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The Blue & Gray Press | June 29, 2017

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Super Bowl LI provides all-time great ending

Super Bowl LI provides all-time great ending

By RYAN BRAUCH

Heading into their first Super Bowl appearance since 1999, the Atlanta Falcons had been dubbed as underdogs from the moment the Super Bowl matchup was set. Although they were not favored, the Falcons remained optimistic, as they entered only their second Super Bowl appearance in franchise history. One major concern for Falcons’ head coach Dan Quinn, was making sure his defense was able to shut down the Patriots’ elite offense.

Defense was not a problem for either team in the first quarter, as both teams went scoreless. This made it the eighth game in Super Bowl history in which neither teamed scored in the initial quarter. Later in the second quarter, the Falcons were able to strike quickly and efficiently twice, giving them a 14-0 lead. Unlike the Patriots, the Falcons’ defense did not falter and stayed aggressive.

After the offense scored twice, the Atlanta defense decided they would have turn, as cornerback Robert Alford picked off Tom Brady then proceeded to run it into the endzone. After a lackluster first half, New England finally put points on the board with a late field goal from Stephen Gostkowski in the last few seconds of the half. Following an utterly dominant defensive performance and an 18-point halftime lead, the Falcons must have felt fairly confident. However, as many coaches commonly preach, “you have to play the full 60 minutes,” which is the exact opposite of what Atlanta did following halftime. As Dan Quinn watched his offense completely shut down, Tom Brady began his epic comeback.

Once Matt Ryan led the Falcons down the field for a touchdown with eight minutes remaining in the third quarter, Atlanta did not score for the rest of the game. With a 28-3 lead, Matt Ryan and the Falcons were comfortable with only a quarter and a half left in the game. Little did Quinn’s Falcons know, they were about to allow the biggest comeback in Super Bowl history. For the remainder of the game, Atlanta’s offense did little to nothing.

Towards the end of the third quarter, things were looking bleak for the Patriots, even after James White found the endzone for a touchdown, which was then followed by Gostkowski missing the extra point attempt. Heading into the fourth quarter, down by 19 points, it looked almost impossible for the Patriots to come back and win, but Bill Belichick had other plans.

While keeping the Falcons’ offense quiet, the New England defense provided more opportunities for Tom Brady. Gostkowski later redeemed himself, nailing a crucial field goal that nearly went wide right. With eight minutes left in the game, the Patriots were able to force a necessary fumble, in which they recovered it. This turnover enabled Brady to lead the team down field to find Danny Amendola for a sneaky touchdown with under six minutes left, followed by a clutch two-point conversion by James White.

As the game clock came closer and closer to zero, the only thing Matt Ryan and the Falcons needed to do was run the clock. Unfortunately for Dan Quinn, Trey Flowers negated Atlanta’s poor attempt to run the clock out with a forceful sack, forcing Atlanta to punt. Starting on their own four-yard line, the Patriots needed a miracle to come back and that is exactly what they got.

Brady flung pass after pass, nearly getting intercepted twice. Finally, James White found his way to the endzone again, which was followed by another amazing two-point conversion. Through the span of a quarter, New England was able to erase a huge deficit to send the game into the first overtime of Super Bowl history.

After winning the coin toss, Brady led the team to the red zone fairly easily as James White capped off the best comeback of Super Bowl history by getting his third touchdown of the night. The Falcons’ relaxed and overconfident play style in the second half led to their devastating demise. There was little to no urgency on the offensive side of the ball, which gave the Patriots numerous opportunities to decrease the looming deficit. Following an embarrassing loss and losing their offensive coordinator, Kyle Shanahan to the San Francisco 49er’s, the Falcons will quietly prepare to attempt to reach the Super Bowl again, in the shadows of New England’s celebrations.

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