The NFL season wrapped up with Super Bowl LI in Houston with the New England Patriots winning their fifth Super Bowl title by a score of 34-28.
The Atlanta Falcons were cruising towards their first Super Bowl win in history with a 28-3 halftime lead. The largest deficit ever overcome in Super Bowl history had been 10 points, but the Patriots showed why they are a dynasty, coming back from 25 points down to win. It was arguably the most impressive of their five Super Bowl wins with head coach Bill Belichick and quarterback Tom Brady at the helm.
It was truly a tale of two halves as Atlanta did whatever they wanted on both sides of the ball in the first half. While Matt Ryan and the offense were great, the defense stood out. Atlanta’s defense forced two turnovers in the first half, including an 82-yard pick-six by Robert Alford. The second half did not start any better for the Patriots as the Falcons extended their lead to 28-3 midway through the third quarter. While the Patriots looked like they were on the ropes, they played perfect football from that point.
The Patriots scored 19 points in the fourth quarter, including two touchdowns and two two-point conversions while holding the Falcons to zero points. By overtime, the Falcons defense was gassed, and when the Patriots won the toss and elected to receive the writing seemed to be on the wall. Running back James White scored from two yards out to cap the improbable comeback, which meant New England managed to cover the 3-point spread and the total went OVER.
Brady set a record with his fourth Super Bowl MVP award, going 43-of-62 for 466 yards, two touchdowns and a pick, while White caught 14 passes for 110 yards and a score and also ran for two TDs.
For Atlanta, Ryan, who named the regular season MVP, was 17-of-23 for 284 yards and two touchdowns, while Devonta Freeman ran for 75 yards and had 46 receiving yards, and Julio Jones had 87 receiving yards. They will be haunted for a while – especially on a late fourth-quarter drive where they moved inside the Patriots’ 30-yard line. They also recovered an onside kick attempt in the third quarter, but even with great field position on both drives the Falcons shot themselves in the foot with sacks and penalties, and did not even get off a field goal attempt.
Looking ahead, the odds for Super Bowl LII at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minnesota are out, and of course the Patriots are the favorites at +400. Belichick and Brady will be back, and while they have a few free agents to worry about (as well as the injury-prone Rob Gronkowski), it does not seem to matter who you put around them anymore.
Next in line are the Dallas Cowboys (+900), who had the best record in the NFC this season. They have a young core with Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott, and should be in contention for years. Green Bay (+1000) comes in next as they are still powered by Aaron Rodgers.
The Pittsburgh Steelers (+1200) are viewed highly as their young defense looked good down the stretch of the season. Their offense, which is usually their strength, should help them be one of the best teams in football next season. They are tied with the Falcons (+1200). Offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan, who deserves a large piece of the blame for the Super Bowl loss, is off to coach in San Francisco. This might have been the best chance that Atlanta had at a Super Bowl win. Denver, Seattle and Oakland come in at +1600, while the Minnesota Vikings (+1800) are the only other team inside of 20/1.