Patriots Rock The House ...Eventually
Gary Jordan explores the most amazing comeback – and one of the greatest games – in Super Bowl history
Call it fate. Call it redemption. Call it good old fashioned revenge. What Tom Brady and his New England Patriots achieved in Houston this past Sunday evening was nothing short of exceptional. The come from behind 34-28 overtime win against the Atlanta Falcons will go down in Super Bowl history as one of the greatest games ever played in the modern era. It will certainly be marked as the best ever showpiece game in NFL history.
Robert Kraft, the Patriots owner, gladly received the Lombardi Trophy from Commissioner Roger Goodell after he, like the rest of us, witnessed history, "Two years ago we won our fourth Super Bowl down in Arizona. I told our fans that was the sweetest one of all, but a lot has transpired during the last two years. I don't think that needs any explanation." He was of course referring to the Deflategate scandal that rocked his team, and put big question marks over their fourth title success. "This is unequivocally the sweetest." He added.
The reputation of both quarterback Tom Brady and head coach Bill Belichick was tarnished through a publicly humiliating time that saw the Patriots, Goodell and the NFL lock horns. Something that should have been dealt with swiftly turned into a legal battle that dragged the league through the mud. When the eventual dust had settled Brady had to serve a four game ban at the start of this season, such is the Patriot way they still came out of that opening month with a 3-1 record which is testament to the coach and his ability to make good things happen out of adversity.
Upon Brady's return it was his personal crusade to take his team to the playoffs and back to the Super Bowl. He did this with unnerving ease, helping the team to a league best 14-2 record, then dismantling the Houston Texans and Pittsburgh Steelers in the postseason. Atlanta would be a different opponent than their AFC counterparts. Always fast out the blocks and posting league high numbers in points scored, they also boasted newly crowned NFL MVP Matt Ryan.
The Falcons knew they would have to get off to a fast start, a close game would be in favour of the Patriots. The early signs were good as on their first play from scrimmage Devonta Freeman ripped off a 37 yard run. QB Ryan was accurate with his passing and playing to his nickname of "Matty Ice", the pressure of the biggest game of his life passing him by. It was the awkwardness of Brady that was taking many by alarm. He was subject to hits and sacks by a ferocious Falcons D that was stepping up to new levels. When Robert Alford returned an interception 82 yards for a touchdown it was 21-0 in what seemed a blink of an eye. Everything the Atlanta game plan said they would do, they were doing, and more shockingly was that New England had little answer to what was happening.
After the electric show that was Lady Gaga's half time performance the Falcons took another huge step towards what seemed like their first Super Bowl win. An 85 yard drive was punctuated by a 6 yard touchdown pass to Tevin Coleman, and at 28-3 with time running down in the third period the game looked won. Atlanta team owner Arthur Blank who had danced with his players after each playoff victory came down to the sideline to acknowledge what his team were about to achieve.
2016 saw some amazing comebacks in other sports, the NBA witness the Cleveland Cavaliers take down the Golden State Warriors after being 3-1 up in their best of seven series, and likewise in the MLB the Chicago Cubs came back from the same deficit against the Cleveland Indians. This shows that with your backs to the wall and all is lost you find new strength. You look within and find something from the deepest well that inspires you to greatness.
Tom Brady at 28-3 down, "It's hard to imagine us winning. It took a lot of great plays and that's why you play to the end." None so huge as when Julian Edelman kept a drive alive with a catch that will go down in NFL folklore, one that will even surpass a catch by David Tyree against the Patriots which ended their bid for a perfect season in a Super Bowl almost a decade before. "There were a lot of plays that coach talks about, you never know which one is going to be the Super Bowl winner." said Brady. Slowly and surely the lead was chipped away and when James White went in for a touchdown followed by Danny Amendola's two-point conversion the Super Bowl had its first overtime game. After winning the coin toss Brady took his team all the way down to the Atlanta 2 yard line where White ran for the corner and the game winner.
The ticker tape was fired in the air but such is Brady's professionalism he wanted to wait and see if the score stood. He watched the giant screens for confirmation, then after being congratulated by his defeated opponent he knelt on the ground. Only he knows at that moment what was going on in his mind. Clearly emotional it was only after his coach had battled his way through the mass of players and media to join him in an embrace shared by the world. Both had cemented their place in history. Most Super Bowl wins by a coach and QB, Brady was announced game MVP, the fourth time he had received the honour in the title game.
It was heartbreak on the other sideline. Atlanta knew they had the game won and it was only a case of them not quite believing in their own hype, that allowed their more experienced foe a chance that they didn't need a second invite to, "That's a tough loss, obviously very disappointing, very close to getting done what we wanted to get done." Ryan's words were a summary of all the Falcons feelings.
The last word though goes to New England receiver Julian Edelman who put the whole Patriots team ethos into one sentence, "Just play every play. We never quit."