Are you through being stunned yet? If you rooted for the Atlanta Falcons, you basically would wonder if this was all a big nightmare that you eventually wake. I bet the Falcons do, as they’re probably sitting on the floor in their locker room at NRG Stadium wondering what just happened?
In the Mexican-American War, a representative was quoted as saying that a regiment had snatched victory from the Jaws of defeat, which is what describes the outcome of the 51st Super Bowl which was held in Houston Texas. The New England Patriots trailed 28-3 and snatched victory from the jaws of defeat to beat the Falcons in a 34-28 overtime thriller. It was the first OT in Super Bowl history with an incredible finish.
The Patriots now have 5 Super Bowl wins and are tied with the San Francisco 49ers, and Dallas Cowboys for that number of wins and all three teams trail the Pittsburgh Steelers who still leads with 6 Super Bowl wins. Speaking of the Steelers, the onus isn’t any longer on them as to why they can’t solve the Patriots because the rest of the NFL hasn’t done too much of a good job at that too.
For three-quarters, the Falcons did everything that a team was supposed to do to beat QB Tom Brady and the Patriots: Put pressure on the QB, sack him, force turnovers and finally score touchdowns early and often. The Falcons took an early 14-0 lead when QB Matt Ryan the NFL MVP, orchestrated 2-second quarter drives that resulted in a TD run by RB Devonta Freeman and a TD pass to TE Austin Hooper. But then the defense did their part by sacking Brady several times and also returning one of their own for a TD when CB Robert Alford intercepted Brady and ran it back 82 yards to give the Falcons a 21-0 lead. That play resulted in the 2nd-longest return for a TD in SB history behind Steelers LB James Harrison’s 100-yard return for a TD in SB 43.
When you’re up 21-0, the game should be over, and it shouldn’t matter if they get 3 points before halftime, which the Patriots did when K Stephen Gostowski’s 41-yard FG put their first points on the board. As singer Lady Gaga was performing the halftime show, I was thinking, “There’s no way the Patriots can come back from this, When they’re up 21-3, teams don’t usually come back on them. Nope. Not Gonna Happen.
Well, it happened.
Even though the Falcons opened the 3rd quarter with a TD pass from Ryan to RB Tevin Coleman to extend the Falcons lead to 28-3, who would have imagined that it would be the last time that the Falcons would score in this game? Or better yet, who would’ve imagined the Patriots staging a comeback??
Brady’s first TD pass was to RB James White late in the 3rd quarter (missed extra point) and then in the 4th quarter, after Gostowski kicked another FG, the Falcons started looking unglued on offense. And then they committed their only turnover when Ryan was the only one in the stadium that didn’t see the Patriots blitz, and, he fumbled the ball, in which the Patriots recovered. Then Brady went back to work and eventually found WR Danny Amendola for the 6-yard TD and then converted the 2-point conversion and suddenly the Falcons only led by 8 points 28-20.
With only 5 minutes in the game, you would think that all the Falcons had to do was kill the clock and get the ball up the field while forcing the Patriots to use their timeouts, and add to their points, right? Wrong. The Falcons eventually went nowhere on this drive as Ryan suffered a costly sack and the Falcons committed another costly penalty, forcing them to punt the ball to the Patriots with over 3 minutes left.
So now you would think the defense would just shut down the Patriots and sail to victory, right? Wrong .The Falcons defense looked like spectators as they watched the Patriots drive effortlessly down the field to score the TD and the 2-point conversion to tie the game at 28 with 57 seconds left. The Falcons offense could do anything right as time expired, sending the game into overtime for the first time in Super Bowl history.
The Patriots win the coin toss and what do they do? What else, they receive and practically drove the ball down the lifeless Falcons defense throats and won the game on a White 2-yard TD giving the Patriots an improbable 34-28 victory. As the Patriots and their fans celebrated, the Falcons slowly walked off the field in defeat.
As much as I will give the Patriots credit for the comeback, I point the fingers at the Falcons for not putting the Patriots away. All they needed to do is score a TD or an FG late in the 4th quarter, and this game would’ve gone to the Falcons, but the offense fizzled in the second half, and the defense stopped pressuring Brady and allowed him to pick their unit apart.
I think the Falcons defense started looking as worn-out and tired as the Steelers D did against them. They couldn’t stop Brady or their receivers. They got the job done on a unit that owned them in the first half, but left them free in the second. They should’ve realized that they can’t keep Brady in the game.
I bet they do now.
Brady passed for 466 yards, 2 TD, and an INT and was named SB MVP for the 5th time, setting a new SB record. His 5 SB wins now pass Terry Bradshaw and 49ers Joe Montana for the most wins in SB history. HC Bill Belichick also has 5 and surpasses Steelers HOF HC Chuck Noll for the most in the game’s history.
Patriots rookie WR James White set an SB record with 14 receptions and also had 110 yards and three total touchdowns. For the Falcons, Ryan passed for 284 yards, and two scored. Freeman rushed for 75 yards, and a score and WR Julio Jones caught four passes for 87 yards despite dealing with turf toe. On defense, the Falcons sacked Brady 5 times, three by DE Grady Jarrett who only had three sacks all season. The Falcons are now 0-2 in the Super Bowl, having also lost to the Denver Broncos in 1999.
So now the NFL season is over. The next game will be the Hall of Fame exhibition game sometime in August and before that, it will be Free Agency and the NFL Draft. It isn’t an understatement that this game ended with a bang and now a whimper and it will allow lots of NFL teams to take notes on how to beat the Patriots, but their goal is to finish the job, which the Falcons were unable to do. I’m sure it will take the Falcons and their fans some time to get over this, but they eventually will, as they have 2017 to look to. I give my congrats to both teams for a thrilling game and the Patriots for winning another Lombardi Trophy.
In other NFL news: The Pro Football Hall of Fame Class of 2017 was announced Saturday night as LaDainian Tomlinson was one of seven men named to the 2017 Pro Football Hall of Fame Class, which was revealed Saturday night at NFL Honors. Kurt Warner, Terrell Davis, Kenny Easley, Jason Taylor, Morten Andersen and Cowboys owner Jerry Jones also were inducted.
Please e-mail Ray at firstname.lastname@example.org
Follow him @urbanmediaRay on Twitter