Super Bowl LI left us all in awe, breathless, and wondering if we really saw what we just saw. Now that some time has passed and we have had a few days to reflect on the game, let’s take a look at exactly how the New England Patriots became Super Bowl Champions in a year where it seemed like that was impossible — right up until their final game.
Consecutive playoff games won by teams when leading by 19 or more points entering the 4th quarter — until Sunday. A lot of stats stand out from Sunday’s Super Bowl, but this one jumps off the page at me.
Head-scratching mid-season trade by Bill Belichick. Of course, there was. Belichick and the Patriots are known for a couple things when it comes to player personnel: (1) take a flyer on a risky player or older player — pay him less than his value and get everything possible out of him for a very short period of time; (2) trade a player before any other teams detect that player has lost a step. Jamie Collins was widely thought to be New England’s most athletic defender. But Belichick saw something on film he didn’t like and decided to trade away the talented linebacker for a compensatory pick to Cleveland. To matters even crazier, the Hoodie replaced Collins with a collection of players who either never seemed to catch on with other teams or were low draft picks — Kyle Van Noy, Shea McClellin, and Elandon Roberts. The Patriot Way. The Belichick Way.
Plays of 1st and 10 run from an opponent’s 22 yard line this season. None of which resulted in a punt. Atlanta failed to make that number 109. After the Julio Jones catch that should have been THE catch of the game and the play that sealed the title for the Dirty Birds, Atlanta had 1st and 10 at New England’s 22 and somehow, some way managed to turn that into 4th and 33 from the 45. And, thus, forcing them to punt.
Yes, I know — games Tom Brady was suspended. But I’m going to look at the flip side of that: four games that the Patriot coaching staff could see their two backup QBs perform in real games. And because of those games, New England could turn Jimmy Garoppollo into a couple of high drafts picks — if they choose to.
Catches by running back James White in Super Bowl LI. If his quarterback wasn’t named Tom Brady, White would have been the hands-down MVP of the game — although, if Brady wasn’t his QB, he likely wouldn’t have been on the winning end of Super Bowl LI. Which is exactly why Brady was the no-brainer MVP selection. Still, a record 14 catches in the Super Bowl is pretty special.
Points scored against the Buffalo Bills in their opening meeting in week 4. Why significant? The last time the Pats were shutout by the Bills was September 2003, opening week of the season. Both years, the Patriots won the Super Bowl.
Games won without Rob Gronkowski in the lineup or in a limited role. Seems pretty unbelievable to think without their All-Pro, record-setting tight end that the Patriots could go 13-0 in a season. But they did. It speaks to the other pieces in place, and it speaks to the job Brady does with those pieces. I don’t think there’s another franchise in football that gets more out of their players than New England does, year in and year out.
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