NE 34 ATL 28


Incredible comeback! This game will be remembered for a very long time. Epic win by the Patriots.

I feel very bad for Atlanta fans. They will live this nightmare for a long time. I am barely over the SF-NYG January 2003 wildcard round loss. To lose in this fashion, Falcon fans must be in reeling.

Dan Quinn and Matt Ryan blew the game. You are up by 8 and Julio Jones has made a phenomenal catch to the 22 yard line of NE. There is only 4:40 left. A predictable run on 1st down loses 1 yd. It is 2nd down. There is only one thing you cannot do. You can run. You can even pass, BUT YOU CANNOT TAKE A SACK. Everyone who has watched millions of hours of football knows this. Ryan, a veteran, has to know this. You are in FG position to win the game. Yes, you can take a knee on 2nd and 3rd down if you like. Yes, you can run to try to kill the clock and push the ball inside a little further. I prefer to try to get in closer and not leave it to a 40 yard FG to ice the game. I would not necessarily run the ball. But if I pass the ball, there is one thing my QB has to know. DO NOT TAKE A SACK. Throw the ball away if there is nothing there. The clock inside Matt Ryan’s head has to tell him to get rid of the ball well before he feels too much heat. He held onto the ball way too long. And that was the beginning of the end.  A holding penalty on Matthews reversed the next successful pass play to Sanu. So that penalty also killed. Incredible.

I know there are those out there who will say- just run it 3x, kick the FG, and win the game. How about this playcall- big package, play action into the line, all 16 Patriot defenders go into the line, and Ryan rolls out naked on a bootleg. He can even have a TE trailer option if there is one defender still there. The point is that there are a myriad of safe choices to keep the clock going and not lose yardage to a sack.

The Prevent Offense prevents you from winning. There was too much prevent and the Defense got gassed. One of my Rules For Winning in the NFL (Fassel Rule of Prevent) states that when a large lead is blown, it is the coach’s fault. What was working for the first 37 minutes of the game when you are up 28-3 cannot all of a sudden vanish. You have to play 60 minutes. Atlanta’s potent offense was not in attack mode until they needed it at 28-20, and then those 2 errors by Ryan and Matthews were essentially the last time they (realistically) touched the ball.

The similarities to that January 2003 playoff game are there. The Giants had a 24 point lead after 42 minutes of play. They lost one of their Defensive Linemen (Holmes) to injury in the 2nd Half, making it even more imperative that the Offense do their job in playing 60 minutes. In this game, just as in that one, the Defense was running on fumes. The reason why Prevent in the playoffs is especially dangerous is that the opponent is a .. playoff team. They are competent and cannot be given any extra chances. Brady is too good. You have to win that game with your offense. The Giants Offense in 2002 was arguably one of the best its franchise had. Here, in 2016, the Atlanta Offense was one of the best the NFL has seen since the ’99 Rams. So that is the unit that has to win the game for you.

Julio Jones is all world. If Terrell Davis can make it into the Hall of Fame with 6 years, then Julio Jones already gets my vote for the Hall. He’s a class act. He makes phenomenal plays routinely. While injured. Doesn’t complain or punch in walls. He should have been the one heralded today. But his efforts will be an asterisk, forgotten by many.

Belichick and Brady get tremendous props for executing a tremendous comeback. They did the work. They kept up the pressure. For Brady to do that comeback at 39 years old, it certifies him as the best QB ever. Fittingly, he passes Montana. That is two decades of dominance. Granted, Brady did not make the playcall to not hand off the ball to Beastmode or to have Ryan take the sack. Detractors will argue Brady and Belichick could easily be without a Super Bowl win since 2004. But they are not. They have two more titles. They are 5 time champions. The Patriots made their own luck. It took 31 unanswered points to make them a champion. That was an incredible Super Bowl.

Arrow to top