By John Albinson, Chief Sports Editor
FIRST QUARTER: NE 0-ATL 0: Fifteen minutes into Super Bowl LI and surprisingly not much has happened. Atlanta, besides running back Devonta Freeman, looks like a team that has never played in a Super Bowl. Thankfully, New England isn’t playing like a team that’s won four Super Bowls in the past sixteen years. Brady looks mortal; he’s been sacked twice, made a few good throws but nothing crazy. Similarly, recently crowned league MVP Matt Ryan hasn’t done much, either. Julio Jones has what feels like zero targets—it’s been said again and again, but if you want to win the Super Bowl, you need to throw the ball to the best wide receiver in the NFL. As a lifelong (unfortunately) New York Jets fan, I am wholeheartedly rooting for the Dirty Birds to win this one. New England ball to end the quarter.
SECOND QUARTER: NE 3-ATL 21: Robert Alford is an American hero. Remember when I wrote that the Falcons were playing like a team that’s never played in a Super Bowl? For the last fifteen minutes, they’ve played like a team that’s won every Super Bowl ever. Even if the Pats end up coming back and winning (which could very well happen—they’re the Pats), the second quarter of this game has been, like, “The Godfather” of NFL quarters. The best ever. What could possibly alleviate the pain of watching the Falcons get a ridiculous three holding calls against them in a row? Watching Brady respond by throwing an 82-yard pick-six. Watching that play was sort of like seeing the Grand Canyon in person, if the Grand Canyon was located in NRG Stadium in Houston. Atlanta’s defense has been incredible so far, and New England has really had no answer for them. The problem with that? Lady Gaga’s halftime show will give Belichick some time to find an answer for them. If you had told me 24 hours ago that the Falcons would be up 21-3 at the half, I would have definitely believed you, because only someone who had the sports almanac from “Back to the Future Part II” would say something as bold as that. I’m going to enjoy this lead for as long as I can.
THIRD QUARTER: NE 9-ATL 28: A relatively quiet quarter compared to the second, Atlanta scored their fourth touchdown of the game early on in the quarter. New England responded with a long drive and touchdown of their own…only to have their only momentum of the game shattered by a missed extra point by Stephen Gostkowski. Both the Pats and the Falcons played fine that last quarter, but New England is still down by 19. Atlanta may have slowed down, but New England didn’t do anything to take advantage of that. With only one quarter left, and with years of watching the Pats dominate and make inexplicable comebacks, I am more nervous than happy right now.
FOURTH QUARTER: NE 28-ATL 28: I hate rooting against the Patriots, and everything I’ve ever liked is a lie.
FINAL/OT: NE 34-ATL 28: What was at one time arguably the most enjoyable Super Bowl game I’ve ever watched quickly turned into a nightmare, faster than Tom Brady ripped the hearts out of millions of Falcons fans across the globe in one fateful quarter. Overtime didn’t really feel like overtime; it just felt like a designated period of time held solely for the Pats to win the game—and they did, pretty easily. Did the Pats play really well in the second half? Undoubtedly. And did the Falcons have no answer on offense or defense? Pretty much. The Pats got a ridiculous amount of calls in their favor, which ultimately played a crucial role in the game. But at the end of the night, the Pats played better down the stretch—and “the stretch” is all that matters in sports. Atlanta played lights out for the first three quarters, and couldn’t do anything after that; New England the opposite. As a person who dislikes the Pats not only because of my New York sports fandom but also because it’s really easy to root against a team that Richard Spencer openly supports, it’s not fun watching them win again. But as someone who enjoys sports, this game was both riveting and historic in the fact that it was the first overtime Super Bowl in league history—and that’s something to appreciate in itself.
Photograph Credits: Sports Illustrated