had the offence which could put up enough points that it would make the Pats struggle to keep up, however despite all that you could never rule out the Patriots…
It’s incredible what the Patriots managed to do in this game, down 28-3 in the third, the game is basically over, the Falcons name is being etched onto the trophy and headlines have been written…but Brady and Big Bill had different plans.
The only thing which I can compare the Patriots winning Super Bowl LI to is when Liverpool made an improbable comeback against AC Milan in 2005, where after being totally outplayed by the best team in Europe the plucky underdog somehow cobbled together three goals and finished the job in the penalty shootout. That same look of dishevelment and shock on the Falcons players faces as the Patriots began their inevitable final drive reminded me a lot of how Milan felt that final got away from them.
It’s hard to not compliment the team who just won the match but it very much feels to me that the Falcons lost this Super Bowl rather than the Patriots won it. Don’t get me wrong, the Patriots were fantastic and if they aren’t as composed and clinical as they were at the end of the match they don’t come close but they should never have got a chance to come close, that was totally on the Falcons, they choked.
Ultimately the Falcons lost the game on two plays, the strip sack which allowed the Patriots back into the game and the 12-yard sack which took them out of field goal range. The strip sack I think is an acceptable mistake to make, they were trying to be aggressive to assert their dominance after having went a bit conservative after taking the big lead and Freeman missed his block, however the sack is simply unacceptable.
It is weird how so often games like this can come down to one big play, if the Falcons kick that field goal they almost certainly go on to win the match as 11 points would have been too big an ask for the Patriots to come back from. Yet on second down in comfortable field goal range the Falcons decided that throwing the ball was the right thing to do…It was a bad play call in a position where they really didn’t need to be that aggressive, they should have ran the ball twice and kicked the ball, that’s not hindsight it’s common sense.
It’s a shame for Ryan who had a very good game, however he needs to know the situation better and realise that he either must throw that ball away for try and get as many yards back as he possibly can, he ended up going the opposite way. He was unfortunate on the next play as he got the yardage back only for it to be negated by a penalty (should have been offsetting but the refs missed a clear face mask) but they should never have been in that position. By the time he was back on the field the game had got away from them.
Speaking of special plays which change games, how about Julian Edelman stepping up in an incredible fashion with one of the best catches you will ever see. If Alford can grab that ball he’s your Super Bowl MVP, instead he will go down in history as part of one of the greatest catches in Super Bowl history. It is crazy how reminiscent that catch is of the David Tyree catch against the Patriots from Super Bowl XLII. Even though they were down by eight, when he made that catch (an incredible call by the officials) it felt that only one team were winning the Lombardi trophy and it wasn’t going to be Atlanta.
If you look purely at the stats it looks like the Patriots dominated the game, 37 first downs to 17, 546 net yards to 344 and one of the biggest ones 40:31 time of possession to 23:27. I don’t know how long the Falcons D was on the field in the second half, however it felt like they were out there most of the half. The problem being that when the Falcons did move the ball, they were moving it very quickly and they barely moved the ball in the second half. Add that together with the intensity with which the Falcons D was playing throughout the game, you can see that they just began to lose that half a step in the fourth and the Patriots took advantage in a massive way. By the end of the game the Patriots were walking through the Falcons.
When you look back at this game it will go down in the annals of NFL as the greatest comeback in history but also the greatest choke in history. Both teams played their part in the match and nobody likes losing, however I’m sure no Falcons fan wanted to lose the game in this manner, the cruellest way possible. There is nothing worse than having expectations and then having those expectations crushed, leading any game 28-3 and not winning is crushing, doing it in the Super Bowl is something else, they’ll struggle to recover from this disappointment.
Looking forward for the Patriots they are in an unusual position, I wouldn’t say their roster is the most talented out there and you can’t help but think that Brady will begin to show his age, yet they keep on winning. You know that they will be in the play-offs next season, you know that Belichick will always make this team competitive and if Brady can maintain you know that they are still going to be a massive threat for winning it all again. Their scariest attribute is how ruthlessly consistent they are as a team, to the extent that even a poor Patriots team is better than 90% of the league at their best.
Super Bowl LI was an all-time classic, a game that kept the audience on the edge of their seat as the Patriots made the unthinkable comeback to win it all against the odds, beating the team that everyone else wanted to win, they truly are the Donald Trump of the NFL.
So, what did you think of Super Bowl LI? Is Brady the GOAT? Were the Falcons the biggest chokers of the year? Or was your favourite moment of the night Goodell getting booed out of the building? Leave a comment and let those thoughts fly!