Super Bowl LI for three-quarters was a one-sided beating that you just knew all of the Patriots haters around the country were loving. The greatest Football coach and Quarterback in history took over to turn a one-sided blowout into quite possibly the greatest Super Bowl game ever played. So lets take a look back at what happened and what we learned from this epic game.
1). Dan Quinn out-coached Belichick in the first half- The Falcons had been predominantly a zone defensive team for most of the year. They caught the Patriots by surprise by coming out mostly in man coverage, and they played a lot of robber coverages. You could tell the difference in speed between the teams during the first half. The Falcons used multiple defensive fronts and stunted a lot to put pressure on Brady in the first half. The speed that the Falcons played with just overwhelmed the Patriots in the first half.
2). Belichick’s genius is halftime adjustments- Belichick took advantage of an extended halftime to get his team back on track, Dan Quinn seemed not to adjust, and the Falcons began the second half just like the first and didn’t appear to alter their game plan at all.
3). Poor clock management killed the Falcons- If you look at almost any big second half comeback in NFL history, it all starts with poor clock management by the team that’s in the lead. The Falcons continually in the second half snapped the ball with anywhere from 10-20 seconds left on the play clock, this is more often than not a fatal mistake that teams blowing a big lead make.
4). The turning point of the game- The Falcons were up 28-12 and with 8:24 left in the game and the Falcons in a third and one and the Falcons close to midfield, the Falcons for some reason came out in a shotgun formation(Remember it is third and one). They snapped the ball with the play clock still having 14 seconds on it and to make matters worse Devonta Freeman totally whiffs on a block, and Ryan gets sacked knocking the ball loose, and the Patriots recovered.
5). Painkillers will only get you through one-half- Alex Mack played very well on a reported broken fibula in the first half. After the extra long Super Bowl half-time, he was noticeably limping at the start of the second half. Mack was dominated for most of the second half which led to some game changing plays by the Patriots defense.
6). Dan Quinn deserves a lot of blame for this loss- The Falcons were up 28-20 with just under six minutes left in the game and were starting from their own ten-yard line. They seemed to get themselves out of trouble when Freeman caught a pass and proceeded to get up around midfield. An outstanding throw and catch by Ryan and Jones put the Falcons inside the 25-yard line and within range for an easy field goal. This is a drive where they snapped the ball once with 13 seconds left on the play clock and with 19 seconds left on another occasion. On second and Eleven and under four minutes left on the Patriots 24 yard line the Falcons were for some reason in a shotgun formation, instead of running the ball and kicking a field goal to put them up eleven they were throwing the ball! Center Alex Mack who could barely move by now got manhandled by Patriot defensive lineman Tre Flowers leading to a sack and making it third down, but still in field goal range. On third down instead of running the ball, they throw a pass, but Jake Matthews was called for holding knocking the Falcons out of field goal range.
7). Kyle Shanahan is a good coach, but not a genius- With a 28-3 led and a quarter and a half left in the Super Bowl Shanahan called five running plays the rest of the way.
8). Brady and Belichick are the greatest to ever play and coach the game- After last night this has to be unquestioned.
In conclusion, last night was one of the greatest football games any of us have ever seen. Seahawks coach Pete Carroll took a beating over a questionable play call in the Super Bowl two years ago, it seemed strange to me that Quinn is not getting the same treatment. Quinn basically made decisions that for over a quarter put his team in jeopardy. If you look at any great comeback from a large margin in the fourth quarter they are for the most part due to poor clock management. But, The Patriots were able to make plays to win the game that most teams are not capable of. So I think this was a great comeback that was enabled by a Falcons collapse.