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Patriots save their best for last

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Andrew Gonzalez, agonzalez@lmcexperience.com

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If I were to tell you the Patriots would win Super Bowl LI 34-28 before the game, I would not be going out on a limb to say the least. But if I were to tell you the Patriots would be down by 25 points with less than 3 minutes left in the third quarter in this game, and they would still win, you would give me a confused look.

     But the largest comeback in Super Bowl history, up from the previous record of a team coming back from what now looks like a measly 10 points happened. New England re-defined what momentum means in sports.

     The Patriots were a shell of the team they played like during the regular season for three quarters of the game, while the Falcons eighth highest scoring offense in history found their rhythm quicker. No one counted out the Tom Brady led offense to keep pace with the team. But the blueprint to defeat Brady in the big game had been constructed, once in 2007 and again in 2011 by the New York Giants. And based on the way Atlanta came out in the first half, it’s clear they had their hands on the plan.

     The Falcons were able to wreak havoc on the Patriot offensive line, pressuring Brady to either release the ball before he wanted to, or take the sack. The Atlanta defense set the tone early, sacking Brady twice in the first quarter. At this point I’m sure New England fans were having flashbacks of those Eli Manning led Giant teams, or at least I was.

     Atlanta was faster, more athletic, and simply outplaying the team in white. The Falcons capped off two drives in less than two minutes each, to take a quick two-touchdown lead. Something seemed off about the Patriots, but as always, the feeling they would rebound lingered. Then Brady did the most uncharacteristic Brady thing ever, especially considering the stage he was on was so familiar to him.

     In a season where he threw only five interceptions over the course of 15 games, he threw one to Robert Alford, which he easily ran back 82 yards for the score. On the play we saw Brady chase after the defender and fail at a dive attempt to take him down. Seeing him on the ground while his team suffered seemed to embody the way the game would go. This game felt over, even if the clock did not stay steady at triple zero’s. Even when Brady finally led his team into the end zone late in the third quarter, his kicker missed the point after.

     This meant they would need two touchdowns along with a two-point conversion on each, and a field goal to even tie the game. And on the drive where New England got their field goal, they didn’t feel like they were playing with a single sense of urgency. It took them one third of a quarter to put up three points. I don’t think I was the only person yelling at their television, trying to get the New England offense to pick up the pace.

     This comeback was not supposed to happen. The Falcons were a Devonta Freeman block away from stopping Dont’a Hightower from forcing a Matt Ryan fumble. But Hightower got through making the Falcons put pressure to slow Brady down from turning the turnover into points.

     But they couldn’t get through with Julio Jones making one of the greatest catches in Super Bowl history, a catch that was supposed to stop the emphatic comeback. Yet somehow it didn’t, Brady found himself with the ball with 3:38 left on the clock, and at that point, every person watching the game knew what type of magic he can potentially pull off.

Tom terrific tied it up   and when overtime rolled around, the Patriots won the toss and chose to take the ball, those same people knew this game was over and four minutes later it was. If you think any quarterback besides Tom Brady is the greatest of all time, you are officially wrong.

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Patriots save their best for last