Super Bowl Question
February 9, 2017
Ask yourself the following. Was the Super Bowl victory by the New England Patriots the best comeback of all time by a NFL team? Or was it the Atlanta Falcons that gave us the biggest collapse (choke) of all time by a NFL team?
If you answered yes to both questions, you are likely in line with the nation. In any event, the Patriots completed a miraculous comeback and beat the Falcons by a 34-28 count.
Atlanta was in total control for the first 39 minutes and had a 28-3 lead at one point.
What happened from then on was nothing short of a miracle if you were a Pats fan or a disaster if you were rooting for the Falcons. The Patriots needed just about everything to go right from that point on and it did. Let me run through some of the memorable moments that went New England’s way. There were so many that you may have forgotten some of them. It was like a blur.
It all started with Atlanta enjoying its 25 point lead and having the Patriots on a fourth-and-three on the Pats 46 yard line.
Tom Brady after the Patriots’ win
Turning the ball over on downs probably would have ended the game, given that the Falcons would have taken over on the New England 46-yard line having scored touchdowns on three of their previous four possessions. Instead, Brady hit Danny Amendola on an out route against to extend the Patriots’ drive. Minutes later Brady of all people ran for 15 yards on a third-and-8 play. James White scored soon after to make it 28-9. About the only thing that went wrong late for New England came after the White touchdown as Stephen Gostkowski kicked the ensuing extra point attempt against the upright, leaving the score at 28-9.
Atlanta responded well and had a second-and-1 on the New England 32-yard line. Then things really started to unravel. In a sequence that would repeat itself later in the game, Jake Matthews holding penalty pushed the Falcons out of field goal range. Atlanta could have gone up 22 points with a successful field goal.
The Patriots turned that into a field goal early in the fourth quarter to make it a two possession game at 28-12.
Looking at the following logic, you still had to think Atlanta was fine. To successfully catch a 16-point target, the following has to happen:
1) You have to stop the other team from scoring a single point the rest of the way.
2) You have to lead two touchdown drives.
3) You have to convert on a pair of two-point conversions.
4) You have to win in overtime.
As you know, it all happened. I will shorten the highlights from here.
Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan lost a fumble and that seemed to wake Brady up. From that point forward, Brady went 15-of-19 for 170 yards with two touchdowns. Touchdown number one was a six yarder to Amendola. A successful two-point run made it 28-20.
Matt Ryan after the Falcons’ loss
Atlanta answered briefly by advancing the ball to field goal range again before that guy again, Jake Long, commits yet another holding penalty that takes his team out of field goal position. A field goal here would have made it 31-20, a two-score game, with just over three minutes remaining.
Instead, Atlanta is forced to punt the ball away and New England goes on a quick touchdown march to tie the game at 28-28 with a minute left on the clock after White scored on a one-yard run and Brady passed for the two-point conversion.
At this point, you had to figure the Patriots would win the coin toss and put together another touchdown drive to win the game. And that is exactly what happened.
How did all of this happen you ask?
The Atlanta pass rush disappeared. Brady was harassed early and the Patriots struggled. As the game continued, the Falcons wore down and Brady picked them apart. New England ended up running 93 plays with over 60 of them being pass plays. Atlanta’s pass rushers wore out. The Falcons offense did not stay on the field late which did not help any. In fact, Atlanta only ran 47 plays all night, just a touch more than half as many as the Pats. Problematic was the fact that the Falcons were just 1-for-8 on third down attempts for the evening.
The formula for beating Brady and New England is to put pressure on Brady and keep your own offense on the field. For Atlanta, it worked for 39 minutes.