I have one simple personal rule — when it comes to major sporting events, if the words “all-time” and “history” pop up, I must give myself a night’s sleep before completely rationalizing the event.
Super Bowl LI is in the books, and I have given myself enough time to figure out what happened in the New England Patriots’ 34-28 comeback over the Atlanta Falcons.
Here are a couple of things that have become clear:
This was not the best Super Bowl ever
Was it the best comeback ever? Yes, it was. Being down 25 points, ESPN’s Football Power Index gave the Patriots just a 0.4 percent chance to win after Julian Edelman’s pitch-and-throw fell incomplete. Never has a team facing a 10-point deficit won the Super Bowl.
But, the game rarely actually felt like a game. After Robert Alford’s pick-six, the game felt over. Brady didn’t look sharp. The receivers were dropping passes. Matt Ryan looked unstoppable. The big lead took a lot of excitement out of the game. The excitement came back at the end, though.
The best Super Bowl belongs to the Patriots, but it was two years ago, against Seattle. New England climbed out of another deficit, one of the three games of a 10-point comeback. Brady needed two scores on a Legion of Boom at the height of its powers. He got it, and then there was the Malcolm Butler pick on the goal line. Just run the ball.
Two plays doom Atlanta
Oddly enough, neither of them have to do with Brady. No, it was the Patriots’ defense that made the impact plays. Or, in one case, Atlanta shooting themselves in the foot.
The first one was Dont’a Hightower’s strip-sack of Matt Ryan. New England was trailing 28-12 early in the fourth. The Patriot’s recovery set up Brady at the Falcons’ 25-yard line, leading to Danny Amnedola’s touchdown and James White two-point conversion.
The second was Jake Matthew’s holding call with the Falcons driving late. The 10-yard penalty effectively knocked Atlanta out of what would have been a game-sealing field goal. Atlanta was forced to punt instead, and the rest was history.
James White deserves the MVP
Not my words, OK my words, but also Tom Brady’s. New England has a full backfield with White, LaGarret Blount and Dion Lewis this season. Blount was ineffective (eight carries for 16 yards). Lewis did not play much, but White was special.
He was the third player to with a rushing and receiving touchdown in Super Bowl history, and he had two rushing. He also had a record-breaking 14 receptions, totaling 110 yards.
Plus, he scored 20 points, including taking a direct snap for a two-point conversion.
For a little more perspective, he would have had 33 points in a standard fantasy league. That is tied for third in a Super Bowl. In a PPR league, he sets the record with 47 points.
Edelman’s catch could have easily been forgotten
There are just four words to describe Edelman’s catch on the game-tying drive: “Are you kidding me?”
That ball seemed to levitate over the turf as if they were too like charged bodies. Even though there is a bobble, it is clearly a catch.
But, had the Patriots not won, how quickly would it have been forgotten?
For instance, how many people in a year will remember not one, but two Julio Jones catches? How Jones hauled in his two tightrope catches is indescribable. They happened, they were beautiful, but how long will they last?
Tom Brady is the GOAT
This is the one that took the most time to really confirm. I will say this, I am relatively young. I was not blessed with seeing guys like Joe Montana sling the ball around. That being said, there are some stats that can at least compare those players that I have not seen.
As for Brady, he has the better of most in almost nearly all the stats. And that fourth quarter defined his career. He has been doing that for most of his career. He already ranked as one of the greats, but this fifth ring puts him on his own.
It is not just the Atlanta play-calling that was suspect
Up eight with just under four minutes to play, Atlanta was in field goal range to make it a two-score game. A sack and the holding call brought them out of it, leading to the punt. I have no issues with Kyle Shanahan sticking to his aggressive play-calls. That is what got them in the position in the first place.
No, but the call the confused me the most was in overtime. After the correct call of pass interference, Patriots had first and goal from the two. The play is a back-corner fade to Matrellus Bennett.
Are you kidding me? Had they learned nothing from two years ago? The second that ball was thrown, it was easy to imagine Vic Beasley coming down with the ball. Thankfully, they ran it the next play for the win.