Patriots Take Super Bowl in Historic Fashion, but Brady’s Legacy Still in Question

Sean Gorman What a game. This year’s Super Bowl turned out to be one of the greatest NFL championships ever, with the New England Patriots pulling off one of the largest comebacks in the history of professional football—the third largest ever, to be exact—on the game’s biggest stage. The Patriots, down by 25 points with two minutes left in the third quarter, did something that almost no one, except maybe the most die-hard Patriots fans, thought possible. They stormed back, forced the game into overtime, and won. After the first half of the Super Bowl, many people thought the game was a done deal (be honest, you did too). This was only reinforced when the second half began and the Atlanta Falcons continued to dominate the game, scoring once more. Yet as the fourth quarter started, with the Patriots having scored a touchdown, a comeback was stirring. Tom Brady and Bill Belichick are perhaps the greatest player-coach duo in NFL history, and if anyone could mount a comeback so inconceivable, it would be them. While regular season MVP, Falcon’s quarterback Matt Ryan, as well as top wideout Julio Jones struggled, the Patriots thrived. The Falcons offense, while dominant for the first three quarters, had run out of answers for the Patriots’ defense, the third best defense statistically in the NFL. Jones managed to make a few spectacular catches, but otherwise, the Falcons offense looked like a completely different unit than they did in the first half. On top of that, the Falcons defense was worn down. The Patriots ran 93 plays to the Falcons’ 46, with the Falcons defense on the field for 40 minutes and 31 seconds. Both of those numbers are striking; one source calculates that the average NFL offense runs 63.9 plays per game, and time of possession usually is about even. These unusual numbers would make the comeback more conceivable, and although more casual fans may not have been aware at the time, they played a major part in the outcome. The Patriots did everything in their control to win the game, and with a little luck, such as the Julian Edelman catch, ended up winning. The Patriots also prevailed due to the Falcons’ absolute collapse on both sides of the ball. The Falcons offense was in field goal range in the middle of the fourth quarter, leading by eight points, and they looked like they were about to clinch the game. Yet, they were pushed out of field goal range with several big yardage losses. They were forced to punt. The Patriots then stormed down the field on a 90+ yard touchdown drive. After eating up the clock and forcing overtime, the Patriots won the coin toss and their offense went back on the field. The Patriots then repeated what they had done throughout the fourth quarter, driving down the field and scoring a touchdown, ending the game, and winning the Super Bowl. This game may have cemented Tom Brady’s legacy as the greatest football player of all time. With five Super Bowl wins in seven appearances, four Super Bowl MVP awards, and two regular season MVP honors, Tom Brady is one of the most accomplished players in NFL history. Although the numbers would indicate that Brady is better than any quarterback in the history of the NFL, there will always be an asterisk next to his name. Brady has been on a team that has twice been convicted of cheating: Spy-gate and Deflategate. While Patriots fans might contend that Brady had nothing to do with either of those convictions, he was a leader in the Patriots organization, and that will forever taint his legacy. The irony is that Brady probably did not need to cheat in order to win. He likely would have been viewed as the greatest player in history even without the questionable victories. We may never know the impact of the Patriots’ cheating, but it will always raise questions about Brady’s status in the list of all time NFL greats. Setting Brady aside, this year’s Super Bowl proves at least one point. If we, as fans and spectators, have learned anything this season, it is this: nothing is over until it’s over. Whether it involves overcoming a 3-1 series deficit to win the World Series (a certain team from the North Side); coming back from two down and winning three straight games to clinch the NBA Finals (Cleveland Cavaliers); winning the college football National Championship on the final play of the game (Clemson); winning the NCAA Finals on a buzzer-beater (Villanova); or storming back to tie the Illinois state championship game with four minutes left, and then scoring twice in overtime, as the Romans Varsity Soccer team did in November, on their way to winning the State Championship, winning teams never give up.]]>