WHAT the hell just happened? 24 hours on from the incredible Superbowl 51, I am still trying to piece together exactly what just occurred. Games like this only occur in movie theatres, you can’t actually trail by 25 points late in the game and comeback to not only force overtime, but win the damn game. At that point you’re done. Dusted. Finished. Unless of course Tom Brady is your quarterback.
Atlanta’s Fast Start
AFTER both teams failed to score on their first few drives, Atlanta finally stuck with a Devontae Freeman run to open the floodgates. The Falcons also scored the next two touchdowns to open up a 21-3 halftime lead. Of their 21 first half points the most impressive were the six scored by Robert Alford on a 82 yard pick six. Brady only threw two interceptions the entire regular season, and after Alford’s interception he had thrown three in the postseason. Things weren’t looking good for the Patriots.
WITH the scores sitting at 28-9 late in the third quarter many thought another Falcons score would end any chance of a comeback. And when Matt Ryan hooked up with Austin Hooper to move the ball the the New England 32 it seemed like they would at least come away with three points. However a Jake Matthews holding call and Ryan getting sacked on a 3rd and 11, the Falcons were forced to punt the ball. After a Gostkowski field goal for New England, Atlanta again were seemingly one score away from putting the game out of reach. But a Donta Hightower strip sack gave the Patriots the ball back just 25 yards away from their end zone and Tom Brady came alive.
A Legacy Defining Drive
BRADY to Amendola in the endzone and a James White 2pt conversion left the scores at 28-20 with 2:28 left in the game. The Falcons stalled again, giving New England the ball 91 yards from the goal line and with a chance to tie the game. And that is exactly what they did. Tom Brady drove the Patriots all the way up the field, with Julian Edelman making a 23 yard catch that will be talked about for decades to keep their drive alive. James White was again able to score and another successful 2pt conversion left the scores deadlocked at 28 at the end of regulation. The Patriots then won the coin toss and marched 75 yards down the field to the franchises 5th Superbowl victory.
WHILE we can re-watch the events that unfolded and still struggle to wrap our heads around it, there was one thing that clearly changed late in the game. Atlanta’s pass rush disappeared. The Falcons were right up in Brady’s face for the better part of three quarters, pressuring the QB 44.7% of the time. In the fourth quarter and overtime though that dropped to 20% and if you give Brady even a slight amount of time he will cut you to shreds. James White was also a major difference maker, with the versatile back given the nod to take the majority of the snaps as opposed to LeGarrette Blount. In my Superbowl preview I mentioned that they could use Blount to run the ball down the Falcons throat, but instead they used White’s talents in the receiving game to make a difference. Atlanta struggled to find any momentum late, largely due to the failure of their running game, and the improved pressure that was heaped on Ryan by the Pats defense.
Image from matiastanea.gr
WHATEVER way you look at it though Superbowl LI lived up to the hype, delivering the first Superbowl overtime and plenty of offensive highlights, momentum swings and legacy defining moments. At the end of the day though Tom Brady was the difference that swung the results. He passed for a Superbowl record 446 yards, cementing himself as the greatest quarterback we have ever seen.
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