The Super Bowl: the NFL season culminated in one game in which the two best teams get to battle it out on the big stage in front of 113.7 million people. The game has created many classics throughout the years, but Super Bowl LI proved to be the greatest of them all.
Take it all the way back to the beginning of the season. New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady gets slapped with a four-game suspension for the deflate-gate scandal in the 2015 AFC championship game, which put the team at a severe disadvantage.
Despite the setback, Brady and his men glided through the regular season with a 14-2 record and in the playoffs took care of every opponent, proving a point to the league and haters alike. With this the stage was set, the best team in the AFC against the Atlanta Falcons, who boasted a young yet powerful team led by 2016 MVP quarterback Matt Ryan in a highly anticipated match-up.
As halftime of the game rolled around, the match-up hadn’t turned out like anyone had anticipated, with the Falcons beating down on the Patriots, 28-3. But the team that was down was Brady, Bill Belichick and the rest of the New England Patriots. Never count them out.
The entire second half was an uphill battle for the Patriots as they tried and tried to erase the 25-point deficit hanging over their heads.
Then Brady and the Patriots did what they do best. They beat down on the Falcons, play after play, series after series, until, to the dismay of everyone and no one, they had tied the game at the end of regulation with a late touchdown from James White and a two point conversion from Danny Amendola, making Super Bowl history by being the first to go to overtime.
Sure, it took a miraculous catch by Julian Edelman and a botched coaching job by Falcons offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan, but it was vintage Patriots that took advantage of the opportunities they were given.
In overtime, the Patriots won the coin toss and not even five minutes later scored the game-winning touchdown to seal their fifth Lombardi Trophy in franchise history.
Not shown in the statistics of the game are the records produced from the players. Brady appeared in his seventh Super Bowl, the most all time by one player and tied the record at five for most wins by one player. Belichick took the same records with his seventh appearance and broke the record for a coach with his fifth win. In all, 31 records were broken, including most points in a game, most receptions, most first downs, largest deficit overcome and most appearances by one team for New England.
Other games may come close to this one, but they just don’t hit the mark. Some of the other games widely considered the best are ones such as Super Bowl XXV between the New York Giants and Buffalo Bills. That game was a thriller that ended in a heartbreaking missed field goal for the Bills, giving the Giants a 20-19 victory. Another would be Super Bowl XLII, in which the Giants again won narrowly against the Patriots with a David Tyree catch for the ages to ironically cap a large comeback, 17-14.
What those other games truly lacked in comparison to this one was the story line that carried through this whole season. The intensity and grit that the Patriots played with as they had all the odds stacked against them as they tried to make a statement to a league that has constantly caught them in the act of cheating. The statement of distaste for the head honcho of football could be heard from the fans loudly and clearly as they booed Commissioner Roger Goodell when he came out to deliver the trophy.
The sheer amount or records in this game also help trump all the other classics. Coming back from an nearly impossible deficit of 25 points in just one half while holding the Falcons, who had exploded on offense in the first half, is nearly unheard of in the NFL, especially in the most crucial game of the year.
This fact, combined with the consideration of Brady and Belichick as two of the best of all time, is the perfect formula for the greatest Super Bowl in history. Not just history but maybe the future, as well. It’s difficult to see any other ever living up to this one.