Super Bowl LI: Witnessing greatness

On Feb. 5, 2017, sports history was made.

The New England Patriots made what can only be described as a miraculous comeback, and defeated the Atlanta Falcons 34-28 in overtime, giving the franchise their fifth Super Bowl victory.

The Falcons had began the game dominantly, outmatching New England and putting constant pressure on Patriots QB Tom Brady. The Falcons went into halftime with momentum, holding on to a 21-3 lead. In the third quarter, Atlanta did well, scoring another touchdown to gain a 25-point lead over New England.

Nobody could have predicted the events that would unfold after. In the fourth quarter, New England shifted the momentum after forcing a fumble on Atlanta QB Matt Ryan. The Patriots would score off of this, and more Atlanta mistakes, would continue to benefit the Patriots. In the final minutes, New England would come back to tie the game at 28, and send the game into overtime. With momentum now fully on their side, New England won the coin toss, marched down the field and scored the game-winning touchdown.

Brady won his fourth Super Bowl MVP trophy for his performance in the game, becoming the first player in NFL history to accomplish this.

Historically, there were many elements that had never happened in the previous 50 years of Super Bowl championships. This was the first Super Bowl game that went into overtime, and it was the first time that the team who never had a single lead throughout the game, won. The 25-point lead that Atlanta had was also the largest blown lead in Super Bowl history.

“Come that second half, it was a completely different story. I don’t know what happened – I don’t know what they did at halftime, what Bill Belichick said to them, if Lady GaGa helped…I don’t know, but I have never seen anything like that second half before,” first-year graduate student and English major Jeremy Byrum said.

As a fan of the sport, I simply wanted to watch a great game between two great teams, but this was far better than what I ever expected. As a matter of fact, this was the greatest Super Bowl that I had ever watched in my lifetime.

This does not mean that I wasn’t disappointed with the result. It seemed as if most of the nation, including myself, (with the exception of Massachusetts) were rooting for the Falcons, the underdog team who had never won a Super Bowl before. Unfortunately for Atlanta, that would not change as the Patriots appeared destined to win this game.

With how the game began, I found myself doubting New England, thinking that they would have no chance to come back and win whatsoever. I was someone who would argue that Brady was not the best quarterback of all-time, or even in the league this year. I believed that Brady’s career was great, but that it was dampened by multiple scandals such as “Spygate” and “Deflategate” (for which Brady was suspended the first four games of the season). All of these things that I believed about Brady were wrong–I was wrong.

In this game, Brady and Patriots head coach Bill Belicheck officially proved that they are the greatest of all-time at their positions in NFL history. Never before had any quarterback or head coach won five Super Bowl championships. Brady led the incredible comeback performance at a time when the Patriots were down by so much, and his abilities as a leader and as one of the NFL’s best quarterbacks showed more than ever before.

In addition, if you could have replaced Brady with any other QB in the New England offensive system, I honestly believe that no other QB in the NFL today would have been able to make a comeback against Atlanta like the Patriots did–not Aaron Rodgers, not Drew Brees, not Ben Roethlisberger–nobody can do what Brady does, playing with the precision, leadership, chemistry and the determination to win that he has.

Brady, 39, only looks to play better every year, and at the rate he’s going, he can find himself in at least one or two more Super Bowl’s before eventually deciding to retire.

When I look back at this game, the Patriots should not have been able to comeback and win. It seemed impossible. There were so many little things throughout the game that had to go right for New England, and had to go wrong for Atlanta.

In the final stretch of the game, that’s exactly what happened.

Many seem to blame the loss on the Falcons young defense which was exhausted, but I do not. Their defense was on the field for over 40 minutes in the game as New England controlled possession and time on offense – you can’t blame a young defense for that. They may have lost some of their aggression, but that’s not what caused them to lose the game.

Others blame the Falcons offensive play-calling in the second half, and while it wasn’t great, that’s not why they lost the game. Some blame the nine Falcons penalties that led to the Patriots getting the ball back multiple times (especially one holding call that took Atlanta out of field goal range late in the game), but I can’t blame their loss solely on that fact. All of those things were factors that simply contributed to their loss.

Most people will say that Atlanta had a total collapse, blowing the largest lead in Super Bowl history. However, I will say that the end result of the game was more of a determined New England comeback compared to an Atlanta collapse. Hopefully, Atlanta can learn off of the experience and make it back to the Super Bowl, but that will not be an easy task.

An NFL fan couldn’t ask for a better game or a better story behind it. After watching the final events that unfolded, words couldn’t express everything that had happened because of the special sports moment that it actually was.

“It’s incredible to witness that kind of history. I don’t think we’re ever going to see a Super Bowl like that again. I know that records are meant to be broken, but a record like that, coming back from a 25-point deficit makes it that much more poetic and historical for the Patriots, and I think it’s great for sports,” Byrum said.

Steven Baltierra, a junior sports journalism major, believes that this game perfectly topped off the past year in sports.

“I think you can look at this whole year of sports in general; there was LeBron James coming back against the Golden State Warriors, the Chicago Cubs winning the world series, Clemson beating Alabama in the final seconds [of the College Football National Championship], and then this Super Bowl. This kind of capped off the greatest stretch of championship games in sports history, and we’re pretty lucky to be living in this time to see it,” Baltierra said.

What I am ultimately saying is that I hope that everyone who watched this game took the time out to appreciate and reflect on it after, because we may never see another scenario like this ever again.

To be able to say that I watched this game live, and had the privilege to see the greatest Super Bowl, the greatest QB have his greatest performance, leading to the greatest dynasty in professional sports is truly remarkable and will be something that many will always remember.

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