Adrian Roji, Neftali Jimenez-Castro, and Charlie Stadler
On February 5, 2017, Super Bowl LI kicked off at 6:30 p.m. Eastern time. The matchup between arguably two of the most efficient offenses in the National Football League was sure to be a high scoring and entertaining affair. People packed into NRG Stadium in Houston to watch the biggest sporting event in America, and it sure did not disappoint.
When people view the box score and see a 34-28 final score, a Super Bowl passing yardage record by Tom Brady, they would assume this game was controlled by the New England Patriots. The irony however, is that the Atlanta Falcons blew the largest lead in Super Bowl history.
To everyone’s surprise, the first quarter was scoreless, but beginning in the second quarter, the Falcons took total control of the game. After Devonta Freeman punched it in to score the first points of the game, Tom Brady threw a pick six. Things kept snowballing for the Patriots, and by halftime, Atlanta had built a 21-3 lead. The only thing that could seemingly turn the tide in the Patriots’ favor would be a 30 minute Lady Gaga performance.
Unfortunately for Tom Brady, that did not happen. Atlanta kept rolling, coming out of halftime and creating an insurmountable 28-3 lead. The game was over. With only a couple minutes left in the third quarter, it seemed impossible for Brady to capture his defining fifth Super Bowl title.
Matt Ryan had played a perfect game up to that point, sporting a perfect passer rating going into the fourth quarter. To be honest, his play did not dip in the fourth quarter. After a quick score at the end of the third quarter, the Falcons led by 19 going into the fourth. As a Super Bowl caliber team with great coaching and a fantastic offense, Atlanta could just manage the last 15 minutes and come out with a comfortable and unprecedented Super Bowl victory.
All of a sudden, the Falcons seemingly forgot how to play football and gave the best quarterback ever a chance to get back into the game, which he did. A field goal made the score 28-12, and soon after, Devonta Freeman blatantly missed his block and allowed for a strip sack of Matt Ryan, giving the Patriots the football at the Atlanta 25. Brady capitalized and after a two point conversion, it was a one score game. Everything seemed to be collapsing, but then there was Julio Jones. As it became a one possession game with under 5 minutes remaining, the Falcons just needed to score a point to make it a two possession game and end it once and for all. Julio Jones, on an on-the-run dime from Matt Ryan, made one of the most spectacular catches of the season in order to get the Falcons inside the New England 25 and effectively ice the game. Matt Bryant, the Atlanta kicker, was the best kicker in the NFC this year, so a 39 yard field goal would have been no problem for him. All Atlanta had to do was run the ball and play it safe.
Obviously the box score shows a Patriots victory, so it is even more obvious to know that the Falcons did anything but run the football. Matt Ryan dropped back and took a sack. A holding penalty was called on the ensuing play. The Falcons punted.
Surgical passing from Tom Brady and a miraculous Julian Edelman catch allowed the Pats to tie the game, after another two point conversion, and the game went to overtime. At this point everyone knew the Patriots just needed the ball and the game was over.
They did just that, and the game ended in a James White touchdown. Brady’s legacy was cemented as the best QB ever. But, just like two years ago, the New England Patriots had no business winning the Super Bowl. The Seahawks lost their minds and chose to throw the ball at the one yard line, and the Falcons blew the largest lead in Super Bowl history.
It is a rough time to be a Falcons fan right now. 28-3. Enough said.