Super Bowl for the Ages


James Brennan, Sports Editor

After many people decided to prematurely declare this one of the worst Super Bowls ever, the game had a complete shift of momentum to set up one of the greatest comebacks in NFL history.

Super Bowl LI pitted Matt Ryan and the hottest offense in football against the magnificent football minds of Tom Brady and Bill Belichick.

The game headed into overtime, and pretty much everyone knew the game was going to be decided based on who won the coin toss.  The Patriots won the toss and elected to receive.  Brady methodically drove the team down the field, and running back James White ultimately punched it in for the walk-off touchdown that secured New England its fifth Super Bowl championship.  This game truly cemented the legacies of both Brady and Belichick as the greatest quarterback-head coach combination in NFL history.  As painful as it is for me to say as a Pittsburgh Steelers fan, and as painful as it is to read for any New York Jets fans, this duo has been in complete control of the AFC for the better half of this entire century.  All you can do is tip your hat to them, and try to appreciate the greatness that they display year in and year out.

In what was a surprise to many, the game started off very slow as both teams had a scoreless first quarter.  Then in the second quarter, newly crowned MVP Matt Ryan caught fire as he made a couple of connections to his All-Pro receiver Julio Jones.  A rushing touchdown by Devonta Freeman and a passing touchdown to Austin Hooper gave Atlanta a comfortable lead.  Then just before halftime, a rare pick six by the usually unflappable Brady gave Atlanta an 18 point lead going into the halfway point.

New England was in need of a major halftime tune-up, but they came out flat and Atlanta would score again making it 28-3.  Most people thought the flood gates had opened and that Atlanta could go on cruise control to win their first Super Bowl in franchise history.

However, anyone that has ever watched football over the last 15 years knows that you can never ever count Tom Brady out.  The Patriots responded on their very next drive with a touchdown from Brady to White, but a missed extra point left them down 28-9 with a lot of ground still to cover.

The defense stood tall on the next drive forcing an Atlanta punt, which led to a New England field goal.  Next Atlanta possession the Patriots got pressure on Matt Ryan and forced a fumble, which is when most people started to get some hope back.  Within a couple of minutes Brady struck again and cut it to a one possession game with 6 minutes left.  Matt Ryan stayed composed by throwing two big completions, with a little help from an incredible sideline grab by Jones, and Atlanta fans took a deep breath as it seemed they would be able to either score or wind the clock down.

Atlanta somehow did the only thing they couldn’t allow to happen though after this, with Ryan taking a sack and receiving a holding penalty that knocked them out of field goal range.  Atlanta’s defense continued to play strong, but Brady showed why he is often considered the best ever by making some tough conversions.  A miraculous catch by receiver Julian Edelman, who was in triple coverage, seemed to uplift the team as they drove in to tie the game with less than a minute to go in regulation.

What happened next would go down in history as one of the best playoff performances of all-time.