THE GAME: Falcons vs Patriots
For the first time in almost two decades, I have no idea what to expect in the Super Bowl. I haven't always been right, but at least I've had a guess, backed up with reasoning.
Atlanta should win.
They have a historically great offense. They play the game at an almost comically fast pace. They played a much tougher schedule than New England, both in the regular season and the playoffs. Matt Ryan is probably going to win the MVP.
They are the better team.
But for the last decade and a half, I've watched New England beat better teams.
Sometimes they outplay their opponent; more frequently their opponent makes idiotic mistakes in the Super Bowl.
Seattle choosing to throw the ball on the one-yard-line. Donovan McNabb throwing three interceptions. Carolina kicking the ball out of bounds with one minute to play. St. Louis's entire game plan.
Atlanta should win.
But... would any NFL fan be surprised if Atlanta plays their worst game of the season today and Tom Brady turns in a legendary performance?
NOTES ON THE FOOD:
- My friend and I started at Matt Denny's for a pregame lunch. They had several Super Bowl specials, but we went with our usual: chicken tenders and a Tito's & soda for her, smoked turkey sandwich for me.
- I wanted to make something with a Georgia flavor to it. As it happens, I just acquired a bottle of "Georgia's Vinegar Barbeque Sauce" a couple of weeks ago - before I knew Atlanta was going to be playing in the Super Bowl. I could think of no better occasion to use it.
- I got some of my beloved beef & pork meatballs from the butcher, but each one is too small to serve on a slider bun. So I formed a few meatball patties by smashing two meatballs together.
- I grilled them in my cast iron pan, saucing them liberally for several minutes.
- I made a red cabbage slaw with cider vinegar, olive oil, and salt & pepper. I minced it finely and layered it on top of each patty.
- With a couple of Bubbies pickles on top.
- These were the best sliders I have made in years.
- I tossed the rest of the meatballs in a mustard BBQ sauce and added some scallions.
- There were also chips and crackers, served in some cheap plastic serving bowls I bought years ago and only bring out on Super Bowl Sunday.
- I roasted some chicken wings and drummettes in the oven for 45 minutes then tossed them with barbecue sauce. These were for other people because - believe it or not - I do not like chicken with bones.
NOTES ON THE GAME:
- New England goes three-and-out; Devonta Freeman picks up 37 yards on Atlanta's first play. I did not expect either of those things. Of course, there are still 57 minutes to play.
- Scoreless after the first quarter, but overall I thought New England looked better - or at least steadier.
- Atlanta recovers a fumble at the start of the second quarter - that could be game-changing. New England looked like they were moving towards a score.
- A few plays later, Atlanta scores. It's refreshing to see someone benefit from a New England mistake instead of it being the other way around.
- Atlanta went up 14-0 and, with a dominant stop, would have been able to run out the half and get the ball back in the 3rd quarter, giving New England almost no margin for error. Then Atlanta got called for defensive holding three times in a row on third down. That's what I'm used to seeing from New England's opponents.
- Atlanta with a Pick 6 (the first Tom Brady has ever thrown in the postseason) and now they're up 21-0. Two minutes left in the first half. New England has to get some points here.
- They get 3. The score at halftime: Atlanta 21 New England 3.
- No team has ever come back from an 18-point deficit at halftime. That being said, if any team ever does, I have no doubt it will be the Patriots with Tom Brady.
- Too many dropped passes from the New England receivers today.
- Atlanta drives down the field and scores to go up 25. That should seal the deal. 18 points was doable. 25 is not. At least... I hope it's not.
- New England scores a touchdown but Gostkowski missed the PAT. It's that kind of day for the Patriots.
- After a blown onside kick, New England holds Atlanta and will be getting the ball back at the start of the 4th quarter. They have to score three times while shutting out Atlanta. It's not dark yet, but it's getting there.
- Matt Ryan fumbles and New England gets the ball back with a short field, down 16 with 8 minutes to play.
- Patriots score and get the 2-point conversion to cut it to 8 points with just under 6 to play.
- I'm old enough to remember the last half of Jerry Rice's career and all of Michael Irvin's and Randy Moss's... and I've never seen someone who takes my breath away as consistently as Julio Jones.
- Matt Ryan takes an absolutely horrible sack and then Atlanta gets called for holding on the next play. (New England committed a facemask on the same play, but of course the refs miss it.) Atlanta is out of field goal range and has to punt.
- Without that sack, Atlanta almost assuredly gets a field goal and wins the Super Bowl. That's how awful it was. He cannot take a sack in that circumstance.
- Tom Brady has 3 and a half minutes to go 91 yards.
- Which he does, and they score the 2-point conversion to tie the game. Atlanta has blown a 25-point second-half lead in the Super Bowl.
- Let me write that again: ATLANTA HAS BLOWN A 25-POINT SECOND-HALF LEAD IN THE SUPER BOWL. For almost my entire adult life, I've been watching teams roll over for the Patriots. Even I could not imagine what Atlanta has done tonight in the second half.
- After scoring 28 points in the first 37 minutes of the game, the Falcons have scored 0 in the final 23.
- New England wins the coin toss to start OT, which is the most predictable thing I have ever seen in the history of my watching sports.
- Atlanta's defense has been on the field for what seems like 8 straight hours. I would be shocked if they can get a stop here.
- They cannot. Brady takes them right down the field. New England wins in OT.
- I don't think there will be any more debate: Tom Brady is the greatest quarterback of all time.
- Atlanta just gave up 31 unanswered points in the second half of the Super Bowl. They will never, ever live that down.