Houston, TX – I . . . like the 70,807 in NRG Stadium, and, the millions world-wide watching the televised broadcast, was left in shock as the New England Patriots fought back from a 25-point deficit after a surprisingly inferior and feeble performance over the first three quarters of football.
Then, out of nowhere the Patriots regrouped, just as I had placed them in the football graveyard, amazingly and shockingly they came to life and produced an astonishing 34-28 overtime victory over the shell-shocked Atlanta Falcons.
In the first Super Bowl to go into overtime, one of the most important breaks happen when the Patriots won the coin toss and promptly drove 75 yards in eight plays giving the Patriots their fifth Lombardi Trophy. Running back James White scored the winning touchdown and the celebration was on.
The win officially makes Tom Brady the most decorated quarterback in modern football history, having surpassed his own idol Joe Montana and Terry Bradshaw who each had four Super Bowl wins.
Said Brady in the post-game press conference when asked if this title was sweeter than the previous ones because of how they won it: “Every title is special. Two years ago it came down to Malcom (Butler) making the play to beat Seattle and this year down 25 points, I could see why it was hard for anyone to imagine us winning.
“The one positive was we went into halftime down, but we had the ball for 20 minutes. As the game the game goes on, that gets tough on the defense. In the Super Bowl, everyone is expending a lot of energy and once we got it rolling there in the second half it was tough to slow us down.”Brady continued: “There was a lot at stake tonight. We played our tails off all season to get to this point and it’s hard to win games in the NFL. To beat this team after getting down 28-3, it was just a lot of mental toughness by our team and we’re going to remember this for the rest of our lives.”
So much for my prognostications, in the first quarter both teams produced goose eggs giving all the appearance that defense was going to rule the day.
After the 0-0 first quarter, from the start of the second quarter to halftime a scoring barrage by the Falcons manifest itself.
Collectively the teams finished one and two with the least turnovers in the NFL this season. However, it took a LaGarrette Blount fumble that halted a New England drive, and, ignited the stagnate Falcons’ offense as it came alive and drove 67 yards for the game’s first score at the start of the second quarter.
The Falcons ended the first half up 21-3 after three touchdowns, including one from cornerback Robert Alford that came from quarterback Brady’s only pick-six interception of his postseason career.
Having covered all seven of the Super Bowls coach Bill Belichick and Brady have participated in this one just left me completely fibergastic.
Well, I have never seen this team play so poorly in a big game. No, I amend that. Maybe if was the Falcons that made Brady and the Patriots look like they did not even belong on the same field with them.
Atlanta did everything right for three quarters using the same formula that looked similar to the teams that have knocked New England out and issued them some painful playoff defeats: No running game to help settle things down, an offensive line that was having trouble holding up against the Falcons’ very quick pass rushers, and, too many mistakes.
The defense had its struggles, too, laboring to strike the balance of being stout enough against the run in their nickel package (six players in the box), but not vulnerable in the secondary against the high powered pass Falcon’s passing game.
Atlanta quarterback Matt Ryan, just named the NFL 2016 MVP, played like it for three quarters. In fact, a precision strike to star receiver, Julio Jones for 27-yards down to the Patriots 22 with a little over 4 minutes left in the game could have sealed the game.“I felt like we were in good position after that great catch by Jones,” lamented Ryan. “I felt like we put ourselves in a good position to come away with points on that drive after his catch. It didn’t end up working out, which was disappointing. There’s nothing you can really say. This was a tough loss. Obviously very disappointed, very close to getting done what we wanted to get done, but it’s hard to find words tonight.”
Ryan continues a crazy trend that for the last 16 years, since 2000, no NFL MVP has won the Super Bowl.
After a magnificent season, Ryan might be remembered most for the game he lost. The loss for the Falcons marked the biggest collapse in Super Bowl history and is sure to leave an empty feeling in the stomach of Ryan and his teammates the entire offseason.
The gritty Falcons could use this disappointment to fuel their fire going into the 2017 season.
The lost surely put a damper on what was a spirited effort for Atlanta sparked by a young defense that made plays early and often. Rookie linebacker Deion Jones set the tone early with a strip and forced fumble that was recovered by cornerback Robert Alford. Then Alford read Brady as he was pressured by Dwight Freeney, picked off the pass and returned it 82 yards for a touchdown at 21-0 lead.
Dan Quinn, in his second season as the Falcons head coach after winning a Super Bowl as defensive coordinator for the Seattle Seahawks, lamented the team’s inability to get a stop when they needed one during the Patriot’s late rally.
“I think for sure we ran out of gas some,” Quinn said. “The Patriots executed terrifically. When they got hot, it was hard for us to deal with.”
That said, Quinn was proud of the way his team battled together in their quest for their first NFL title in the 51st season for the Falcons.
“I am proud of the fight that these guys have. The brotherhood that this group has built, it’s as strong as I’ve seen,” he said.Leland Stein III, Sports Contributor