The Greatest Super Bowl of All Time: The Miracle in HoustonFebruary 9, 2017
Sunday, February 5th, 2017 will forever go down in sports history. On that day, probably the greatest game in the history of Football was played in Houston, Texas. The Super Bowl LI matchup between the New England Patriots and the Atlanta Falcons was predicted to be a close and memorable game, but no one could have predicted that a game that historic would be played out. No one could have predicted that the Atlanta Falcons would hold New England to only 3 points in the first half. No one could have predicted that the league MVP Matt Ryan and the rest of the Falcons would put up 21 points in only 1 quarter. No one could have predicted that Tom Brady and the New England Patriots would pull off the greatest comeback in Football history, coming back from trailing the entire game by as much as 25 points. But it happened. Super Bowl LI is one of the greatest games the sports world has ever witnessed and each team’s successes made it the instant classic that it is.
Despite his loss, Matt Ryan has solidified himself as an elite Quarterback. The first half of Super Bowl LI saw the Matt Ryan led Falcons absolutely annihilate the best team in the league. Devonta Freeman’s unrelenting rush game, Julio Jones’ phenomenal catches, and Matt Ryan’s cool and collected performance completely out played the New England Patriots in every way possible. In fact, it’s hard to believe that last season Matt Ryan was on the verge of losing his starting position in Atlanta. The Falcons played nearly perfect Football in the first half, and after putting up an astonishing 28-3 lead early on in the 3rd Quarter, it appeared that the city of Atlanta would be on the verge of their first title since the year I was born, 1995. Let me be clear about this, if the Atlanta Falcons were playing literally ANY other team in the history of the NFL, they would’ve won Super Bowl LI. They were playing some of the best Football in recent memory, and a lead like that would crush any other Quarterback, Head Coach, or team to ever play professional Football. But the Falcons weren’t playing a team like that, they were playing against the greatest franchise in Football history, the Bill Belichick and Tom Brady led New England Patriots. This is the franchise that practically always finds a way to win in any situation. This is the franchise that has tied the NFL record for the most consecutive AFC Championship appearances (6). This is the franchise that has the record for the most Super Bowl appearances (9), with 7 of those Super Bowl appearances occurring since 2001, and after Sunday night, they have won 5 of them. Essentially the Belichick/Brady combo has a 71% chance of winning any Super Bowl they appear in.
Despite this historic comeback, the Falcons did not let the Patriots walk away with this win easily. The NFC South Division Champs brought a defense that exceeded everyone’s expectations, including those of analysts that had studied their growth and progress over the entire season. As our College Football Analyst, Domenic, mentioned before the Super Bowl, players like Keanu Neal and Deion Jones were destined to perform well. However, these two players played like seasoned veterans rather than promising rookies as Neal led the Falcons in total tackles and Jones completely locked down the Patriots’ rushing offense and short to mid range passing for most of the game. In fact, these two rookies are one of the most prominent reasons as to why New England was held to only 1 field goal in the first half of Super Bowl LI.
I honestly believe the Falcons Defense could have continued this success against the Patriots if it wasn’t for one thing: the first New England touchdown they let up in the 3rd Quarter. The Patriots offense was sluggish and sloppy in the first half, and it began to rub off on the defense as well. As Atlanta continued to stack touchdown after touchdown against the Patriots, and as their defense continued to put more and more unforgiving pressure on Tom Brady and the Patriots that even forced a Pick 6, New England simply struggled to adjust, until Tom Brady connected with James White for White’s first touchdown of the night. That one score was all it took to change the momentum in favor of the Patriots, and return them to their dominant play style that we saw all season. This massive 25 point deficit combined with the first James White touchdown of the night was the perfect momentum changer to wake up the greatest NFL franchise in history. After that first touchdown, it was impossible for literally anyone to slow down the Patriots. The Pats Offense became fast paced, lethal, and above all, unstoppable. With 546 total yards, 100% efficiency on 4th Down, 442 passing yards, and over 40 minutes with possession, there was no way New England would be stopped in the second half. Not only this but the crucial multiple Pass Interference calls against the Atlanta Defense and an absolutely ridiculous catch by Julian Edelman further pushed the Patriots towards the greatest comeback in NFL history. Whether it was James White’s 3 touchdowns, including the game winning touchdown in Overtime, or Tom Brady’s near perfect performance in the second half, New England would not let their elusive 5th Super Bowl Championship get away from them that easily.
Regardless of who you wanted to win, you can’t ignore how impressive the stats were from this game. Never before had any team in the Super Bowl overcome a deficit of more than 10 points and win the Super Bowl. Never before had a Super Bowl game gone into Overtime. Never before had a starting Quarterback won 5 Super Bowls. Never before has a Head Coach won 5 Super Bowls. Never before had an individual player scored 20 points in a Super Bowl (James White). Never before had Quarterback thrown for 466 yards (Tom Brady). Never before had both Super Bowl teams recorded a total of 54 first downs. The list goes on and on. This was without a doubt the greatest Super Bowl in the history of Football, and probably the greatest Football game ever played for that matter. In fact, the greatest halftime speech in Football history was probably given by Bill Belichick. Super Bowl LI, without using too many cliches, is the perfect example of why to never give up. The Falcons, despite the loss, are still one of the best teams to play in this Championship game, and as their defense continues to grow, I won’t be surprised if they win their first Championship in franchise history in the near future. Matt Ryan has also proved to the league that he can go toe-to-toe with the greatest Quarterback to ever play the game, and almost beat him at the biggest stage in the NFL. In fact, Dan Quinn, after joining the Falcons as Head Coach only 2 years ago, has set in stone the fact that he’s one of the best coaches in the NFL today. But at the end of the day, the New England Patriots, especially in the Brady/Belichek era, are the greatest team to ever play the game and they were destined to win Super Bowl LI. We may never see a game of Football that perfect ever again, but we will always be able to relive the historic game that was Super Bowl LI: The Miracle in Houston.
Written by Erik Clark