Frankly Frankel: Feb. 6, 2017

06 Feb

Tom Brady gets one for the thumb in the greatest comeback in NFL history, the Falcons take a page out of the Seahawks’ Super Bowl playbook by passing instead of running, James White deserved MVP and Paul Pierce’s final game in Boston is one he’ll remember forever.  This is Frankly Frankel on this Monday, February 6, 2017.

  • While I could have never foreseen Super Bowl LI playing out like it did, I couldn’t have imagined the NFL season ending any other way than Roger Goodell being forced to stand on that stage and hand over the Lombardi Trophy to Tom Brady after he exercised his totalitarian authority to suspend Brady for the first four games of the season.  The entire NFL season was building up to that moment.  It was pure destiny, especially after Goodell had gone to extreme lengths to avoid Brady and the Patriots at every turn.
  • If you root or play for the Patriots, there is no better way to win a game than how New England topped the Falcons to win Super Bowl LI.  To be down 28-3 midway through the third quarter and to storm back in the final minute to tie it and then win it in overtime, not even Steven Spielberg could have written a script like that.
  • To go from completely hopeless to euphoric is the best feeling for a sports fan, and that’s what Patriots fans were fortunate enough to experience on Sunday evening.
  • Just off the top of my head, games I got the most satisfaction from winning as a fan are the Yankees beating the Indians in a 2007 game in April after trailing 6-2 in the bottom of the ninth with two outs and no one on base, Games 4 and 5 of the 2001 World Series when the Yankees hit home runs on back-to-back nights to tie the game after being down to their last out and the Aaron Boone game.  These are moments as a fan you never forget.  For the Patriots, it’s this x1,000.
  • As for Tom Brady, an argument could have potentially been made that Joe Montana was a better QB, but after Super Bowl LI, Brady has undoubtedly cemented his legacy as the greatest to ever play the game.  He now has the most championships for any player ever with five, the most appearances in the Super Bowl ever with seven and the most Super Bowl MVPs ever with four.
  • Brady’s drive and determination are something we haven’t witnessed in sports since Michael Jordan.  Even after everything he’s won and accomplished in his career, there isn’t one player who wants it more than Brady, and that’s saying something.
  • That said, and even Brady acknowledged this after the game, James White deserved to win Super Bowl MVP.  White broke Broncos WR Demaryius Thomas’ record of 13 catches with 14 of his own for 110 yards.  He scored the Patriots’ first touchdown of the game off a five-yard pass from Brady, ran it in from one-yard out in the final minute to help force overtime and scored the game-winning touchdown.  White became the first player in Super Bowl history with two rushing touchdowns and a receiving touchdown in the same game.  As great as Brady was, White made the most crucial plays of the game for the Patriots and he should have been recognized for his performance.
  • Even after the Patriots had closed to within 28-20, the Falcons were still in tremendous position to win the franchise’s first Super Bowl ever after Julio Jones made a sensational grab at the New England 22-yard line with 4:47 to play to put Atlanta in prime field goal range.
  • Then, the Falcons and Kyle Shanahan panicked.  After Devonta Freeman lost a yard on first down, Matt Ryan dropped back to pass on second down and was sacked for a 12-yard loss.  On 3rd-and-23 from the 35-yard line now, still in field goal range, Ryan dropped back to pass again hitting Mohamed Sanu for nine yards.  The only problem was Jake Matthews was called for holding (the correct call) pushing Atlanta out of field goal range to the 45-yard line.  Ryan then attempted to play hero looking for Taylor Gabriel, but his pass fell incomplete stopping the clock with 3:44 to go.  The Falcons would go on to punt giving the ball back to Brady with 3:38 to play needing a touchdown and a two-point conversion to tie the game.  We all knew how that was going to turn out.
  • If Shanahan did what he was supposed to do, he would have ran it on second and third down, forcing the Patriots to burn at minimum two of their timeouts, setting the stage for Matt Bryant to kick a field goal to make it a two-possession game.  This is assuming Freeman, who averaged 6.8 yard per attempt in the Super Bowl, didn’t get a first down.  A field goal in that spot would have put Atlanta up 31-20, and when you consider the time that would have ran off the clock and the timeouts burned by the Patriots, it’s almost inconceivable to see Brady drive down the field for a touchdown, have New England recover an onside kick and then kick a game-tying field goal with how ever much time there was left.
  • Yes, the Falcons were up 28-3 in the third quarter, but all could have been salvaged had Kyle Shanahan simply chose to run the ball.  If you remember (how could you forget?), there was an eerily similar situation in Super Bowl XLIX when the Seahawks had the ball at the Patriots’ one-yard line and chose to pass it instead of running it with the best RB in the sport at the time in Marshawn Lynch.  The result was Malcolm Butler coming out of nowhere for the interception to stun Seattle in the closing seconds.
  • If you think about it, the Patriots won two Super Bowls because their opposition utterly refused to run the ball in obvious running situations.  You have to love sports.
  • I hope that after a game like we all witnessed that the actual game becomes the center piece of Super Bowl Sunday and not the halftime show and commercials.  After all, the commercials never live up to the hype anymore and I found Lady Gaga’s performance to have been very conservative and under-whelming.  But that’s just me.
  • Believe it or not, there were other sports played on Super Bowl Sunday and I have to recognize how the Celtics paid tribute to one of their own in Paul Pierce.  Pierce spent the first 15 years of his career in Boston, and no city knows how to celebrate a homegrown kid quite like Boston.  Pierce was moved to tears following a video tribute and the fans were consistently chanting his name throughout the game.  And then with 19 seconds to play, Doc Rivers inserted Pierce into the lineup and he proceeded to hit a 3-pointer for his first points of the game with seconds remaining.  As soon as that ball left Pierce’s hand, there was never any doubt that it was going to go in.  That’s just how these things work.  For the record, he’s no Derek Jeter.  Sorry Boston.
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