As I was watching the Super Bowl on Sunday and the New England Patriots were getting routed 28-3 by Atlanta in the third quarter, I was trying to decide where this game might rank on the all-time Super Bowl stinker list.
Having watched every single Super Bowl in my lifetime, I've seen my share of clunkers — the 1990 game comes to mind when San Francisco obliterated Denver, 55-10.
Now this game wasn't approaching that status, but it definitely had all the makings of a snoozer as New England, it seemed, simply didn't show up and the younger, hungrier and more-athletic Falcons were taking the game to them and making the Patriots look slow in the process.
But then I forgot — never count out Tom Brady.
Brady and the Patriots went from Super Bowl duds to Super Bowl studs as they made the greatest comeback in the 51 years of the game by tying it with 19 fourth-quarter points, then winning it 34-28 in overtime when Brady thundered the Patriots down the field, never allowing Atlanta to get its hands on the ball.
(By the way — and this is a shameless self-promo — my prediction in Friday's column was 34-27 Patriots. Just for those who don't remember.)
Never has there been such a wild turn of events in the game. Atlanta was literally celebrating at the end of the third quarter and I’m sure Falcon fans were already partying on Peach Street. Owner Arthur Blank was finally going to be rewarded for his years of patience with a franchise that has enjoyed little success.
But Brady led a comeback for the ages, throwing for 466 yards and putting the team on his back. Coach Bill Belichick also made some subtle defensive adjustments and the Patriots couldn’t be stopped once they had the momentum going.
When New England scored to pull within 28-9, the extra point looked like one of my iron shots as it was a literal shank. I thought to myself that it typified the kind of day New England was having.
But all those plays New England ran — 45 in the first half — had a cumulative effect on Atlanta's defense in the second half. Brady was under siege early as Atlanta built a 21-3 halftime lead, but those long New England drives tired the Falcons' legs. Brady was able to sit back and start to pick apart the Falcons' secondary.
When New England pulled within 28-20, I just had an inkling it would get the game tied because that's what Brady does. Is there any question now about him being the greatest quarterback of all time? I know there's still the lovefest purists have with Joe Montana, but as great as he was he was surrounded by a wing of the NFL Hall of Fame. It seems like about every 49er who played with him made it to Canton for one of those gold jackets.
And we have to remember that Brady is 39 years old. Most quarterbacks are in their rocking chairs at that age.
In just a matter of minutes, we went to one of the most pedestrian of Super Bowls to the greatest ever played.