The Patriots: An Ode to Super Bowl LI and the offseason

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The New England Patriots sealed their legacy with a thrilling 34-28 overtime victory over the Atlanta Falcons, making this Super Bowl victory the 5th of the dynamic duo of coach Belichick and quarterback Brady have won together. The 2016-17 quest for the Lombardi Trophy began rocky and eventually smoothed out, but had many sport pundits wondering if they would even make the playoffs. The Patriots are a fine tuned machine that does not disappoint and they showed up ready to play in the first game.

New England started the season with a 4 game suspension of starting quarterback Tom Brady. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell handed the suspension as the final act of the league’s infamous investigation of “Deflate-gate.” That left the Patriots in an awkward situation to start the season. Having the the face of your franchise benched to start the season is not the ideal start in every Patriot fan’s mind.

Coach Bill Belichick said in a press conference after the rulings were handed down, “It’s next man up and I’m focused on the next game.” Second and third string quarterbacks Jimmy Garoppolo and Jacoby Brissett stepped up. New England started the season 3-1, and both Garoppolo and Brissett were injured while Tom Brady was suspended. Garoppolo sustained a shoulder injury week 2 against the Dolphins and Brissett injured his thumb week 3 against the Texans. Brissett managed to start week 4, but it was obvious the Patriots missed Brady. They were crushed 16-0 by the Buffalo Bills.

Garoppolo played impressively when he wasn’t injured. He has good accuracy, field vision, and mobility around the pocket. Brissett was a wind of momentum for performing so well as a 3rd string quarterback.

He had a good showing when they beat the Texans in a lopsided manner 27-0. In the next game his thumb injury combined with pressure from a division rival did not make the game easier. There is no need to be worried when it comes to the depth of the Patriots quarterback system, because having a mentor in Brady and an offensive genius in Belichick covers a lot of the issues.

After Brady served his suspension he picked the team up and never looked back. He marched the Patriots to a first round bye in the playoffs. He went 11-1 in his return and their one loss came from the hand of the Seattle Seahawks. This time the goalline defense worked out for Seattle. In Super Bowl XLVIIII the Patriots won on an interception from the Seahawks on the 2 yard line. Fast forward to 2016, the stakes aren’t as high, but the Seahawks defense stopped them 4 times in a row from scoring at the two yard line to win their game. After that game New England cruised to the playoffs.

The Oakland Raiders were a surprise team this season to consistently do well. Derek Carr is a main piece of the Raiders winning. In week 16 Carr broke his fibula and soured the Raiders hope for a deep playoff run. Oakland loses to the Houston Texans and with that win they get to play New England in the Divisional Round of the playoffs. The Patriots outmuscled the Texans at every play. It was no contest, a 34-16 win for New England.

In similar fashion the injury and flu infected Pittsburgh Steelers tumbled into New England. The AFC Championship is on the line and it was a walk in the park for the Patriots, 34-17. The NFC Championship had the same large margin of victory, 44-21, the Atlanta Falcons beat the Green Bay Packers. Both the Falcons and the Patriots had solid team victories to enter the Super Bowl.

Super Bowl LI will go down as one of the best Super Bowls in history; A lopsided start, a fantastic halftime show, and an overtime thriller lead the way for this to be one of the best Super Bowls to watch. Atlanta dominated their way to a 24-3 halftime lead. Using their high-powered offensive attack and consistent defense had them seeing the Lombardi Trophy. After Lady Gaga rocked the halftime show the second half started and it mellowed out. The third quarter saw a lot of ball movement, but no scoring.

When the 4th quarter started up the Patriots kicked it into gear and scored touchdowns. They moved the ball well down the field, because Atlanta’s defense were showing their true colors and couldn’t keep up with New England. Two plays occurred in this quarter that will stick out in every sport fan’s mind is; Julio Jones’ catch out in the sideline and Julian Edelman’s catch that was five centimeters off the ground.

The Patriots capitalized on Atlanta’s miscues in the 4th that closed the deficit up to an even 28-28. New England scored 19 pointed in the fourth quarter to send the Super Bowl into the first ever overtime.

New England won the overtime coin toss and elected to receive. The Patriots offense had all the momentum going their way and Atlanta’s defense was gassed. It was intense and New England moved the ball right up to the goal line. Brady calling for a run play to the right, James White lines up, takes the hand off from Brady and runs it in  for a touchdown. It took the Patriots less than four minutes to score a touchdown and win their fifth Super Bowl. The Patriots are champions again.

Belichick and Brady may be the best coach-QB duo in NFL history. Five Super Bowls they have won together over the course of 16 seasons. That is not commonplace in the NFL. To think that Belichick got to New England by being fired as the Cleveland Browns Head Coach and Tom Brady was Drew Bledsoe’s back up in 2000. Brady started from the bottom. He was drafted in the 6th round of the 2000 NFL draft from Michigan. Fast forward to 2017, Brady has become the greatest quarterback of all time with each of his fingers donned with Super Bowl Champion Rings. He surpasses legendary quarterbacks like Favre, Montana and Manning . Brady is a 4 time Super Bowl MVP and he owns various other NFL regular and postseason records along with a slew of Super Bowl records. Belichick and Brady are the best together and the records show it.

Looking forward to next season. The Patriots are expected to be good. They capped off an amazing season with Brady’s four week suspension, injuries to their 2nd and 3rd string QBs, Gronkowski gets injured, and everything seemed to go wrong and they still come out as champions. New England would’ve been even better if they didn’t have had those setbacks. The Patriots will continue to be the best team in the NFL.

Next season the coaching and landscape will look different. Five teams fired their head coaches; San Diego, Jacksonville, San Francisco (lost their General Manager as well), Los Angeles, and Buffalo. Bill Belichick would have to lose 668 consecutive games in a row to match head coach of the Jacksonville Jaguars Gus Bradley’s win percentage. That sort of margin is incredible and speaks volumes to how the Patriots are in a league of their own.

Next season the quarterback positions will look different too. San Francisco, Buffalo, Chicago, New York, Houston and Cleveland are all teams that are in need a of a new quarterback. Some of them have high round picks (Chicago, Cleveland and the 49ers) to sacrifice for a good quarterback. Obviously there is more to a team than the quarterback, but they are leaders and play makers on the field. Teams like the Falcons and Texans have incredible offensive and defensive lines that make up for the lack of areas on a team. Not one aspect is more valued than the other, but parts of the whole make up the team.

The ESPN syndicated radio show, ‘Mike and Mike Show,’ pointed out, “that the Texans would have had a better shot against Tom Brady and the Patriots had they had a better quarterback.”

It is guaranteed that Houston’s defense could put some hurting on the New England offense any given Sunday. Their quarterback Brock Osweiler as young he is at 26, had to fulfill a tall order moving into the playoffs. A win over the Oakland Raiders gave the temporary boost of confidence which evaporated during the Houston versus New England game. Although Brady won Super Bowl LI MVP, there were 16 other Patriots that had at least over 50 receiving yards in Super Bowl LI. That’s a lot of plays being made for being down 28-3 in the third quarter, and only making a field goal the first half. Finding a quarterback that has the play-making abilities and not just a flashy name is going to make a difference this off-season in how NFL teams approach drafting and trading quarterbacks.

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