Super Bowl LI (51) was supposed to be the Tom Brady Show. It eventually, incredibly, improbably, turned into the Tom Brady show. The New England Patriots quarterback was eventually named MVP -- for the fourth time in a Super Bowl. Yet for much of the game, it was the the Tom Brady nightmare.
The New England Patriots eventually beat the Atlanta Falcons 34-28, but only after pulling off the biggest comeback in Super Bowl history, in the only Super Bowl ever to go into overtime. How did they do it? Somehow. Incredibly. Improbably. Tom Bradily.
The final play that won the match was a little messy, a little controversial. Did he get there? Did James White really break the imaginary plane above the line -- which is all you have to do to register a touchdown?
He did, said the officials, and the New England Patriots are Super Bowl champs for a fifth time. Tom Brady has been an integral part of all of those victories. He too now has five wins, the most by any quarterback and the equal most for any player.
Not bad for a guy who was selected at pick #199 in the draft -- which for the football illiterate, means he wasn't exactly touted to be a superstar.
The Falcons owned the first three quarters of this game. They led the Patriots 21-3 at halftime. Halfway through the third quarter they extended that to 28-3. Not good news for Bostonians and New Englanders.
Overwhelming favourites before the match, the Pats were out-hustled and out-bustled by the Atlanta defense in the first three quarters. The Falcons' offence wasn't bad, either.
After a scoreless first quarter, Atlanta engineered two pretty nice touchdowns in the second period through quarterback Matt Ryan. Nothing for the all-time highlights reels, but good positive plays on the back of long drives.
Brady gets all the press because he's already won four Super Bowls and because he's really good looking and appears in ads where he brushes his teeth and because he's married to Giselle Bundchen and the rest of it.
But it's worth remembering that Ryan, not Brady, won the league's Most Valuable Player award this year. Atlanta, of course, had one of the ever best offensive regular seasons ever this year. They scored 540 points in 16 games, which was 71 more than the next best team.
Even when they didn't score, Atlanta spent the first three quarters of Super Bowl LI making lots of lovely little offensive plays.
Atlanta's defense was in Brady's face too for much of the game. He was sacked in the first quarter, and several times thereafter, which was all very unTomBradylike.
In the second quarter, the 39-year-old evergreen thrower had a pass picked off by Robert Alford, which took Atlanta from 14-0 to 21-0. This was the moment you thought, gee, maybe it's just not going to be their night.
Down 28-3 after half-time, the Patriots had to overturn the biggest ever Super Bowl deficit to win. If any man could make that happen, it was Tom Brady. As the third quarter wore on, the man Brazilians call "Giselo" or "Marido da Gisele" (Gisele's husband) had an increasingly huge task ahead of him.
Then late in the third quarter, a tiny ray of hope. The Patriots finally grabbed a touchdown, but -- can you believe it? -- the kick hit the upright. Falcons 28-9. Miracles still required by the Pats.
Another field goal. 28-12. Not impossible. New England needed possession. And they got it, thanks to a turnover in Atlanta territory with about eight minutes to go. But then Brady was sacked -- again -- on the first play. An omen? No.
The Patriots scored. Relentless as a Boston winter, the Patriots scored. Then got the extra two like a great big cherry on top. 28-20. We had a game, ladies and gentlemen.
Atlanta with the ball. They needed to get the heck out of their end of the field. This play helped. Oh, boy, did this help. Bear in mind, in American football you've got to put both feet down inside the white line to complete a catch. Incredible.
But Atlanta didn't get far with their next possession. They never quite got close enough to go for a field goal attempt and had to punt the ball away. Their last four possessions were three punts and a fumble. The story of this game is the New England comeback. But the prelude to that was the inability of Atlanta to close things out.
Meanwhile, the Patriots advanced downfield, still trailing by 8. A miraculous catch -- captured by some very, um, let's call it "excited" communication from the NFL -- set things up for the Pats.
And then, the inevitable touchdown, with the two points added again. 28-28. Overtime.
New England won the coin toss and elected to receive the ball. And that was that. Brady got them downfield and they got there. Of course they got there. In the current political and social climate in America, was any team going to beat an outfit called the Patriots?