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Wednesday, October 20, 2021

Super Bowl LI Recap

BRIAN ALLEN / VOICE OF AMERICA / PUBLIC DOMAIN

Patriots take the win in first overtime of Super Bowl history

Tom Brady, how do you do what you do? How did you just pull off the greatest comeback in Super Bowl history? I sat through the first three and a half quarters of this game thinking to myself “this game is going to be so forgetful.”

The Atlanta Falcons were up 28-3. The game was over. The Patriots are an amazing team, but their offensive style really isn’t built for a comeback of this magnitude. They kill other teams by chipping away at their defense slowly with short routes, but those routes take a lot of time off the clock. A comeback didn’t seem like it was in the cards as the clock was dwindling down, but unfortunately for the Atlanta Falcons, the “McConnell Curse” kicked in at the wrong time and the tides turned the other way.

Atlanta was incredibly impressive out of the gate. They seemed entirely unfazed by the moment as Matt Ryan, aka “Matty Ice,” and the offense just kept piling it on the New England defense. On the other side of the ball, Atlanta’s defense was even more impressive. Tom Brady looked like a deer in the headlights for most of the game. He was taking brutal hits left and right, and when you’re 39 years of age, getting cracked like that as frequently as he was can take a toll. Brady’s game usually looks effortless, but you could see he was sweating profusely this time around and he was visibly shaken.

When Robert Alford took a Tom Brady interception to the crib with 2:21 left in the second quarter, the game looked like it was going to be a repeat of the NFC Championship game two weeks earlier. At that point I thought to myself, “if this holds up, Atlanta could be in the process of completing the most dominant playoff run I’ve ever witnessed.” It seemed as if they were bound to win their first Super Bowl in franchise history.

Suddenly, a Matt Ryan fumble in the fourth quarter drastically shifted the momentum. On 3rd & 1 on their own 36 yard line, the Patriots were showing blitz, yet Ryan still made the mistake of not getting rid of the ball quickly. He dropped back deep in the pocket and fumbled at the hands of Dont’a Hightower to set up a Patriots touchdown with a successful two-point conversion to follow. This momentum shift provided the casual fan with the exhilaration that the Super Bowl is supposed to provide. In this very moment, the narrative of Super Bowl LI went from unexciting blowout to prospective classic due to one bad turnover in a mere moment.

The Falcons looked like they were going to fight off a comeback in a big way on the ensuing drive. Starting at their own 10-yard line, Devonta Freeman had a big play for 39 yards to get the Falcons to mid-field, and a few plays later a man called Julio Jones happened. Jones made a miraculous catch for 27 yards to put Atlanta on New England’s 22, and this should’ve effectively ended the game. This put Atlanta in field goal territory with under five minutes to go, which would’ve made an eight-point game an 11-point game, and that probably would’ve been all she wrote, but instead it’s where Atlanta really choked. Trey Flowers sacked Matt Ryan for a 12-yard loss, and then a penalty to follow forced Atlanta to punt instead of tagging on those three crucial points. Matt Ryan absolutely needed to get rid of the ball there once again, but he held on to cost the Falcons greatly. Once the Falcons punted on that possession, you knew Tom Brady was smelling blood; a comeback felt inevitable.

With a few minutes left, Brady drove the ball downfield in the exact fashion you’d expect the G.O.A.T. to do it, and with a little extra help from an impossible catch by Julian Edelman, the Patriots completed the impossible comeback to tie the game at 28. When overtime came around and the Patriots were awarded the football on the opening drive, you just knew that Atlanta would never get the ball back. It took Brady and the boys eight plays to score a touchdown to end the game, and boom, it was over. What seemed like an initial rout turned into a ridiculous, improbable comeback. Brady took home MVP honors and that beautiful moment I foreshadowed last week came to fruition. Roger Goodell had to bite his tongue and give the Patriots the recognition as the crowd relentlessly booed.

First it was the Golden State Warriors who blew a 3-1 lead to the Cleveland Cavaliers, and then the Cleveland Indians did the same at the hands of the Chicago Cubs in the MLB postseason. To complete the trifecta, the Atlanta Falcons blew a 25 point lead to give Tom Brady his fifth Super Bowl and fourth Super Bowl MVP.

Congratulations to the Patriots, and thank you to both teams for giving us an instant Super Bowl classic that surely made up for unusually weak playoffs.
Written by: Michael Wexler — sports@theaggie.org

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