A Great Super Bowl 51 …

When I was in high school – yes, we had discovered fire by then – I had a classmate of the female persuasion who was an avid sports fan.  After college, she moved to the Boston area and has been there ever since; not surprisingly, she quickly became an ardent fan of the Red Sox and the Patriots and … you get the idea.  Yesterday, I attended a Super Bowl party in Philadelphia and drove back to Northern Virginia after the game and decided to check my e-mail before heading upstairs to feed the cat and then hit the sack.  There was an e-mail in my inbox from this lovely woman that I will reproduce for you here in its entirety:


Given all of the superlatives and all of the hyper-ventilating commentaries that attended the post-game analyses of last night’s game, I believe that my high school classmate captured the moment accurately, succinctly and eloquently.  Please let us not contort ourselves into a meaningless argument about whether this was the best Super Bowl of all time; it was indeed a great game and there is no reason to poke holes in it – or in any other great Super Bowl game one might consider – just to make a meaningless point.

As I noted above, I spent two and a half hours after the game driving home from Philadelphia and I passed at least some of those miles by listening to whatever sports radio station(s) I could pull in on my car radio.  Somewhere around Baltimore, I came across a must have been a nationally syndicated show that took calls from different states; and of course, the topic of the night had to be the Super Bowl game.  At first I was glad to hear that the “debate” would not be about the greatness of this game vis á vis other Super Bowl games; my delight, however was short-lived.  The “debate topic” for the evening was this:

  • Were the Pats “lucky” or did the Falcons “choke”?

After listening to about 3 of the mouth-breathers who got themselves on the air, I let out an audible sigh in the car and hit the off-switch on my radio.  I get it; that sort of paradigm where one sets up two polar opposite camps can fill radio time.  However, it ignores the obvious possibility that the two teams played as well as they could and one of the teams prevailed at the end of a well-played game.  Sigh …

Let me present here some stream of consciousness observations about the game:

  1. I thought that the pass reception made by Julio Jones with about 5 minutes to play in the game to give the Falcons a first down deep in the Pats territory was a game-winning play AND that it was equal to Santonio Holmes catch against the Cardinals in the Super Bowl to give the Steelers a come from behind win.
  2. Then about 3 minutes later, Julian Edlelman made a catch that was just as good as the Jones catch and/or the Holmes catch.  Wow!
  3. I think Kyle Shanahan made a severe tactical error – and said so at the time – after Jones’ catch.  The Falcons led by 8 with about 4 minutes to play and were clearly in field goal range.  Instead of running the ball to chew up the clock – or get the Pats to use all their remaining time-outs – he threw the ball which stopped the clock, allowed Ryan to be sacked and created an offensive holding call that demanded a punt from the Falcons.  Instead of leading by 2 scores, they gave the ball to the Pats who still had 2 time-outs in a 1-score situation and about three-and-a half minutes on the clock.
  4. By the end of the game, the Falcons’ defense was gassed.  In the 4th quarter plus overtime alone, the Pats ran 35 plays and gained 263 yards.  Brady was16 for 27 for 241 net yards passing.  Those stats came from 19 minutes of football; normalized to a 60-minute game, you would break a whole lot of NFL records for offensive football.
  5. I think the unsung heroes for the Pats – overshadowed because of the monstrous comeback in the game – is the Pats’ defensive unit and the Pats’ defensive game plan.  The Falcons only snapped the ball 46 times in the game while the Pats had 93 offensive plays.  The Falcons had the ball only 23:27 in the game as compared to the Pats having the ball for 40:31.
  6. The Falcons had averaged almost 34 points per game in the regular season and 40 points per game in the previous 2 playoff games.  The Pats defense allowed 21 points yesterday – recall that one of the Falcons’ TDs came on a Pick Six.  Moreover, the Falcons’ offense that averaged 415.8 yards per game this season and ranked second in the NFL only managed to gain to 344 yards yesterday.  When you hand out the plaudits for the Pats’ victory here, please do not overlook the job the defense did.
  7. I thought the game was well officiated.  Yes, there were a few no-calls that might be criticized when you look at the replays in slow motion and with a close-up camera shot.  Notwithstanding that virtually inevitable set of circumstances, I thought the officials did a good job last night.
  8. I thought the ads during the game were OK but not great.  I must admit that it would have taken me a lifetime to guess that Morgan Freeman would be a spokesperson for Turkish Airlines in a Super Bowl ad, but no harm; no foul…

I began today telling you about my Boston-residing high school classmate.  In my response to her succinct summation of the game, I pointed something out to her.  There must be something in the air in NRG Stadium in Houston.  Consider this:

  • Last night, NRG Stadium was the site of an historical comeback in a Super Bowl game.
  • Ten months ago, NRG Stadium was the site of the Villanova/UNC final game in the NCAA men’s basketball tournament and you may recall that game was won on a three-point shot at the buzzer by Villanova.
  • With those two games on its résumé, perhaps we should hold a lot more sporting events at NRG Stadium.

But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………



3 thoughts on “A Great Super Bowl 51 …”

  1. I think you nailed it regarding the gassed Falcon defense. And I made the same comment last night about the pass plays after Jones’ great catch. Shoulda run the ball and kicked the game winning field goal.

  2. Why does a defense tire faster than the other team’s offense when both units are on the field for the same number of plays? I have heard these explanations many times, but I have never understood them.

    Having followed the Pats since the early 60s through many bad times, I can only reiterate the reaction of Jacks’ long time friend: OMG.

    1. Gil:

      The standard explanation is that one expends more energy doing the things that defensive players have to do as compared to offensive players. That is not a particularly satisfying explanation to me, but that is the sort of arm-waving answer I have gotten when I have asked that sort of question.

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