Super Bowl LI: Fear and loathing from the couch
What better way to honor the late great Hunter S. Thompson than to enjoy this year’s Super Bowl while I wash down Vicodin and muscle relaxants with soon to be tariffed Pacifico Beer hoping to forget my searing sciatica pain as well as the memory of a boring NFL season? I actually considered not even watching the game and just playing it out on my old electric football set.After all, the all blue guys would be perfect as the New England Patriots and the red as the Atlanta Falcons. Then I realized, to play an entire game on the old set takes about three months. Not only would I miss my deadline, I’d run out of beer and drugs.
I also thought about recording the game and watching it commercial free, but decided not to because I didn’t want to have to erase my unwatched episodes of Shark Tank and Project Runway Jr. Maybe I could skip the game all together and just cut and paste Peter King’s Monday Morning Quarterback and call it an article. If I got busted, I could just tell everyone I miswrote the article, but certainly never intended to plagiarize. I even thought about dressing up my dogs in Patriot and Falcon outfits and let them simulate the game, but then I realized they can’t play football unless the balls are deflated. I would just have to suck it up and watch the game.
Nothing excites me more than a three-hour game that takes four and a half hours to play. It’s the only thing I know that beats Roger Goodell’s annual State of the League address, or as I like to call it, Lies From A Multi Millionaire Liar. He really should consider a career as a stand up comic.
Back to the game, or as the NFL insists we call it, the big game, because they own the name Super Bowl. Since the NFL does not own the name toilet bowl, I like to honor Mr. Goodsell by warning people, “I am going to the John to take a really Super Roger. Where’s the air freshener?”
Damn it, I got distracted again. It must be the drugs. Like the league when it comes to ignoring brain damage to players, I refuse to hold myself accountable for what I am writing. Besides, it’s not like I am doing anything illegal. I was prescribed this stuff by a team doctor who has my best interest at heart.Without it, I might not be able to watch the game, which would mean no column from me.
You have no idea how ruthless my editor can be. If I don’t turn something in, he is liable to replace me with a beautiful Peruvian woman. I am willing to take one for the Los Angles Post-Examiner team because I know they need me.
New England 34 – Atlanta 28
As I watched the Falcons take a 28 to 3 lead in the third quarter, I found myself thinking we were watching the beginning of the end of the Patriots dynasty. They were clearly over matched by Atlanta’s speed. When Tom Brady was not getting the crap knocked out of him, he was off target on throws to wide open receivers. When the ball was on the mark, too many were dropped.
Meanwhile, Atlanta, despite not having the ball much, was eating up huge chunks of real estate. Early, they ran the ball at will which then opened up the passing game. Atlanta was having their way with the Patriots. At one point, they had 28 points after running a mere 33 plays.
New England was also their own worst enemy. On what was perhaps their best drive of the first half, LeGarrett Blount coughed up the football for the first time in 16 games. Atlanta turned the mistake into a touchdown and not long after, Tom Brady tossed a pick six.
But then a strange thing happened on the way to Atlanta’s victory. The Patriots failed to panic more than they failed to put many points on the scoreboard for three quarters. They continued to play at a patient pace, refusing to hit the panic button.
Trailing by nineteen points entering the fourth quarter, no one really thought they stood a chance, well, at least no one other than Brady and his bunch of unsung heroes. The offensive line began to tighten up their blocking as Brady marched his team methodically down the field to a field goal and two touchdowns. The Patriot defense began to make plays and suddenly Atlanta found themselves unable to stick one more finishing dagger into the heart of New England or run out the clock.
Even when New England tied the score with 57 seconds left, there was a sense Matt Ryan would lead his talented offense on one more drive for a game wining field goal. When that did not happen and the Patriots won the coin toss for overtime allowing them to receive the kickoff, the game was all but over.
The Falcons defensive line, which earlier was making life miserable for Brady, was gassed. Their defensive backs could no longer not just hang with the New England receivers, they seemed incapable of not committing penalties.
Like a horror film character believed to be killed, Tom Brady and his gang rose from the dead and not only won the first over time game in Super Bowl history, they did it by coming back from the largest deficit ever, 25 points, to not only win the franchise’s 5th Super Bowl, but to also rip out the hearts of the entire Atlanta Falcon franchise and their fans.
There are moments in sports that live on forever, worthy of the history books; Babe Ruth calling his shot, Joe Namath and his guarantee, Don Larsen’s perfect game, Michael Jordan and the flu. You can add Tom Brady and the Patriots to the list. This was a masterpiece.
And for those who will call this the worst choke job ever, perhaps. However, what I saw was not so much a team choking as another team executing a game plan and holding firm against horrible odds.
The Falcons did not fall into a prevent defense or try to just run the ball hoping to run out the clock. They kept coming at New England, but what can you do when you can’t get your hands on the ball? It was the Patriots who controlled the time of possession for most of the game, even when they were getting destroyed in the first half. They played for field position when they had to and refused to go into a no huddle mode when they fell further and further behind.
Bill Belichick knew his team could not win if the game were turned into a live version of Madden Football. He would have to keep the Falcon offense off the field as much as possible, and while they were getting their butts kicked in the first half, the Patriots defense was clearly rested and played with more passion in the second half. It’s no coincidence as the Falcon defense began wilting from chasing Brady and his receivers all game long, the Patriots defense imposed their will and shut down the Falcons offense.
Perhaps the rest of the NFL saw the early cracks of one of sports greatest dynasties. But they also saw what it is about that team that makes them better than anyone else. Only next year will tell if a new king ascends to the top of the NFL.
However, for the fifth time during the Belichick/Brady era, the New England Patriots are hoisting the Lombardi Trophy and another team, the Atlanta Falcons, are left with an off season, gutted, spent, and most of all, to wonder “what if,” perhaps the worst feeling there is in all of sports.
Top photo: James White’s lunge across the goal like for the game-winning Patriots touchdown (YouTube)
Jim is a life long resident of California and retired school teacher with 30 years in public education. Jim earned his BA in History from CSU Chico in 1981 and his MA in Education from Azusa Pacific University in 1994. He is also the author of Teaching The Teacher: Lessons Learned From Teaching. Jim considers himself an equal opportunity pain in the ass to any political party, group, or individual who looks to profit off of hypocrisy. When he is not pointing out the conflicting words and actions of our leaders, the NFL commissioner, or humans in general, he can be found riding his bike for hours on end while pondering his next article. Jim recently moved to Camarillo, CA after being convinced to join the witness protection program.