Monday, February 6, 2017

Patriots Stun Falcons, World Win Super Bowl LI

PATRIOTS 34 - FALCONS 28 - OT

There are no words to describe exactly what happened on Sunday night in Houston. What America witnessed was simply the greatest comeback in NFL history. You can give me the Jets Monday Night Miracle against the Dolphins in 2000, or the Bills comeback against the Houston Oilers in the 1993 Wild Card Game, it doesn't matter -- nothing will top this.

The moment. The stage. It was all there for the New England Patriots and they seized it. The Atlanta Falcons blew it.

There is not much to say from the Falcons perspective. Blowing a 28-3 lead is not only a horrible sin at any point in a season, but to do so in the Super Bowl is one that Dan Quinn and company will never get over. Sure the Falcons are a young football team. The popular refrain is they will be back, but this kind of defeat is one that will hang over this
franchise for years to come. When the Falcons scored their final touchdown of the night to make it a 25 point game, they were 8:31 away from the trophy. Even more painfully, when Julio Jones made a spectacular catch on the sideline that spotted the football at the New England 22-yard line, the Falcons were 4:40 away from winning the Super Bowl.

Then it disappeared.

Matt Ryan was sacked two plays later. The Falcons were then called for holding, and Ryan threw an incompletion on third and 33. Instead of being in field goal range to possibly put Super Bowl LI on ice, the Falcons had to punt back to the Patriots, and the rest, as we know is history.

But really, the turning point of this one happened long before Ryan and the Falcons couldn't get into field goal range. The turning point of this game came when Dante Hightower stripped sacked Ryan of the football on a third and one at the Atlanta 25 with 8:31 to go. Down 28-12, the Patriots recovered the football and had life.

Tom Brady then went to work. After taking a sack on first down, Brady connected on his next four passes, all of the short yardage variety to get the Pats into the end zone. His six-yard completion to Danny Amendola scored New England only its second touchdown of the game with 5:56 to go in the game. James White capped off the drive by diving into the end zone for a two-point conversion to make it 28-20.

Brady of course was just heating up. On the Patriots final drive of the game he was awesome when he needed it the most. He hit Chris Hogan for 16-yards on a critical third and ten at the Patriots own nine-yard line to get the party started. Later he hit Malcolm Mitchell for 11 yards to the 36, and finally connected with Julian Edelman on a miracle completion that moved the ball into Falcons territory. The catch by Edelman rivaled that of David Tyree in this very game nine years ago. Instead of catching the ball on his helmet, Edelman caught the ball on the ankle of a Falcons safety. It took tremendous focus to make the catch, and Edelman did it.

After the ankle catch was reviewed and upheld, Brady hit Amendola for 20 yards to the Atlanta 21-yard line. The comeback was defiantly happening. The only question would be, could the Patriots convert on a two-point conversion. Sure enough James White scored the touchdown that cut the Falcons lead to 28-26, but the key play came when Brady hit Amendola for the two-pointer to tie it up, sending the Super Bowl to overtime for the first time ever.

In OT, Brady toyed with the Falcons. He completed his first five passes of the extra period, including hitting Amendola for 14 yards, Hogan for 18 yards and Amendola for 15-yards to the Atlanta 25. The Falcons defense was gassed. They were huffing and puffing with hands on hips. Mentally they were finished. After New England moved the ball to the two yard line on a questionable pass interference call, White scored on a two-yard scamper to the left. It appeared that White's knee may have touched down at the one yard line before he got over the plain, but the officials called touchdown before any review could take place. Regardless, the Pats were going to score -- there was no stopping them.

Brady set records for passes (62), completions (43) and yards (446) in a Super Bowl game. White was responsible fro 20 points in the game, also a Super Bowl record. New England also set records for first downs in a Super Bowl with 37, and most first downs through the air with 26. The 93 plays the Patriots ran was also a Super Bowl record. More importantly the win gave Tom Brady and Bill Belichick a record five Super Bowl titles.

If one needed to reaffirm the greatness of Brady, look no further than this game. He carried his team when it looked very likely they were going to lose. He was Michael Jordan at the buzzer.

While it won't go down, (and shouldn't go down) as the greatest game in Super Bowl history, it will certainly be remembered as the greatest comeback in Super Bowl history. Likewise it will be remembered by Atlanta fans as the greatest choke ever.

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