It Was A Historic Super Bowl And Probably One Of The Greatest Comebacks Ever
The New England Patriots tore up the record books in a variety of ways in Super Bowl LI, but most obviously in overcoming a 25-point deficit and rallying for victory. Some oddities played a part in them falling behind, but how they came back required so many things to go right. Some of it was their doing. Some it Atlanta’s.
- Atlanta couldn’t stop the Patriots offense. From the point the Falcons took a 14-0 lead with 8:48 to go until halftime, they’d only run 27 more plays the rest of the game. New England would rack up 34 points on 75 plays! The Patriots didn’t succeed every play, but they kept picking up 10 yards over 3 plays, which is the point. Tom Brady remained patient, taking what was available to him.
- New England beat man coverage. The Patriots dropped back to throw 68 times, and I charted Atlanta playing man-to-man coverage on an astounding 47 of those plays! The Falcons stuck to their game-plan, and maybe if they would’ve gotten a stop on the 2pt try to tie it, we’d be talking about it was good enough to win 28-26, but…
- The Pats were nearly perfect in the redzone. They were forced to settle for a pair of field goals (a holding penalty and a sack were the major culprits), but scored touchdowns every other chance. As a bonus, both of Brady’s passing TD’s were against zone coverages. That final 2 pointer to Amendola, however, beat man coverage.
- The Falcons defense got tired. By sheer time of possession (40:23-23:27) and plays (93-46), the Patriots wore the Falcons out. A few things are noteworthy on this topic: First, I mentioned all the man coverage. That’s a TON of running versus sitting in zone. Second, via @PFF_Sam: In 267 total regular+postseason games this yr, 26 players have played 90+ snaps on defense. Atlanta had 6 of them last night + the top 5! And finally, the pressure Atlanta generated early gradually faded with all those snaps. Check out this chart:
- The Patriots defense stopped the Falcons on 3rd downs. Atlanta was 1/8 on the money down. That does not include the TD pass to go up 14-0 on a 3rd&9. The official conversion actually was a defensive holding penalty that gave Atlanta a first and goal where they scored the next play to go up 28-3. Otherwise New England was perfect. What adds to it is 2 times the Falcons had 2nd&1, and once 2nd&2, plus a pair of 3rd&5 in the first half, and all those possessions ended with a punt. But they had help via…
- Penalties. The Falcons only had 9 charged against them, but a pair of holding calls were huge. After the onside kick failure, Atlanta had the ball on the New England 41 up 28-9 late stages of the 3rd quarter. They picked up 9 yards on first down, putting them in field goal range, let alone a 2nd&1. They ran for no gain, but a hold was called pushing them back. What followed was an incompletion, sack, and a punt. The other holding was on the 3rd&23 pass to Sanu that put the Falcons back in field goal range with under 4 minutes to go. Two enormous penalties that took scoring chances away.
- Julio Jones was double-teamed a lot. I counted 12 times bracket coverage was applied in 28 Matt Ryan drop-backs. The Pats put a safety over the top a few times, zoned 11 times, and only dared man him up 3 times all night. The strategy however successful in the final outcome, was far from flawless. Jones caught all 4 passes against double-teams, and both Ryan TD passes to Hooper and Coleman came while Jones was doubled.
- The little plays added up. The immobile Brady came up with one of the biggest runs of his career. On a 3rd&8 down 28-3, Atlanta played zone, which should’ve been great against a scrambling QB, but S Keanu Neal jumped on Edleman crossing pattern opening up a path for Brady to keep the dream alive. Devonta Freeman’s blew an assignment not picking up Donte Hightower blitzing resulting in a sack/fumble giving the Patriots a short field to cut the lead to 28-20. Eric Weems elected to bring back the kickoff out of the endzone after New England tied the game up. He cost his team 4 seconds and more importantly 15 yards of field position. Think of it this way, had Atlanta run the first 3 plays identical, they would’ve had a 3rd&6 at their 41 yard line needing only 20 yards or so to get into long field goal range changing their play-calling entirely on 3rd down. Obviously the call everyone will remember is 2nd&11 and the Falcons calling a pass, and the Patriots recording a sack as a huge play too when a FG potentially makes it an 11 point game with under 4 minutes left, and giving Atlanta roughly a 90% chance at victory at that point.
- The Pats won the coin toss in overtime. Simple, but true. Atlanta was worn out and had no momentum, and it showed.
- They ended this season opposite of last. The Patriots couldn’t come up with big plays. They couldn’t protect Tom Brady. And after driving late to score, they failed on the 2-point try to tie it and force overtime. They amended their wrongs of a year previous. And they are champions again.