Super bowl came about due to a merger agreement between two of the rival American football leagues the AFL (American Football league) and the NFL (National football league). This became official in 1970 when the NFL we all know and love was created. At that time there were only 26 teams, the rest were added as part of expansion programs (there have been talks of an UK based expansion team with 2022 set as the target date). The first Super bowl was played in Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum with the crème de la crème of the NFL and AFL being the Green Bay Packers and Kansas City Chiefs respectively. Under the coaching of the legendary Vince Lombardi the Green Bay Packers won the game. Quarterback Bart Starr was named Super bowl MVP for his dominant 250 yard, two touchdown performance; impressive in those times. The following year the Packers won again against the Oakland Raiders with the Raiders’ line-backers’ coach being John Madden, who has his name attributed to the long-running Madden NFL video game series. The more you know…
The Super bowl trophy is famously named the Vince Lombardi trophy, but why? From what I have told you already Vince Lombardi has only won two Super Bowls, Bill Belichick the New England Patriots head coach has already won four (spoilers now five). Well you see, it isn’t all about numbers. He is the benchmark of what it is to be a great coach, leader and man. Fifty years on and the coaches of today still look up to him. His dedication and passion to win is unparalleled and can be summarised in this quote: “Winning isn’t everything; it’s the only thing”, he never coached a losing season and had a 90% win rate in post-season. Unfortunately, in 1970, at the age of 57, he passed away due to cancer of his colon. With his sudden passing the newly merged NFL decided to name the Super bowl trophy after the man that had given so much to the sport. On his deathbed he reportedly said that he regretted having not achieved more in his life. With expectations of himself like that, it is easy to understand how he achieved so much. A relentless, unwavering dedication to the sport of American football. An ideal that all players, and coaches must strive to achieve. The pinnacle of excellence, the Vince Lombardi Trophy. On February 5th of this year, the fifty first super bowl was played (LI for those Romans out there), and as you probably heard, it was contested by the Atlanta Falcons and New England Patriots.
The first half was a very dominant performance by the Falcons with Matt Ryan as quarterback (a position sometimes referred more fittingly as Field General), delivering a devastating aerial assault on the Patriots defence. With short bullet passes and long bombs to his receivers, his cannon of an arm obliterated yards. A big advantage was having Julio ‘the freak’ Jones that seems to be genetically engineered to play ball, he is six foot three, 220 pounds, with a sub-4.4 second 40 dash time. Perhaps you don’t know what that means, but let me assure you he is a beast. Julio managed to couple his power, and strength, with a control and elegance that allowed him to make some epic plays that included some ‘toe drag swag’ that kept him inbounds and allowed him to catch the seemingly uncatchable. As well as the catches, the threat of him alone meant the Patriots defence assigned more attention to him. This allowed Taylor Gabriel, Austin Hooper, and Mohamed Sanu, to make some plays. Although a lot can be said about the aerial assault, what I felt gave the offence momentum was the devastating ground and pound run game. Predominantly it was Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman in the backfield, these two running backs are still at the start of their careers with less than five years in the league between them. The Falcons’ offensive line punched holes through the Patriots’ defensive allowing the two running backs to explode through into the Patriots second level. Jump-cutting, handing off and trucking their way toward the end zone, the duo instilled fear in the Patriots defence. It cannot be said that the Patriots offence looked drab and uncoordinated, with a player like Tom Brady at the helm it would never be so. It was the Falcon’s Defence that played out their skin. This is evidenced by an 82 yard pick six from Robert Alford, Brady isn’t one to make stupid mistakes and looking at the tape again you can appreciate how great (albeit risky) of a play this was by the Falcons’ player. Flying downhill to snag the ball out of the receiver’s hands; he seemed to know exactly where the ball was going… Once in his hands it was open field except from a dramatic attempt at a tackle from Brady. When the half finally came to a close the score was 21-3 Falcons with the only score from the Patriots being a 41-yard field goal.
When it got to half-time the mood in the Union ranged from deep melancholy to exuberant elation. Falcons’ fans were over the moon with the dominant first half they had. On the other hand, the Patriots’ fans were left with an (almost) insurmountable score deficient and the repugnant smell of defeat in their nostrils. Faith seemed to be all but lost, both in the game and their famed GOAT (greatest of all time) quarterback Tom Brady.
To the non-dedicated and uninterested fans the best part of the night was just starting at the Union: The halftime show. Cue the lights, the music, and Lady Gaga in the most comical of American football equipment flying around NRG Stadium (in a harness obviously). It was very early in the morning and the sea of people that occupied 568 were full off chicken wings, burgers and curly fries, as well as American beverages, all organised by the Imperial Immortals (Imperial’s own American Football club). Along with the American beverages the bravest of the brave tried Immortals team beverage ‘Slime’. A ‘sounds worse than it is’ drink whose constituents are beer, cider and lime cordial (actually rather good!). In this state the party started, party lights came on, music was pumped up, and the vibe was all the better with hardened Patriots fans even having a boogie. After the great joviality, the team I was supporting in a confident lead and nine am commitments I headed to bed… What a plonker.
Having now watched the second half (although not at the Union and as post-mortem). I can somewhat comment on what took place. It was Tom Brady living up to his title of GOAT, and the defence straight balling on an overly complacent Falcons’ offence. At the start the Patriots offence seemed to struggle, making the same mistakes and failed drives as the first half. The initial change happened on the defence, when they stopped the Falcons’ drives consistently. This was a theme for the rest of the game. Personally, I would say the turning point of the game was early in the fourth quarter when line-backer Dont’a Hightower flies off the edge, evading Devonta Freeman’s feeble attempt at a block, then to smack Matt Ryan off his feet and force the fumble. The fumble was recovered by the Patriots giving them great field position and momentum. It’s fair to say Matty ice was not so cool after that.
The other play of note is Julian Edelman’s miracle ‘shoe’ catch… After the ball was tipped by a Falcons’ player, there was a free-for-all which left Edelman sandwiched between three Falcons’ players. Juggling the ball, Edelman with the concentration of a monk, managed to keep the ball from hitting the ground even when a rogue foot tried to dislodge it from his grip. A few times he seemed to let go of the ball and it was held there by what seemed to be divine intervention waiting to be plucked from the ether (on second thought it was just slow motion…). Edelman was seventh round draft pick in the 2009 NFL draft. In college he played quarterback NOT the wide-receiver and punt specialist he came to play as in the NFL. Tom Brady was even sixth round pick, and the James White (their running back who now holds the record of most points scored in a Super bowl) was an unknown of the 4th round pick. The Patriots seem to build their franchise on overlooked players. To take the fire within them from being downtrodden, and channelling it to be great. This can’t be all attributed to a chance or some implicit attribute of the franchise. One source is the record breaking head coach that has led the Patriots to win five Super bowls during his time. Bill Belichick, like Vince Lombardi, cares only about winning which can be summarised by his comment after winning one of the (in my opinion) most memorable Super Bowls: “As of today, and as great as today feels and as great as today is, in all honesty we’re five weeks behind in the 2017 season.” This inexhaustible work ethic is what gives the Patriots a winning season year after year.
I pains me to say it but Tom Brady is the GOAT… The records he set during this Super Bowl are as follows:
Most Super Bowls played in – 7
Most passes over his career in Super Bowls – 309
Most passes in a Super Bowl – 62
Most completions over his career in Super Bowls – 207 Most completions in a Super Bowl – 43
Most passing yards over his career in Super Bowls – 2071
Most passing Yards in game – 466
Most touchdown passes in a Super Bowl – 15
He is truly the greatest of all time; to keep his composure, and to overcome the largest point deficit (25 points) ever recorded in a Super Bowl. No wonder he was named Super Bowl MVP. The final score was 34-28 Patriots, a defensive shutout for the second half by the Patriots, and overtime touchdown sealed the game. Perhaps the best match that will be played in my lifetime, and I missed it! Moral of the story: don’t be a wettie, go to the Union and watch one of greatest sporting spectacles in the world. Celebrate or drown your sorrows, sleep is for the weak.