During the pre-game of this year’s Super Bowl matchup between the Atlanta Falcons and the New England Patriots, Troy Aikman made sure to make mention of the Falcons’ “inexperience.”
Was Aikman totally off-base? No, but still – the Falcons were bringing to the table the league’s number one offense and the league’s current MVP, quarterback Matt Ryan. The Falcons were also bringing to the table, a head coach in Dan Quinn who has played a part in three of the last four Super Bowls. The same man, Quinn, who has implemented a defense, concentrated on speed and athleticism that had gotten increasingly better as the season progressed.
And “defense” was all the start of this game was about. The first quarter ended in a tie as both defenses seemed to be up to the challenge.
Then came the second quarter. . .
The Atlanta Falcons showed the world what the youth can do. After the defense stripped Patriots running back LeGarrette Blount of the football, the Falcons responded with two passes to Julio Jones and then they had Davonta Freeman handle the rest as the Falcons took the first lead of the game.
Late in the second quarter, the Patriots found themselves down 14-0 but putting a drive together, mostly due to three third-down holding calls against the Falcons defense. But even when things seemed to be going their way, things went terribly awry for Tom Brady and the boys and Brady tossed an interception into the hands of Falcons cornerback Robert Alford, who returned it 82 yards for a touchdown.
But something happened at halftime. Maybe it was Bill Belichick changing up the game plan, Tom Brady remembering he was Tom Brady or maybe it was Lady Gaga’s halftime performance (I give it an 8.5 out of 10 – solid performance.) Whatever it was, things had to change for the Patriots.
Instead of change, though, it appeared to be more of the same as Matt Ryan threw his second touchdown pass and the Falcons went up 28-3. The Patriots finally put up a touchdown before the end of the third quarter, but their kicker Stephen Gostkowski missed the extra point. After three-quarters of play, the Patriots weren’t even in double-digit points. Total disaster for the proud Patriots franchise. . .
Let’s go back to Lady Gaga for a second.
During her stellar halftime performance, she performed a medley of her songs. Two of those songs stood out “Edge of Glory” and “Born This Way.” Those two song titles must’ve been the reason the Patriots decided to wake up in the fourth quarter to play some football. There is no closer “edge” to glory than being down 19 points in the fourth quarter of a Super Bowl. And the Patriots’ quarterback Tom Brady is just cut from a different mold of legendary quarterbacks. It’s something that can’t be coached up, or even explained. He was simply “born this way.”
Tom Brady, along with running back James White, must’ve seen either fatigue or inexperience settling into this Falcons defense because they looked flawless in execution against them. Meanwhile, Falcons offensive coordinator must’ve had his head and heart already in San Francisco (where he accepted the head coaching position) because of the play calling, which has been nearly perfect all year – became highly questionable. The Falcons were averaging just about five yards a carry against this Patriots defense and he seemingly abandoned it. Most questionable when it was 3rd and 1 and they decided to throw a pass from the shotgun and when they could’ve controlled/killed more of the clock – they kept on throwing it. . .
The Patriots redefined the term “stealing the momentum,” as the Falcons looked completely shell-shocked. They not only gave up 19 unanswered points in the fourth quarter – they gave up 25 unanswered points to close the game as the Patriots put up a touchdown in overtime, courtesy of James White to win the Super Bowl.
Keep this in mind.
Matt Ryan threw for 284 yards, 2 touchdowns and had a quarterback rating of 144.1. The Falcons as a team were averaging 5.8 yards a rush and 7.5 yards a play. They even won the turnover battle (2-1). The Falcons also had history on their side. In the history of the NFL Playoffs, teams that lead by 19 or more points going into the fourth quarter were 93-0. Now because of the Falcons, that record is 93-1.
But was history really on their side?
Tom Brady creates history. Re-writes history. Becomes history. Embodies it.
As shocking as this incredible comeback was – this was the one team, led by this one player and this one coach – who have been incredible their entire careers together. Achieving the impossible is well within the Patriots’ grasp. They prove it all the time.