Super Bowl 51 had a little bit of everything. There was a giant comeback, a defensive score, a pair of miraculous catches and the first overtime in Super Bowl history. Despite the walk-off finish, it was not, however, the greatest Super Bowl of all time.
To back up the fact that yesterday was not the best Super Bowl in the history of the game, Scotty Moore joins me to tell you why.
(Scotty is a Digital Marketer in Cincinnati and a 2016 graduate of Ohio University where he earned a bachelor’s degree in Digital Marketing and Social Communications. He previously has covered the NFL for First Stop Fantasy and is an avid Nuggets, Broncos and Reds fan.)
The “back-and-forth” factor
Scotty: Sure, Super Bowl 51 had a comeback for the ages as the Patriots trailed 28-9 going into the fourth quarter. But to call this game the best Super Bowl of all time – is a bit of a stretch. For three quarters, New England looked outmatched by the Falcons both defensively and offensively.
It was a one-sided affair. As the Patriots made their remarkable comeback, nothing about that changed. The Patriots came back with ease. When one team was playing competitively, the other wasn’t.
Shelby: This is unequivocally true. At no point was this a game where both teams were at their bests. For the first 37 minutes, Atlanta dominated, stretching its lead to 25 points after Tevin Coleman‘s six-yard touchdown catch. In the third quarter, though, everything shifted. It’s hard to pinpoint exactly when, but a good guess would be on the Falcons’ ensuing drive after James White‘s touchdown catch made it 28-9. Atlanta recovered an onside kick and gained nine yards on the first play of the possession to the New England 32. Already in field goal range, Austin Hooper dropped a pass near the first-down marker and the Falcons were penalized for 15 yards and forced to punt.
Atlanta’s other brief moment of optimism came with just over four minutes left. Julio Jones‘ acrobatic, 27-yard sideline grab put them within two yards of the red zone. A field goal would’ve made it a two-score game, but the Falcons once again moved backward and out of Matt Bryant‘s range courtesy of a sack and a penalty.
You knew it was coming
Scotty: After a key Matt Ryan fumble gave Tom Brady the ball back down 16 points, you almost knew he was going to go right down and score. It was the same feeling you got when he got the ball back down eight and to start overtime – I will give them credit, however, for the great play-calling on the two-point conversion plays. Atlanta couldn’t stop Brady the same way the Patriots couldn’t stop Matty Ice in the first half. The Falcons looked completely gassed.
Shelby: When Matthew Slater correctly called “heads” for the overtime coin toss, everyone knew New England — after scoring on its last four possession of regulation (not including the fake kneel as time expired) — would march down the field. The Patriots dominated time of possession by over 17 minutes and the Falcons’ defense that was applying constant pressure on Brady early in the game was now leaving him with a clean pocket. Sure enough, Brady completed his first five passes for 50 yards during the extra period and his lone mistake was under-throwing Martellus Bennett on first and goal, a pass that was nearly intercepted by Vic Beasley. After almost making the same mistake Seattle did two years earlier, White took a toss on the ensuing snap and dove in for the game-winner.
Overtime is overrated
Scotty: Sure it was the first overtime in Super Bowl history, and it added to the legacy of, what seems like now, sure-fire G.O.A.T status for Tommy Brady, but it wasn’t the best. If anything it was more of a miraculous Atlanta choke as Brady threw the ball a record 62 times with no running game and became the first Super Bowl MVP to throw a pick-six in the big game. I’d put it in the top ten.
Shelby: There was finally an overtime in the Super Bowl. This helps 51’s argument for being the best ever, but it’s a different story when OT played out just like the previous 23 minutes. If the extra period would have had a few twists and turns — a turnover, a missed field goal, or even both teams possessing the ball — then you could really make the case for greatest Super Bowl ever. Instead, Atlanta’s defensive unit was still gasping for air while Brady picked them apart.
Then what is the Greatest Super Bowl ever?
Scotty: The best Super Bowl did in fact involve Brady and the Patriots. Just two years earlier. How can you beat Seattle being two yards away from going back-to-back just for the unthinkable interception in the closing seconds by Malcolm Butler that correlated to his rise to stardom (Butler followed his first Super Bowl appearance by getting absolutely torched by Taylor Gabriel on Sunday – that was awesome)?
The 2014 season’s Super Bowl ranks just ahead of the ’08 season between the Steelers and the Cardinals. From James Harrison’s dramatic 100-yard pick-six in the final seconds of the first half to Larry Fitzgerald and Santonio Holmes each providing their versions of late-game heroics, this game defined the word clutch and the stars of the game put on a show. Plus, the matchup between new Hall-of-Famer Kurt Warner and future Canton-bound signal-caller Ben Roethlisberger accumulated 633 yards and four touchdowns.
It was tough for me to pick this as #2 on my all-time list because of the nostalgia from just a year before in ’07 season when Eli and the Giants took down the 18-0 Brady-led Patriots. Other generations who experienced another era of football would tend to disagree with my picks (XIII, XXIII, XXV). It’s no secret fans have been spoiled with some excellent Super Bowls in the past decade.
Shelby: It’s a toss up for me. If I could have a tie for the top spot, I would. The 2014 game had everything, too, but the game was a nail-biter through and through. The Seahawks and Patriots were tied at 14 heading into the half. Then there were second-half runs by both teams — Seattle (10-0), New England (14-0) — ultimately leading to the most shocking finish in Super Bowl history.
I have to give that game the top spot, just a shred ahead of the first Giants-Patriots Super Bowl at the same venue to cap the ’07 season. The story line was great. The Patriots were obviously on the edge of glory (shout out to Lady Gaga) trying to become the first 19-0 team ever.
The Giants had missed the postseason the year before, then made the playoffs as a wild card by winning three of five down the stretch. They won three road playoff games, including the Divisional Round over Tony Romo at Jerry World and the NFC Championship against Aaron Rodgers at Lambeau Field with a wind chill of negative 23. The Patriots had the best offense in NFL history at the time but the Giants sacked Brady five times and held Randy Moss to just 62 receiving yards. And, obviously, David Tyree‘s helmet catch is perhaps the most iconic play in Super Bowl history, leading to the Plaxico Burress game-winner with 35 seconds left.
Feature Photo: Seattle Times
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