While Super Bowl 50 was supposed to be the historic game the league was looking for, Super Bowl LI blew away all expectations with the New England Patriots defeating the Atlanta Falcons in dramatic fashion, 34-28, in overtime, the first overtime game in Super Bowl history. Quarterback Tom Brady took Super Bowl MVP honors, and deservedly so, orchestrating a comeback from down 28-3, scoring 31 unanswered points on offense, culminating in a James White rushing touchdown on the opening drive of overtime. However, while the game deserves attention, the Super Bowl is as complete experience as any in sports, so it deserves to be broke down from all angles.
No game gets as much pre-game hype as the Super Bowl. None. So any recap should highlight the pre-game. Members of the cast of Hamilton sang a beautiful rendition of “America, The Beautiful,” and Luke Bryan sang the National Anthem. While both were nice, neither was particularly memorable – although the NFL planned a military flyover OVER A DOME, why they do this I have no clue – so it’s up to the coin toss to carry this section. Former President and First Lady George H. W. and Barbara Bush were brought out for the ceremonial coin toss. While it was great to see the former President back to a state of good health after not making an appearance at the Inauguration, that was a weak toss. Definitely seen better.
Pre-Game Grade: C
Outside the halftime show, probably the most recognizable feature of the Super Bowl to the non-football initiated spectator is the commercials. This year, the commercials disappointed. Notable Super Bowl advertiser Doritos was missing from the festivities. While many companies such as Budweiser and 84Lumber attempted to play off of immigration sentiment and make political statements in a notably divided time, their advertisements didn’t stick the landing, especially with Budweiser’s ad seeing a lot of free press because of its undertones. Some of the best ads worked playfulness to their advantage like Skittles and Buick, but Mr. Clean was the true winner, mainly by providing the Internet this beautiful gif.
The Halftime Show:
Most people assumed Lady Gaga was going to make an overtly political statement, but the statement was lacking, or at the least, it was more subtle than expected. Gaga had a solid set list of hits to choose from and she didn’t disappoint, giving us everything from Edge of Glory to Born This Way, beginning with a rendition of God Bless America at the top of NRG Stadium, coordinated with over 400 reported drones creating an American flag backdrop. She then JUMPED from the ceiling down the main stage, wearing wires of course, and she blew the retractable roof off with the rest of her set, ending with a phenomenal leaping catch. To judge Gaga on the statements she didn’t make would be unfair, but we’re going to grade her work on what was presented.
Halftime Show: B
The Super Bowl started out in a 0-0 first quarter, which was disappointing, to say the least given how this was set up to be a high-scoring affair. However, there was plenty of scoring in the second quarter, just not by the eventual Super Bowl Champions. The Falcons raced off to a 14-0 lead off of touchdowns by Devonta Freeman and rookie tight end Austin Hooper, followed by an 82-yard pick-six by cornerback Robert Alford. But after Tevin Coleman ran in a six-yard touchdown catch from Matt Ryan, everything dramatically shifted to the Patriots favor. A few touchdowns, a couple Falcons turnovers, defensive stops, and all of a sudden it was an eight-point game heading into the two-minute warning with Patriots possession.
Possibly the most spectacular catch in any Super Bowl – all shade directed at you David Tyree – to bring the Pats in striking distance. And wouldn’t you know it, they capitalize with a James White rushing touchdown and Danny Amendola two-point conversion with under a minute left in regulation. The next Falcons possession stalls and we head to overtime. The Patriots win the coin toss, receive the ball, and three minutes and fifty-eight seconds later, James White yet again runs in the touchdown, except this time for the win.
We truly have been blessed with our past championship games and series over the past year, across both college and professional sports. To see the Patriots and Tom Brady’s Revenge Tour culminate in an overtime come-from-behind win truly puts the icing on the cake that was put in the oven during Deflategate for every Pats fan. To the Falcons, I’m sorry. I truly am. I’ve seen heartbreak as a Skins fan, but I couldn’t imagine heartbreak at this level or magnitude, but y’all will forever be immortalized in one of the classic championship games. Just for the wrong reasons.
THE GAME: A
Overall, the off the field pageantry and flare didn’t excite or entice the casual fan the way it usually does once every February, but the game itself certainly made up for it. And for that reason alone, this will be one of the greatest Super Bowls in recent memory.