For the fifth time, the NFL season came to an end with Tom Brady clutching the Vince Lombardi Trophy as the New England Patriots enjoyed a confetti-infused Super Bowl celebration. In a thrilling game the city of Atlanta won’t soon forget, the Patriots came storming back from a 28-3 deficit to edge the Falcons 34-28 in overtime.
Aside from the mountain of broken records that were left shattered on the field at NRG Stadium in Houston, NFL fans will long remember this Super Bowl for the devastating collapse that led to Atlanta coughing up a 25-point lead. New England held a decisive upper hand in both plays run (93 to 46) and time of possession (40:31 to 23:27) as they marched back from a 28-3 hole at the 8:31 mark in the third quarter, but Atlanta’s play calling near the end of the fourth quarter ultimately led to their demise. The Falcons held a 28-20 lead with 4:40 remaining in regulation with the ball at the New England 23 yard line. A few simple run plays and a Matt Bryant boot through the uprights would have given Atlanta an 11-point lead with just minutes between them and a Super Bowl title. Instead, Atlanta ran one rushing play before absorbing a sack and a holding penalty, which led to a punt from near midfield. Tom Brady then marched the Patriots to a game-tying score before wrapping up his fifth title with a convincing overtime drive for a title winning touchdown.
Brady Breaks Passing Record
As the Patriots steamrolled the Falcons in the fourth quarter and overtime, Tom Brady stacked up a healthy pile of passing yards as he peppered his receivers and running backs with targets. Brady finished the game with a Super Bowl record 466 passing yards and spread the ball around between his receiving options as six New England players saw six or more targets. With the Patriots running game rendered useless by the huge third quarter deficit, James White emerged from the New England backfield to lead the team with 14 catches on a massive total of 16 targets. White racked up 110 receiving yards and found the end zone once through the air and twice on the ground for a trio of scores. Brady’s performance was even more impressive considering the absence of Rob Gronkowski, but the Patriots used a balanced passing attack to force their way back into the game and ultimately claim the victory.
Falcons Effective In Limited Snaps
The Atlanta offense was effective throughout the game, but the limited play count compared to their opposition stunted the statistical upside of the Falcons’ skill players. NFL MVP Matt Ryan chucked the rock for 284 yards and two scores, but was left on the sideline for most of the critical moments of the game as Brady and the Patriots marched up and down the field. Rookie tight end Austin Hooper led the Falcons with six targets, catching three passes for 32 yards and a touchdown. Julio Jones caught all four of his targets for 87 yards, which included multiple world class catches that left viewers in awe. The Falcons would have likely preferred to feed the beastly Jones more than four targets, but New England paid plenty of attention to the All-Universe receiver throughout the game. Running back Devonta Freeman chipped-in with 121 total yards on 13 touches, including some chunk plays and a five-yard touchdown scamper. Perhaps if Freeman would have seen a few more carries in the waning moments of the game, the outcome would have been reversed. OC Kyle Shanahan will be under plenty of scrutiny in coming days over the late-game decisions made for his offense in the fourth quarter.
New England tied the game at 28-28 before the teams headed into overtime, but the Patriots had the ball for one last play before time expired in regulation. The final play resulted in a fake kneel down play with running back Dion Lewis receiving the ball and attempting to make a play down the sideline. Lewis finished the rumble in a heap on the sideline in what initially appeared to be a knee or ankle injury. Thankfully, Lewis reportedly suffered a hamstring injury with no damage done to his recently repaired ACL. Lewis took a backseat to James White in the game, totaling just 29 yards on seven touches. … Atlanta running back Tevin Coleman exited the game with an ankle injury in the fourth quarter after racking up 35 total yards on eight touches. Coleman also caught a touchdown pass that pushed Atlanta’s lead to 28-3 before the New England avalanche began. Coleman will be an intriguing mid-round fantasy option in drafts next summer.
Super Bowl LI Quick Slants
Falcons WR Taylor Gabriel showed his wheels on three receptions that totaled 76 yards. Gabriel will be a worthwhile target in best ball leagues this offseason thanks to the explosive nature of his game and the Atlanta offense. … Rookie Malcolm Mitchell snagged six of seven targets for 70 yards in an impressive performance. Mitchell’s role will continue to expand as he develops in New England’s offense. … LeGarrette Blount was held to just 11 carries in the game, which included a lost fumble. Blount was left out of the Patriots’ second half game plan as they chased down the Falcons. … Mohamed Sanu caught nine passes for 96 yards and two scores in Atlanta’s first two playoff games, but hauled-in just two passes for 25 yards in the Super Bowl. Sanu won’t be an exciting redraft target next season. … Julian Edelman had a productive night, catching five passes for 87 yards on 13 targets including a jaw-dropping catch late in the game that immediately drew David Tyree comparisons. Edelman will continue to thrive in his slot role next season and will be a worthwhile early-round fantasy target.
In Other News…
The Kirk Cousins saga in Washington will likely roll through multiple offseason months as the Redskins work on locking up their quarterback to a long-term contract. Recent reports have suggested that quarterback-needy teams like Chicago and San Francisco could be interested in Cousins’ services, but Redskins president Bruce Allen told the Washington Post that he is “sure” the teams and Cousins will “come to an agreement.” Cousins will either play the 2017 season under a second franchise tag before leaving town or ink a long-term deal to lead Washington into the future. With a respectable crew of weapons at his disposal, Cousins will be a worthy fantasy target next season as drafts kick off.
Minnesota running back Adrian Peterson is due a beefy salary of $18 million in 2017, leading many to believe that he has played his last game in purple. ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported that the Dallas Cowboys could be a “potential option” for Peterson if he and Minnesota part ways, pushing the running back into a backup role behind standout running back Ezekiel Elliott. While old uncle Jerry would love to get his hands on the Minnesota back, Peterson will likely search for a starting spot if he leaves the Vikings. Jerick McKinnon and potential running back help through the NFL Draft would likely fill the Minnesota running back depth chart if Peterson is released.