Ed. Note: The Super Bowl is the most watched television program of the year. For the 2017 edition, 111.3 million Americans were watching at its peak. This figure dwarfs the 16.5 million people who watch an average NFL game. Some of the new viewers are likely casual football fans who only tune in when the championship is on the line. Most, I suspect, are people who don’t care at all about football or sports in general. They tune in because of various other reasons including the halftime show or top-of-the-line commercials. On this page are two perspectives of the Super Bowl: one from a weekly sports writer and one from someone who could not care less about sports.
In what may have been the greatest Super Bowl of all time, Tom Brady and the New England Patriots outlasted regular season MVP Matt Ryan and the Atlanta Falcons in an instant classic.
This game was a laugher from early on, with the Falcons exploding out of the gate with a 21-0 lead late in the second quarter.
The Patriots were ineffective on offense, continually trying to force a run game that was simply going nowhere. In the first half, the Patriots squandered opportunities that allowed Atlanta to get ahead. A drive to the Atlanta 33-yard line resulted in a LeGarrette Blount fumble that was recovered by the Falcons. On another drive Brady threw his first pick-six in a long playoff career.
The Patriots did manage to put three points on the board just before the half expired thanks to a 41-yard field goal off the leg of Stephen Gostkowski. His kick made the score 21-3 at the long intermission.
In the third quarter, things did not look any better for the Patriots. Their first possession of the half resulted in a punt and the Falcons promptly took the ball down the field and scored again, making the score 28-3.
At this point, a majority of people felt the game was over. The largest comeback in Super Bowl history was 10 points. The Falcons were currently up 25 and showed no signs of slowing down.
The Patriots finally showed some life thanks to a 5-yard touchdown pass from Brady to James White. A failed extra point attempt meant the Patriots were still down 19 points to go at the start of the fourth quarter.
In the fourth quarter, however, the tide of the game changed dramatically. The incredible Falcons’ offense suddenly looked slow and ineffective. They were unable to drive deep into Patriots’ territory and when they did, penalties pushed them back out of field goal range. Gostkowski was able to add on another field goal with just under ten minutes left in the game to make it a two-possession game.
In many respects, this game was still over. The Patriots were down 16 points with under nine minutes to play. Head Coach Bill Belichick decided to attempt an onside kick and failed. All the Falcons had to do was kick a field goal, making it a three score game and effectively winning them the Super Bowl.
They just weren’t able to do it.
After the onside kick, the Patriots’ defense held. Brady once again drove the offense down the field, eventually finding Danny Amendola with a 6-yard score with just under six minutes left in the contest. A successful two-point conversion attempt on a run up the middle dropped the Patriots’ deficit to only eight points.
With their defense once again holding the Falcons, thanks to a timely forced fumble from middle linebacker Dont’a Hightower, the Patriots had an opportunity to tie the game up.
As Brady and the Patriots drove down the field, there was still a sense that they would not be able to pull off a miraculous comeback. The feeling persisted until wide receiver Julian Edelman pulled off one of the most incredible catches in Super Bowl history. Edelman somehow was able to get his hands on a deflected pass that bounced off a Falcons player’s knee and shin.
After review, it was determined that the catch was legal, and the Patriots were in business at the Atlanta 41-yard line with just over two minutes left to go. Brady would find White again for a 1-yard run with just under a minute left and hit Amendola for the two-point conversion to somehow tie the game up with less than a minute to play.
At this point in the contest, the Falcons were reeling and their defensive unit was overwhelmed. The Patriots had run over 90 plays by the end of regulation and the Falcons had no answer for their sudden strength.
A 2-yard touchdown run from James White in overtime won the game and earned Tom Brady his fifth championship ring, the most ever by a starting quarterback. Brady, the game’s MVP, led the Patriots on five straight scoring drives to clinch the largest comeback in Super Bowl history. In addition, it was the first Super Bowl to require overtime to decide a winner.