Super Bowl LI was one for the record books, thanks to the greatest comeback in NFL history. Or was it the biggest choke job the World has ever seen? After trailing 28-3 in the third quarter, Tom Brady led the Patriots down the field time and time again, ultimately leading them to a 34-28 overtime victory. Brady easily solidified himself as the greatest quarterback to ever walk the planet, but was it solely because of his performance or are the Falcons to blame as well?
Brady played out of his mind, throwing for a Super Bowl record 466 yards and two touchdowns. Accompanying Brady in the backfield was Patriots running back, James White, who caught 14 balls tallying 110 yards and 3 total touchdowns.
On the other side of the ball, Dont’a Hightower made one of the biggest plays of the night, as he strip sacked Matt Ryan, leading to a 25 yard touchdown drive. When it came to crunch time each and every player on the Patriots roster made the plays they were supposed to make. The same could not be said for the Falcons.
With a 28-12 lead in the third quarter, the Falcons essentially had the game in the bag. With the game in hand the Falcons continued to drop back and pass, ignoring the fact that they had been averaging 6.8 yards per carry. With 9 minutes left in the third, the Falcons faced a 3rd and 1 from their own 36 yard line. Idiotically the Falcons decided to pass, leading to the Dont’a Hightower strip sack. This moment seemed to change the whole momentum of the game. Brady then drove down the field and capitalized on the opportunity, pulling the game to just one possession.
The dumb play calls did not stop there. On the ensuing drive, Julio Jones made a circus catch to bring the Falcons within field goal range at the New England 22 yard line with about 5 minutes left in the 4th quarter. A field goal would have essentially sealed the deal. The Pats stopped Atlanta on first down, tackling Devonta Freeman behind the line of scrimmage. This led to a 2nd and 11 situation. Again the Falcons decided to pass the ball and as Ryan stepped back to pass, Trey Flowers bodied his way through the line to sack the quarterback for a 12 yard loss, pushing the Falcons back to the 35 yard line and almost out of field goal range. Freeman had been averaging 6.8 yards per carry and a run during that situation would have made the most sense. The Falcons then faced a 3rd and 23 in a clear passing down and again the Falcons choked, committing a holding penalty that pushed the Falcons back even further. The Falcons were then forced to punt the ball away and the rest was history.
The New England Patriots were outmatched and outplayed for the first three quarters but when it came down to it, their experience and championship pedigree propelled them to become Super Bowl Champions once more. The Patriots performed when it meant the most but the Falcons crumbled under the bright lights. There is no doubt that the Patriots deserved this victory but it is evident that the Atlanta Falcons let this game slip through their hands.