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Well we can safely say that Super Bowl LI is most certainly one of the most exciting games ever played in the NFL. The New England Patriots mounted one of the largest comebacks in history to overturn a 25-point deficit to claim their fifth Vince Lombardi trophy.
The Atlanta Falcons appeared to have the game in hand in the third quarter after taking a 28-3 lead, capitalising on turnovers from the Patriots and excellent play from Matt Ryan. However, their potent offense failed to deliver in crucial moments in the final minutes of the game, allowing Tom Brady and his side to stage a miraculous rally.
Brady’s legacy as the greatest quarterback of all-time was cemented as he surpassed his childhood idol Joe Montana and Terry Bradshaw to claim his fifth title, while Bill Belichick became the first head coach in NFL history to win five Super Bowls.
On the other side, the Falcons now face the prospect of a long off-season wondering how they allowed a 25-point lead and their first NFL crown slip through their fingers. We’ll now take a look back at the match.
The Patriots headed into their seventh Super Bowl with Brady as quarterback with a surprising statistic. Belichick’s men had failed to score in the first quarter in each of Brady’s six starts in the title game. The seventh game followed the same pattern as the rest as New England were stopped on their first two drives, while their third run at the Atlanta defense took them into the second quarter.
Belichick and his staff would have identified taking the lead as a crucial aspect of the contest along with winning the turnover battle. However, LeGarrette Blount’s fumble in scoring distance handed the Falcons the initiative, which resulted in Devonta Freeman running into the endzone for the opening score.
New England were out of rhythm on offense and their failure to respond put pressure on their defense to hold Ryan and company. Dan Quinn’s side powered ahead with their second touchdown of the game as Austin Hooper collected a dart from Ryan in the endzone.
Disaster then struck for the Patriots to game the game completely out of their hands as Brady was intercepted by Robert Alford for an 82-yard return score, with the cornerback strolling in for the score.
Brady was then fortunate to escape a second pick when Martellus Bennett bailed him out with a great catch in traffic. However, the consequent Patriots drive could only put three points on the board before Lady Gaga appeared for the half-time show.
After holding Ryan and company in check on the first series of the second half, New England were unable to strike back as key drops from Julian Edelman and Chris Hogan stopped their progress.
The Falcons took a large stride to securing the crown when Ryan hit Taylor Gabriel for a huge gain before Tevin Coleman ran into the endzone, handing them the 25-point lead.
New England overturned the joint-largest deficit ever in Super Bowl history to defeat the Seattle Seahawks in the title game two years ago. On that occasion Brady led his side on two touchdown drives to secure their fourth crown, but on this occasion the task looked even beyond him late in the third quarter.
James White scored the Patriots first touchdown of the game, but Stephen Gostkowski missed the extra point, which made an uphill challenge even steeper heading into the fourth quarter.
Dont’a Hightower was a key component in the Patriots’ win over the Seahawks, stopping Marshawn Lynch short of the goalline before Malcolm Butler’s interception. The 26-year-old proved his quality again by notching a strip sack of Ryan to set up a scoring drive from Brady and company.
The quarterback went to White and Danny Amendola to bring his team within a touchdown, as Brady fired a quick out to Amendola for the score before White took a direct snap to secure the two-point conversion.
Ryan had the chance to respond and almost put the game to bed with a deep throw to Julio Jones, who made an outstanding catch. However, a sack from Trey Flowers and a holding penalty knocked them out of field-goal range, forcing a punt.
It was the second time questionable play-calling from offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan and poor decision-making from Ryan had led to a failure to kill off the game.
Brady elevated himself beyond Montana with his exceptional performance against the vaunted Seahawks’ defense two years ago. However, his display in the final 20 minutes of the contest at NRG Stadium was the finest hour of his exceptional career. After previously capitalising on a turnover for a strike to Amendola, Brady saved his best till the bitter end.
The 39-year-old punished the Falcons’ failings with a signature drive, arguably one of the greatest series in Super Bowl history. Starting on his own nine-yard line he connected with almost all of his receivers to drive his team into the redzone.
The Patriots were haunted by memorable catches made by New York Giants receivers David Tyree and Mario Manningham in their two defeats in Super Bowl XLII and XLVI.
However, on this occasion it was New England who profited from a moment of insanity as Brady’s passed was tipped by Alford. Somehow Edelman plucked the ball off the ground with the aid of the cornerback’s boot, with Ricardo Allen and Keanu Neal desperately trying to stop him.
After that it was a formality that the Patriots would find the endzone as Brady picked out Amendola and White before the latter ran in for the score. Due to Gostkowski’s earlier miss though Belichick’s men needed a two-point conversion to tie the game.
Brady was on a roll and connected with Amendola for the score, leaving 57 seconds on the clock, although the Falcons were not able to muster a threat, sending the game to overtime. The Patriots won the coin toss and from that point onwards their was little doubt Brady would lead his side to the winning touchdown.
He threw five strikes downfield before tossing the ball to White for the back to run through two tackles to win the game for Belichick’s men.
The Patriots begin their tour of celebrations, starting with a parade in Boston. A number of their players have already provided interviews on the talk-show circuit and that should continue throughout the off-season.
Belichick and his staff will be hard at work retooling the club as they have several key agents to retain, including Hightower, Bennett, Logan Ryan and Duron Harmon. New England have abundance of cap space and will be eager to bolster their roster for the potential to win three Super Bowls in four years for the second time under Belichick.
Atlanta have a young defense which will only improve in the future. Deion Jones, Grady Jarrett and Keanu Neal all proved their worth in their rookie seasons and will be a foundation of a strong unit for many years to come.
The departure of Shanahan to become head coach of the 49ers may affect of their offense. However, with MVP Ryan at the controls and Jones, Mohamed Sanu and Gabriel at receiver there is enough talent to cope. Freeman’s contract will need to be taken care of due to the remarks of his agent, but the presence of Coleman provided the club with insurance.
Whatever the circumstances, both of these clubs could well meet once again in Super Bowl LII in Minnesota next year. The Patriots are backed by Bovada sportsbook at 4/1 5.00 +400 4.00 4.00 -0.25 to repeat their succces, while the Falcons have odds of 12/1 13.00 +1200 12.00 12.00 -0.08 to recover from their loss and taste glory for the first time.
New England Patriots To Win Super Bowl LII
February 4th 2018
Odds: 4/1 5.00 +400 4.00 4.00 -0.25
Atlanta Falcons To Win Super Bowl LII
February 4th 2018
Odds: 12/1 13.00 +1200 12.00 12.00 -0.08
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