That feature image right there could have been seen by everyone across the nation, in newspapers and online articles alike. Alas, the New England Patriots came back as the Atlanta Flacons choked their lead in Super Bowl 51 away on Sunday. There were two main keys to why the Patriots made a comeback. First, the Falcons decided not to run the ball when they had the ball with 5:56 left in the fourth quarter and up by eight points.
Let me set the scene; the Patriots just scored after a Matt Ryan fumble to make the game a one-score game. The score is now 28-20 Falcons after the Patriots started a comeback from down 28-3 early in the third quarter. Now Stephen Gostkowski, after missing a PAT earlier in the game, is ready to kick off down eight. Instead of kicking it out of bounds he kicks it to the three-yard line where returner Justin Hardy takes it seven yards to the 10-yard line to start the drive.
This has been a much-used tactic by Coach Belichick and other coaches this year after the rule change to make touchbacks go to the 25-yard line. The Matt Ryan, as he has done much of this game, takes the snap and passes a dump off throw to Falcons running back Devonta Freeman who goes 39 yards to get the Falcons to midfield. This play has worked multiple times for the Falcons early in the game as Freeman seemed unstoppable out of the backfield.
Now the Falcons lined up heavy right and ran a stretch play outside of the tackle for Freeman who gained two yards and got onto the other side of the field. Even though it was only two yards, this was the biggest play of the game for the Falcons offense as starting offensive tackle Ryan Schraeder went down on the play. Schraeder was one of the linemen that played every meaningful snap leading up to that play; he was also ranked seventh in the NFL in blocking on the season.
This great grab nearly out shadowed the pass that was called “David Tyree 2.0” by Julio Jones, he managed to beat double coverage, get behind his man, and extend his body as far as possible for him. He also managed to time his jump just perfectly with the ball thrown from Matt Ryan at the perfect time, angle and spot. Jones also managed to tap both of his feet inbounds for what could have been the game changing catch as the Falcons were in field goal range looking to go up by two scores. Then everything went downhill.
First a sweep play to the left for a one-yard loss, not a big deal right? Then on the next play, Matt Ryan gets the snap in the shotgun while the Patriots run an “a-gap stunt.” Which is where the nose tackle, Trey Flowers, rushes across the guard’s face right into the center while the linebacker fills the other gap, the Falcons line gets confused and lets Flowers run free to Ryan, and he gets a sack. Now it is 3rd and 23, a 53-yard field goal for Bryant, but the Falcons and Matt Ryan try to get some yardage back. So he throws a nine-yard crossing route to Mohammed Sanu, and the Falcons are right back in business until the flag was thrown on the field signaling offensive holding on Jake Matthews, a 10-yard loss. Ryan then throws an incomplete pass forcing the Falcons to punt.
Had any of these plays, especially the sack, turned into the Falcons favor the Super Bowl would have a brand new ending. Alas, since Atlanta decided not to run the ball and instead was aggressive until the end, which I commend, they lost themselves the Super Bowl. This may have been the only chance at a Super Bowl for the Falcons as offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan, is bolting for the San Fransisco 49ers.
What truly made the Flacons lose the game are the ridiculous overtime rules that the NFL employs. The NFL is the only league that doesn’t give both teams an equal chance, in MLB both teams are offense, not first run wins, in the NBA it’s a timed quarter, not first basket is game. Even in college, which some people do not like for some reason, they have an equal opportunity overtime and possibly a better type of overtime. It is not that the NFL only had bad overtime rules, but having a coin flip decide who the winner is also ridiculous.
No one could blame the NFL, or say that the NFL is rigged if both teams were able to get a chance in the final quarter of the game. It should not be, win the coin toss or lose, it should be more like college except start on the 35-yard line and not allow field goals unless outside of the 25-yard line and it being fourth down. The NFL could even adopt the NHL rules and do something equivalent to a shootout, such as Oklahoma drills or 1-on-1 pass catching/defending drill. No matter what the NFL does to fix overtime, as long as both teams get a chance to win, then it is finally fixed.