Super Bowl LI Surprises America


Photo by: Alexandra Hale

Two extraordinary quarterbacks have a moment before the Patriots celebrate their win in the 2017 Super Bowl LI.

Alexandra Hale, Staff Writer

Words of advice: never underestimate the New England Patriots… ever.

On Sunday, February 5, the New England Patriots took on the Atlanta Falcons in Super Bowl LI at NRG stadium in Houston, Texas. The game itself seemed to be over at halftime, and no one could have predicted the outcome.

New England was favored by a mere three points according to Vegas’ Bovada betting pool.  Patriots’ quarterback Tom Brady was predicted to be named the Super Bowl LI MVP instead of Atlanta Falcons’ quarterback Matt Ryan and Falcons’ wide receiver Julio Jones. This, however, was not the case- not even close.

In the first quarter, the Patriots began with the ball. Wide receiver Julian Edelman was not able to return the ball, but this was no surprise. Rather, what came as a shock for the Patriots was how quickly they had to return the ball after failing to pick up the first down.

On the other side, Atlanta only proved from the start that their offense was worth the hype. Running back Devonta Freeman rushed for 37 yards in Atlanta’s first offensive play of the game.

Meanwhile, the Patriots’ running game was not as impressive as that of their opponents. The Falcons’ defense rose to the occasion, knowing which key players they needed to cover to prevent the New England offense from obtaining any worthwhile rushing yards. The Atlanta defense is young but should not be underestimated; this was the team who shut out the Green Bay Packers, after all.

New England was forced to throw the ball to Edelman and other receivers quite often, resulting in both triumphs and failures. Throughout the game, the pressure on Brady only became more aggressive, eventually taking its toll on New England’s offense and leaving them unable to score a single touchdown in the first half. Fans were quick to see the error of Brady’s ways as he made sloppy passes left and right- passes his receivers failed to catch. Problems seemed to be piling up for the Patriots as the Falcons’ running game was the most explosive it had ever been, even when the ball was not in Jones’ hands.

Atlanta was running the outside, and their strategy was working as they seemed unstoppable. That is not to say, however, that Atlanta did not have their fair share of problems as well. In only the first quarter Ryan managed to get sacked twice, costing his team 14 yards. Now, that may not seem like much, but the Falcons soon learned those sacks would add up to hurt their chances of victory.

Brady also got sacked twice with a loss of nine yards, yet at the end of the first quarter, there was still no score. Fans at this point eagerly waited to see how incredibly close this game was going to be.

When the second quarter rolled around, it was evident Brady and his offense were not going to run the ball. This move was probably for the better, for once they did attempt to run the ball, it was fumbled and given to Atlanta.

Meanwhile, Jones and Freeman continued to provide evidence that they were the Falcons’ key players. Jones was making ridiculous catches while Freeman marched up the field and put the first points on the board with a touchdown for Atlanta. The score was 7-0 with 12 minutes and 15 seconds left in the quarter. It was apparent the Patriots needed to score before the half was over, and they knew it better than anyone.

The urgency of this quarter forced New England to make rushed plays and overall foolish decisions. The Falcons were beginning to read the Patriots’ offense more easily, making Brady’s job much harder. Fans could see the frustration in the Patriots’ eyes as the Falcons kept their cool, scoring yet another touchdown.

As the four-man rush on Brady became more aggressive, the Patriots realized they needed to organize their team, and needed to do it quickly. Fortunately, their break came in the form of penalties. Atlanta became notorious for back-to-back holding calls throughout the game, which came back to haunt them near the end. In the second quarter, frankly, it did not do the Falcons much harm, as they received another touchdown with roughly two minutes left in the half- thanks to an interception.

With the first half ending, the Patriots were unable to put up a touchdown and were forced to settle with a field goal. Going into halftime with a score of 3-21 put everything into perspective for both teams: Atlanta needed to keep up the good, hard work, and New England needed to turn it around.

The third quarter began with the ball in Atlanta’s possession. If the Patriots could not stop the offense, the game really would be over. It had been exactly one hour and eight minutes since the Atlanta offense had taken the field at this point in the game, which, though it sounds impossible, is totally plausible. At this point in the game, Atlanta was scoring touchdowns so frequently that they were, as a result, having less offensive possessions.

The Falcons were forced to kick the ball, allowing Edelman a successful return of 34 yards. This rush did not do much to improve the Patriots’ situation. Receivers were dropping key passes, and everything still felt sloppy for New England. Moreover, pass interference penalties were beginning to hurt the Patriots. They were unable to run the ball, and only had a slightly more impressive passing game to back it up. At this point, all hope seemed lost for the New England Patriots.

On the other end, wide receiver Taylor Gabriel was able to “rise up” and earn 76 of Atlanta’s receiving yards. This helped the Falcons get one more touchdown with eight minutes and 31 seconds left in the third quarter, further affirming the game to be done for the Patriots.

Usually, a faltering team comes out of halftime stronger and improves the mistakes they made originally. For Super Bowl LI, this was not the case. The Patriots’ offense was not going anywhere, and fans were frustrated. In the midst of this chaos, New England managed to put up their first touchdown. Even with this new hope, the cards were not in the Patriots’ favor, as the extra point was missed.

The Falcons young, rookie team went into the fourth quarter confident and ready to win. The Patriots, led by a four-time Super Bowl champion, were not making key plays happen. At this point, they needed a miracle.

The outcome was obvious: Matt Ryan was going to win his first Super Bowl and Tom Brady would not see his fifth championship trophy. Within the first half of the fourth quarter, nothing was changing. New England settled for a field goal and was still making sloppy plays. Flags were being thrown left and right against both teams. Then, something happened… something unexpected.

A switch flipped in the mind of the Patriots’ offense at exactly the five minute mark in the fourth quarter. Suddenly, New England had the ball again. Suddenly, there was a ten point difference. Suddenly, there was an eight point difference. Suddenly, they were back in the game. Fans everywhere were prompted to remember the most important rule of football: never stop watching until the very end.

The Patriots’ defense managed to stop the Falcons from putting up any points because of two key sacks, both of which hurt Ryan and his team in the end. Unbelievably, Edelman caught a historic pass which led New England into the endzone. It all came down to a two point conversion, which the Patriots got easily with 57 seconds left in the game.

Then, the score was 28-28. Fans across the country knew what that meant; the Super Bowl was going into overtime for the first time in the history of the game… whoa.

Nothing from earlier in the game mattered. The interceptions, the fumbles, the penalties- none of it had any importance anymore. This overtime was sudden death, and the Patriots started with the ball. It was up to Atlanta’s defense now. The rush Atlanta brought before was gone, replaced with a looming feeling of frustration. They knew if the Patriots scored that touchdown, it would be over. When New England’s running back James White had his arm in the endzone, everyone knew the game was officially over. The Patriots had once again won the championship game.

Super Bowl LI is now over, and what a game it was. No one could have predicted the Patriots would be down 28 points and still emerge victorious. It was the greatest comeback in history, won by the one of the greatest quarterbacks in history, and it will go down as one of the greatest games in NFL history.