Monday, February 6, 2017

Wait ... what?

In some other universe today, one that does not include Tom Brady, the Atlanta Falcons are celebrating. Most of America is celebrating. People are all like, "Well, that showed those cheaters," and "Suck it, Brady" -- the meme that will never die, at least outside New England.

Except ...

Except everyone woke up today in this universe. And, yes, that still happened.

"That," of course, being the greatest comeback in Super Bowl history, and also the greatest choke. "That" being Brady -- indisputably the Greatest Of All Times now, no matter what you think of him -- leading his beleaguered New England Patriots to 25 points in 17 minutes, then taking them down the field in overtime to win Supe LI, 34-28.

(Which brings us to the second miracle of this day, the Blob's eerily accurate prediction. The final was Patriots 34, Falcons 28; the Blob's call was Patriots 34, Falcons 27. Pigs will now fly, and the moon will turn the color of blood)

In any case, it was a situation where you can throw around the word "epic," and no one will roll his or her eyes. It was epic, on both ends. In future years, how Brady brought his team back from the brink of death -- down 28-3 with the third quarter nearly gone -- will be viewed with nearly as much wonder as how the Falcons lost a game that looked so profoundly unlose-able for so long.

A few observations from Epicville:

* If Brady and Matt Ryan filled the air with footballs -- Brady chucked it a record 62 times for a record 466 yards -- this game turned on the fulcrum that decides almost every Super Bowl: Defense. Nearly lost in all the Brady GOAT chatter is the fact the Patriots defense sacked Ryan five times and pretty much shut down the Falcons' league-leading offense after the 8:48 mark of the second quarter. The Falcons' offense scored just once after that, and was shut out for the final 23:31 of regulation and the overtime. For the game, they managed just 17 first downs and had the football for just 23:27.

Which led directly to ...

*  ... the Patriots comeback. For most of three quarters, Brady vs. the Falcons defense looked like what it was, a 39-year-old quarterback against faster, younger, more eager men. Windows closed absurdly quickly for the 39-year-old, and he was continually pressured, hit, sacked and otherwise abused by the hungry kids in the Falcons down seven.

But here's the thing: Even if the Patriots weren't scoring, Brady was still moving the chains. The Patriots piled up a ridiculous 37 first downs before they were done, and hogged the football an equally ridiculous 40 minutes plus. Eventually, that stole even the Falcons' young legs. That's why that 25-point Falcons lead vanished, and that's why the Patriots scored 19 points in the fourth quarter.

* Speaking of young, the Falcons' Super Bowl inexperience finally reared its head as things began to fray. On a couple of occasions, Ryan took sacks when he absolutely could not take sacks, driving the Falcons out of field goal range when a field goal was all they needed to finally make the thing a bridge too far for even Brady. An egregious, crucial holding penalty helped that process along, too. As did a couple of defensive holding penalties as the tiring Falcons defensive backs tried to do with their hands what their legs could no longer do.

The Patriots, in short, were much the cooler team down the stretch. As you might have figured.

* Best part of the night: The catches made by Julio Jones and Julian Edelman. Never been two more oh-my-God, grab-your-head catches in the same Super Bowl.

 * Worst part of the night: Having to listen to Robert Kraft play the persecuted victim as he held the Lombardi Trophy aloft, saying it was the sweetest of the Patriots' Super Bowl wins because of all they've gone through the last two years. Sorry, Bob, but that kite won't fly. Whatever happened to you, you brought it on yourselves. Try not cheating next time.

* Oh, yes: And Lady Gaga killed it in the halftime show. End of discussion.

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