by Jett Gonzales – Staff Reporter
The Super Bowl is the biggest sports event in America every year. The game has become legendary, and this season was no different. This year, the winners of the AFC championship, New England Patriots, faced off against the winners of the NFC championship, the Atlanta Falcons at Super Bowl 51 in Houston, Texas.
For every Super Bowl, the hype for the game is unreal. The Patriots were coming into the game with a regular season record of 14 and 2, whereas the Atlanta Falcons finished the year off going 11 and 5. Although their records may convince you otherwise, these teams had all the components to what would become one of the greatest Super Bowls of all time. The Falcons came into the game as one of the hottest teams in the NFL. Statistically, they had one of the best offenses in NFL history. Matt Ryan, the quarterback for the Atlanta Falcons, was named the NFL’s most valuable player the day before. He threw for 4,944 yards, 38 touchdowns and 7 interceptions. Ryan was arguably the best quarterback in the NFL this season, but this would not have been possible without the support of his star wide receiver, Julio Jones. He caught 83 passes for 1,409 yards and six touchdowns. Jones and Ryan were the stars of this team, but the Falcons also had two solid players at running back. Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman combined for 1,599 yards rushing and 19 touchdowns. Although the Flacons had the best offense in the NFL, their defense was below average. They ranked 27th in points allowed, 25th in total yards allowed, 28th in passing yards allowed, and 17th in rush yards allowed. However, even though their defense was one of the worst in the NFL, they still had the league leader in sacks, Vic Beasley Jr. This team came into the game ready to face off against the New England Patriots.
This was the Patriots second appearance in the Super Bowl in the past 3 years, winning their last one against the Seattle Seahawks in Super Bowl 49. New England also has one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time, Tom Brady. Brady was suspended for the first four games of this season, but he still put up great stats. He threw for 3,554 yard, 28 touchdowns and just 2 interceptions. The Patriots also have a solid receiving core and running back. Julian Edelman, the Patriots starting receiver, caught 98 passes for 1,108 yards but just one touchdown. An unsung hero that arose during the Patriot’s season was wide receiver, Chris Hogan. Hogan caught 38 passes for 680 yards and two touchdowns, but he averaged over 20 yards a catch. Unlike the Falcons, the Patriots did not have one outstanding receiver, but they did have a bull of a running back. LeGarrette Blount ran for 1,161 yards and led the league with 18 rushing touchdowns. Although the Patriots have a great offense, they would play the Super Bowl without one of their best players, Rob Gronkowski, who is one of the best tight ends in the NFL. Even though this is a huge loss, the Patriots have a solid defense to complement their offense. The Patriots have the number one scoring defense in the NFL as well as the number three ranked rush defense. The New England Patriots were prepared to take on the Falcons.
Most fans expected a back and forth battle between the two teams, but for the first half, it was anything but that. The Atlanta Falcons came out extremely strong, their defense played nothing as the stats led people to believe. They held the Patriots to just 3 points in the first half; including an 82 yard pick six. The Falcons offense torched the Patriots as well, getting into the end zone twice. The offense performed even better than what the fans expected. The game was being handed to the Falcons. No team has ever comeback from a 10-point deficit in the super bowl and won. Coming out of the half, the Falcons scored again, the Patriots answered back with a touchdown of their own, but they missed the extra point. It seemed like it just was not the Patriot’s game to win. Going into the fourth quarter, the Patriots were down 28 to 9. The game was all but over. Although the future looked bleak for New England, they were not ready to give up. This led to one of the greatest comebacks in NFL history. Tom Brady led the Patriots down the field scoring a field goal. On the following possession by the Falcons, Matt Ryan was sacked by Patriots linebacker Dont’a Hightower leading to a fumble recovered by the patriots. Now in great field position, the Patriots scored bringing the game to just a one possession game. The Falcons had to keep the ball away from the patriots. The drive started with a 39-yard pass play to running back, Devonta Freeman, and then a spectacular 27-yard sideline catch by Julio Jones. Once again, the Falcons were in position to win the game, now in field goal range, all they had to do was run the ball a few times and kick a field goal, which would put the game out of reach. Instead of running, the Falcons passed the ball three times leading to a sack of minus 12-yards and then a holding penalty of minus 10-yards, pushing them out of field goal range. Then, on 3rd and 33, Matt Ryan throws an incomplete pass, leading to punt, giving the ball back to New England. The Patriots drove down the field and on a second down play, Tom Brady launches a pass down the middle leading to one of the most spectacular catches in Super Bowl history, Julian Edelman pulls in the catch just inches off the ground, with three defenders surrounding him. Now with just a minute left to play in the 4th quarter, New England scores a touchdown, along with a two-point conversion to bring this game into overtime.
The Patriots won the coin toss in overtime, electing to receive. The Falcons were worn down and tired, New England marched all the way down to the 2-yard line, just one run play away from winning the Super Bowl and completing the comeback. But, on first down, the patriots throw the ball to the corner of the end zone, where it gets tipped by linebacker, Vic Beasley Jr. It was scary moment, because Patriots fans know all too well what can happen if you throw the ball at the goal line. On the following play, Brady handed it off to running back James white for the game winning touchdown, completing the greatest comeback in super bowl history, and giving Tom Brady his 5th super bowl ring, making him the only quarterback in NFL history to win five super bowls.
Super Bowl 51 was one to be remembered, what seemed to be a blow out, became a classic comeback led by one of the best quarterbacks to ever play the game, Tom Brady. For Falcons fans, this one was a tough pill to swallow. The Falcons played a hard fought game, but ultimately fell short. But, for football fans, this was quite the game. No one can wait to see what next year’s super bowl will bring us