Some things are just in the wind. Certain societal trends tend to repeat themselves over a certain period of time, as if the planet is passing through some astrological window in space, one in which things that once seemed improbable became more probable. A hidden dimension through which a team can lose the NBA Finals after attaining a 3-1 lead, a Major League Baseball team would do the same in the World Series and a Presidential candidate could be so close to winning the candidacy that she could smell it, but end up losing to a lesser qualified candidate.
Of course, the possibilities of these things happening were a numeric eventuality. However, the likelihood of all those things happening within my lifetime had to be astronomical, no? But hows about we go ahead and add the biggest choke in the history of the Super Bowl into that equation, shall we?
I mean, not for nothing, but you can go ahead and talk about how eventual Super Bowl LI MVP Tom Brady is the greatest quarterback of all-time, and how Bill Belichick came up with the perfect game plan in the second half, but all I’m thinking of are missed opportunities. Everything was going so swell in the first half, wasn’t it though? 28-3 in favor of the Falcons is pretty swell.
The defense was getting to Brady early and hitting hard as defensive end Grady Jarrett was a frequent visitor in the Patriots’ backfield, tallying three sacks. Tom Terrific was sack five times overall.
As had been prognosticated by just about everyone covering the game, it was critical that the Falcons’ running game and defense come to represent – and that’s exactly what they did for an entire half. I get it, these are the New England Patriots. For over a decade they have been an evil Empire relative to the upstart Atlanta Falcons’ failed football insurgency.
Plus, some might point out that the NFC Champions started four rookies on defense. But even the Falcons themselves have discounted that overture. Plainly put, you can’t be up by 18 points at halftime and winning 28-3 in the third quarter, then allow yourself to be left on zero for the remainder of the game.
You just can’t do that.
Matt Ryan can’t allow himself to be sacked in the fourth quarter, moving Atlanta out of field goal range, and the defense can’t allow RB James White to catch a Super Bowl-record 14 receptions for 110 yards and touchdown, along with scoring two more on the ground.
The Falcons secondary cannot have allowed Julian Edelman to make an ‘off the sock’ catch. It all looked like it was going to go Atlanta’s way, right up until it didn’t. Up eight points and driving with the ball, Matt Ryan hit Julio Jones for a pretty catch along the sidelines. And that’s about when the bumper fell off like a ’85 Brougham.
A sack resulting in a 12-yard loss, an ill-advised passing play that resulted in a holding penalty, and an incomplete pass on third-and-33.Then the “Nightmare at NRG” unfolded for Atlanta Falcons fans. It was as if the Death Star had never been destroyed in Star Wars, Nixon got away with Watergate and Lord Voldermot actually killed Harry Potter, all rolled up into one bad burrito breath of gloom for Atlanta fans.
They knew what we knew, that Tom Brady had too much time remaining. A 10-play, 91-yard drive later and we got to see the first overtime in Super Bowl history. The New England Patriots won the coin toss and the rest is history as they scored on a befuddled and, by that time, bickering Atlanta secondary.
Though it had been politicized by President Donald J. Trump’s association with New England owner Robert Kraft and star quarterback Tom Brady, juxtaposed against the largely Black fan base of the Atlanta Falcons, this was all about football for me.
While exciting to watch, the final score of 34-28 is indicative of what we’ve come to expect from the New England Patriots, winning.