The narrative today from the few people left looking for reasons to diminish Brady's accomplishments is that the larger story is that the Falcons choked. This is totally bogus. Obviously, there are always two sides to a great comeback. A balance between one team's excellence and fortitude and another team's lack thereof. It is therefore not only appropriate but necessary to ask which of these two elements played a bigger role in any historic comeback.
I surrender to you that this comeback was the quintessential example of a trailing team coming back and WINNING the game rather than the other team losing. The best example in recent memory of a team LOSING a game was Packers surrender to the Seahawks in the 2015 NFC championship game. A game where Russell Wilson threw repeated interceptions in the 4th quarter seemingly begging the Packers to put them out of their misery. Excluding Aaron Rodgers, who did not choke, the entire Packers time collectively hung themselves while committing stunning blunder after blunder. Until Wilson threw the touchdown in overtime it looked as if both teams were trying to lose, in the end it seemed, the Packers will to lose outlasted Seattle's.
The biggest reason cited for the Falcons "choke" is that they only ran the ball a handful of times after going up 28-3. Why were they still throwing the ball? Because they were playing Tom Brady and they knew that he might be the only guy on the planet capable of putting up 25 in the Super Bowl. Offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan clearly thought that it was important to continue trying to score. The deficit was so severe, the margin of error so small that had the Falcons managed just one field goal it would have been impossible for the patriots to tie the game who were forced to score two touchdowns and convert two, two point conversions. They failed to score any points and therefore to criticize them for not being less aggressive offensively is largely flawed.
Matt Ryan played a superb game completing 17-23 passes for 280 something yards and two touchdowns. His only failure was that he did not get enough opportunities to throw the ball and that was because Brady refused to surrender it. Offensively, the Falcons made two mistakes which proved costly. A missed block which led to a strip sack fumble and a holding penalty. Most teams will take that leading into a game. In hindsight would running more have been better? Well, probably, they lost the game. But that doesn't mean that looking at the game head-on their decision to stay aggressive on offense was so ridiculous.
The Patriots WON because their defense stepped up and made stops and they WON because Tom Brady was once again able to reach down deep and find that sublime competitive fire. They won because that competitive fire inspired the men around to rally around him, like when Julian Edelman a caught a football as it was bouncing off of a defenders ankle maybe 2 or 3 inches off of the ground.
I'm not going to dance too much on the Falcons. I have a lot of respect for Matt Ryan who is a class act and great quarterback. The real enemy here was Roger Goodell and the NFL who wrongly sought to tarnish the shine of Brady's impeccable character and legacy in the name of social justice. This is the thing to celebrate today.
Two years ago we thought we had witnessed the signature performance of Brady's career in superbowl 49. Two years later he has eclipsed that. The performances had a lot of similarities. Certainly Brady has had legendary performances where he was flawlessy taken teams apart. Most of his signature performances however can hardly be described as perfect performances. Many believe that while not as accomplished, guys like Aaron Rodgers are fundamentally better QBs than Brady because so often they make it look so easy. I have always marveled at Rodger's incredible skill set and his unprecedented efficiency. His career passer ratings and insane TD to interception ratio of over 4 to 1 put him literally in a league of his own. As I write this, I can think of literally nothing about his game to criticize.
And yet Brady, whom I could find things to criticize such as the fact that he does not always throw a great deep ball or is maybe not the fastest QB on his feet, is clearly GREATER. The greatest ever, in fact. Brady is great because he is mortal, he is imperfect. During superbowl 49 he threw two interceptions, one of which was awful. In this game he threw a pick six and missed a few long balls. We see these flashes of mortality in all of his truly legendary performances. But what makes Tom Brady the greatest of all time is his ability to reach inward and find something sublime, something that cannot be fully understood or bottled. If you can find that thing you become something far greater than the sum of your parts. You become a legend.
And who exactly is coach Bill Belichick? I have studied Belichick as closely, if not more so, than Brady for the past 16 years. Belichick rarely issues bold statements to the media. But from just about the very beginning he has always said the same thing about him. I've heard him say it now a good dozen or so times over the course of this run. Coach, who is better Peyton or Brady? "Yeah, I'll let you guys sort that stuff out. There's no quarterback past or present that I'd rather have than Tom." It's easy to say that now, certainly when most consider him the greatest. But it was odd to hear early in his career when he was still developing. People have compared Jason Garrett's decision to stick with Dak Prescott after Tony Romo got injured this year to Belichick's decision to go with Brady when Bledsoe got injured. It's really not quite the same though. Tony Romo is in his late thirties and is made of glass. Prescott had the cowboys at 7-1 and was playing flawlessly. That's a no brainer for a coach. Believe me, there are not a lot of coaches in the league who will stick with a game managing rookie QB over a 29 year old franchise quarterback after winning just a handful of games. Belichick is a man equally rare to a Tom Brady. This is a man who is capable of recognizing the unrecognizable in others and measures himself by his ability to cultivate greatness in others. He is the master architect of an organizational structure which was able to draft a young man after every other team had passed on him 5 or 6 and turn him into the greatest the leader the game has ever seen. Truly sublime.
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