To the Dallas Cowboys — and 30 other NFL teams — this Super Bowl was about “what could’ve been.’’ And Dallas can actually look forward to Super Bowl LII armed with the knowledge that they are 9/1 favorites to make it to the big game, the second-best odds of anybody.
The team with the best odds? It’s the only one of the NFL teams that doesn’t today think about “what could’ve been.’’ For New England, 34-28 winners over Atlanta in the first overtime in Super Bowl history, the greatest comeback in Super Bowl history and maybe the greatest game in Super Bowl history, this is about what was, what is, and what will forevermore be,
With the Patriots trailing by 25 points and Tom Brady throwing so many errant passes that Lady Gaga had to climb on Houston’s NNNN Stadium roof to fetch ‘em (I mean, why else was she up there?!), there was going to be an argument to Brady as the greatest quarterback of all time, to Bill Belichick as the greatest coach of all time, to Brady/Belichick as the greatest tandem of all time. But after engineering one of the most epic comebacks ever, in any sport, the argument is over.
It’s history, not just NFL history. Brady, who became the first quarterback to win a fifth Super Bowl and the first to win four MVP awards, was asked if this title is greater than the rest. “They’re all great,” he said. “Everyone rose to the occasion in the second half and overtime. This is unbelievable.”
Yeah, but nah. It’s not “unbelievable’’ when it’s the same thing Brady/Belichick have now done together five times over the last 15 years. “We all brought each other back,” Brady said. “We never felt out of it. We have a great team, and I give [the Falcons] a lot of credit. We just made a few more plays than them.”
All of this is true. The Falcons were almost terrific in building a 21-0 lead. And Brady’s teammates made special plays, especially down the stretch … clutch stuff, stuff with moxie, ballsy plays. But this is a QB’s game. And the different between New England being poor and being rich was this QB.
Brady was a pedestrian 16-for-26 in the first half, with a pick-six tossed to Falcons cornerback Robert Alford. But by game’s end, Brady was 43 of 62 passes for 466 yards and two second-half touchdowns, including two perfect drives, one to tie the game (along with a two-point conversion) and one to win it in OT when running back James White – one of many of Belichick’s no-name cogs — finished it off with a two-yard plunge around right end.
Add it up, and the Patriots scored 31 unanswered points. Some naysayers will say all these titles are in part the result of New England bending the rules (Brady and those under-inflated footballs in the AFC Championship Game two years ago just one of many examples). But maybe they just cheat the way they do everything else, from coaching to quarterbacking….but they do it better than the other 32 teams.
Brady was unwilling to engage in any jousts with commissioner Roger Goodell, who punished him with a four-game suspension that set this course for New England revenge. “This is all positive,” Brady said after being handed the Vince Lombardi trophy by the commish. “This is unbelievable.”
It is positive. But it’s not unbelievable. It’s the result of the work of the best coach/player tandem of all-time … one of many things the Cowboys and the rest of the field have to envy about the champs.