Article written by Daniel Maher (Rock the Barn)
It is officially over. The championship parade has passed and another NFL season has come and gone. It had its highs, and it had its lows. The New England Patriots are the Super Bowl 51 champions. As a sulking Jets fan that is not easy for me to say. Ring number five for Tom Brady didn’t come easy, though. The Patriots fought back from a 28-3 deficit in the second half after managing only a field goal at the end of the first half. Even in the third quarter the Patriots had only managed a touchdown on what looked like a primed-to-shock Falcons defense. Atlanta’s Deion Jones had forced LeGarrette Blount to fumble, eventually leading to the first touchdown of the game. Just when things were looking up for the Patriots it all fell apart when Tom Brady threw the football right to Falcons Cornerback Robert Alford who went untouched for second longest pick six in Super Bowl history. Despite all the success Atlanta was having, its tired defense was no match for Tom Brady’s offense in the fourth quarter. As I sit here and reminisce on the game I bring up this question: What went wrong in the second half for the Atlanta Falcons?
The place to start is missed opportunities. Atlanta started the second half with the ball and did not manage to do anything with the offensive possession, and although they’d cash in for seven on their next offensive possession, the Falcons only managed to put up a touchdown in a second half in which they could have easily scored another 17. Things start to shift after a James White Touchdown to bring the Patriots to within 19. Bill Belichick makes the gutsy decision to for the onside kick and although the immediate result is not favorable for New England as Atlanta recovers it, the Falcons, efficient in the first half, were unable to convert the great field position into any points. Fast forward a bit with the Falcons up eight as they put themselves into field goal range from the spectacular toe tap by Julio Jones. There are just under four minutes left and with a mid-range Field Goal try the Falcons would have a good chance to go up 11, really dealing a blow to the Pats’ hopes. Combine some brainless play calling from Atlanta Offensive Coordinator Kyle Shanahan with some mind-numbing holdings and a huge sack of Matt Ryan and Dan Quinn’s squad found itself out of Kicker Matt Bryant’s range. Some may attribute Shanahan’s decision making to the loss of Tevin Coleman in the fourth quarter, changing the whole dynamic of a once dual-threat backfield. The offensive line also took some hits as the game wore on, losing a right tackle who was replaced by a rookie and Center Alex Mack’s fractured leg was certainly not improving. Finally, the factor of the utmost importance which brought the Falcons failure in the second half was fatigue. Even after being down 25 points, the Patriots still dominated the time of possession. The young, fast, and energetic Atlanta defense slowed down and Brady was able to carve up his later-than-usual defensive dinner.
Even though I hate to say it, I also have to give Tom Brady due credit for doing an excellent job in bringing the Patriots back into the game, and not faulting when they were finally close to the finish line. But, had the Falcons capitalized on just one of their many opportunities and knocked through possibly one more field goal through the uprights, I would not be writing this. I would instead be writing on the eliteness of Matt Ryan and the disaster for an aging Brady. Sometimes, though, things just are the way they are. I’m used to it. I’m a Jets fan.