Legendary. Lord of the Rings. PatriOT’s. Just three headlines that attempted to sum up the rollercoaster that was Sunday’s SuperBowl showpiece between the New England Patriots and the Atlanta Falcons at the NRG stadium in Houston, Texas.
But how do you try and sum it up? This was a game that created so much history for individuals, teams, and the history of the NFL. This is not taking into account the sheer drama that took spectators so close to breaking point of elation and deflation (Sorry Tom, I had to throw one jab in there!)
As the game began, it was for the most a game in which the defences of both sides held the upper hand. Newly crowned MVP and Falcon QB Matt Ryan found his rhythm fairly early, laying off sublime passes to Julio Jones, and his running back and one of the standout Falcon performers, Devonta Freeman. Freemans quicksilver feet proving particularly tough as he made some terrific carries in the early stages and helped himself to a second quarter touchdown.
Oppositedly, Tom Brady had, by his own standards, a nightmare. He failed to connect with Julian Edelman on several plays, was bereft of star tight end Rob Gronkowski, and was superbly marshalled by Falcons defensive end Grady Jarrett, who sacked the veteran QB twice during the game. His frustrations had boiled over when his pass was beautifully picked off by cornerback Robert Alford, who ran 82 yards for a pick-6 touchdown that put the Falcons 20-0 up.
By the third quarter, the Falcons 28-3 advantage should’ve seen them safely picking up the Vince Lombardi trophy. But then things stated to happen. Brady suddenly came alive. His troops knew what to do and where to be. They attacked with sublimity and defended with sheer grit and force and somehow, by the miracle of all miracles of the SuperBowl, snatched the trophy out of the reaches of Matt Ryan and co.
Is Brady the GOAT?
Just to clarify, GOAT stands for Greatest Of All Time, and Brady has put himself very firmly into contention for this title. Unmatched in numerous records and statistics, and now with five rings to his hand, he certainly proved to be one of the best around.
The manner in which he stepped up in the fourth quarter was remarkable. His distribution became less of ambition and more about making the yards up. His receivers and runners, including Edelman, Danny Amendola and James White came a little shorter to receive, and elected to cover greater ground with the ball in their arms. Furthermore, coach Bill Belichick smothered the defensive threat of Jarrett to give Brady the time he had been denied to that point, putting 2 of his blockers on the Falcons #97.
The turning point in the game
in the aftermath, Brady said that he could think of 20 events that, if they didn’t happen, could’ve changed the outcome of the game. There needed only to be one that provided the catalyst for the omeback, and this was it.
At 28-20, with 2mins 28 remaining of the fourth quarter, Brady had a 1st and 10 on his own 36 yard line. From the throw he looked to pick out his wide receiver Julian Edelman. Falcons cornerback Robert Alford got there first and tipped the ball into the air before falling to the ground. As Edelman prepared to catch, Falcons safeties Keanu Neal and Ricardo Allen came in and challenged him. All three dropped to the ground underneath the ball. The ball then bounced off of Alford’s legs seemingly to hit the ground. Whilst still in free fall, Edelman somehow reached around the arms and legs of the three Falcons defensive and instinctively grasped the ball in his hands a mere millimetres before it dropped.
With Edelman now having been confirmed as making the catch, it took a further three plays before James White launched himself into the Falcons scoring zone to bring the Patriots within 2 points of tying the game up. After Amendola got onto the receiving end of the proceeding two point conversion, you could only see one team winning this.
Can the Falcons come back next year?
They will have to. Many regard this as being the greatest comeback in SuperBowl history, as a 25 point deficit overturned by the Patriots. But BBC pundit Osi Umenyiora made a point of saying “there is no solace in what we just witnessed. They were ahead by 25 points and they allowed the New England Patriots to win the game. This is probably the worst loss in the history of the SuperBowl”
For all the brilliance of Matt Ryan and Julio Jones, questions need to be asked of the defence who wilted so dramatically under pressure from the Patriots offence. The small of spaces was all that was needed for exploitation and the Falcons gave them far too many in those final 15 minutes on their own.Dan Quinn must now reset during off season and assess how his team choked a 25 point lead and granted the Patriots history.