When the Atlanta Falcons went up 28-3 midway through the third quarter of Super Bowl LI, a lot of people thought the game was over.
“Yeah, it was over. It was done. It was toast,” CBSSports.com NFL writer Will Brinson said on CBS Sports Radio’s The Doug Gottlieb Show. “I think at least once or twice in the press box I mentioned that, ‘Hey, if they get this to two scores and we’re north of five minutes, because they have Tom Brady, (the Patriots would have a chance).’ But I certainly thought that Atlanta would figure out a way to find the end zone one more time and put it away. It was a stunning, stunning game.”
The Falcons failed to score again, and the Patriots reeled off 31 unanswered points to win the first overtime Super Bowl in NFL history, 34-28.
Atlanta lived in the Patriots’ back field in the first half but didn’t get much pressure on Brady in the second. That was a key factor in the comeback.
“They were not the best defense in the NFL throughout the regular season, and they did a superb job in the first half getting pressure on Tom Brady, putting hits on Tom Brady, making Tom Brady uncomfortable,” Brinson said. “And what you saw was the Patriots offense that we see when Tom Brady is pressured. (It’s) not very good. That’s not atypical of any offense where the quarterback is pressured, and I think they ran out of gas. The Patriots do what they often do, which is make adjustments, and you saw Brady step up. All of the breaks, all of the possible breaks, that could have helped Atlanta out really didn’t go their way.”
It’s easy to say that the Falcons are talented and young and that they’ll be back next year. But a lot of people also said that about the Panthers last year.
Carolina went 6-10 this season and missed the playoffs.
“It’s not easy to win Super bowls,” Brinson said. “And as good as the Falcons are – and I think they’re very good – they’re going to lose Kyle Shanahan. He was a big component of that offense with his play-calling this year. You can’t guarantee health and success and luck in the NFL, and the Falcons also play in a very difficult division. Even though the Panthers weren’t great this year and the Saints don’t like to play the defense and the Buccaneers are up and down, those are four teams with quarterbacks that are going to create issues for each other over the next three years. To me, nothing is guaranteed in the NFL. It’s a year-to-year proposition. I think Atlanta will be good in the future, but to say that they’ll be back is certainly a fallacy, in my mind.”
Brady, meanwhile, set Super Bowl records for completions (43) and passing yards (466) – numbers that only further his legacy.
“I’m probably a little generationally biased, but for me, it seals any further argument about him being the greatest of all time,” Brinson said. “To me, there’s no further discussion. I don’t care if you want to go with Joe Montana, but I think you’re insane. I think Brady is the greatest ever – probably the greatest player ever. It just increases his legacy. He wasn’t great for much of the game, but he was great when it mattered, and at the end of the day, he’s got five Super Bowl rings.”