In a record ninth Super Bowl, it was fitting that the Patriots won in Houston in dramatic flourish. Trailing 28-3 in the third quarter, the Pats completed the biggest comeback in Super Bowl history ended in overtime when James White ran in a two-yard touchdown.
Things certainly didn’t look great early on for Tom Brady, as he became the first winning quarterback to throw a pick-six in football’s most lucrative game. That Atlanta’s Robert Alford ‘only’ ran in the second-longest return in Super Bowl history summed up the Falcon’s evening; second best in an impressive way.
Impressive, except the manner of defeat.
For 41 minutes and 18 seconds, the world was at their feet. Officially, the Pats never had the lead, underlining the cruel nature of defeat. When White crossed the line, the game was over with the Pats finally in front; there was no time for the Falcons to retrieve the deficit. It’s a blown-lead record every team hopes the Falcons hold onto.
With the regular season just two months away, eyes are turning toward Minneapolis and Super Bowl LII. The draft has come and gone, with the accompanying tales of glory and woe, of hope and loss. Despite – or because – of all this, the Pats are still favorites to win in Minneapolis. As of June 28, New England are 9/2 with bookies while second-favorite Dallas Cowboys come in at 10/1.
It’s not hard to see why the Pats are top of the pile. Seven of New England’s appearances in the Super Bowl occurred in the 21st Century; no other franchise comes close to matching that. And while that will be a factor in the odds calculations, there are plenty of other reasons to think that the Patriots will become the first team to reach 10 Super Bowls, and join the Steelers on six wins.
The Brady Bunch
The Pats’ offseason was outstanding and not one you’d expect from a team that just won the Super Bowl. Pre-draft trades and signings were well-targeted, not just toward the 2017 season but also the long term as well. Next season sees 46 of the 53 Super Bowl-LI-winning roster return. That kind of stability underlines the structured approach the front office has taken in recent years to reach this point.
There’s an embarrassment of riches in offense. As if you could be embarrassed to have the players at Bill Belichick’s disposal. The same ruthlessness with which the Falcons were reeled back and put to the sword was applied to off-season.
The acquisition of Brandin Cooks was an interesting addition to the wide receiver ranks. Julian Edelman in his ninth season with the Patriots is coming off a stellar season that featured perhaps the greatest catch in Super Bowl history; the addition of Cooks from the Saints should only take some pressure off Edelman while adding even more explosive speed.
Simply put, the Pats are stacked and Tom Brady continues to dominate the NFL horizon.
In Houston, records tumbled in his name. As well the five winning appearances as a quarterback, the four MVPs, there was the most pass attempts in one Super Bowl game, as well as his career. The same for completions and passing yards; as well as career touchdown passes. Records will only continue to fall.
As the hub of the offense, few current players can provide the accuracy and freedom for colleagues to exploit. The drive to get to this point isn’t suddenly going to desert him, instead inspiring him to greater heights. Deflategate is well in everyone’s rearview mirror.
The biggest danger to success is injuries. Unpredictable, no one keeps focus to overcome them like the Pats, but sometimes just the wrong injury at the wrong time can derail a season. Really, the only times the Belichick-Brady Pats have failed to make a Super Bowl was largely due to attrition, and even then they still went down swinging with all they had.
Seeing the Patriots at the US Bank Stadium in February next year would be no surprise. Their roster is every bit as stacked as it’s ever been, if not moreso. If they stay healthy they could set an NFL bar that might never be reached by again.