Hyperbole? Maybe not. The NFL has seen a bigger comeback, when Frank Reich led the Buffalo Bills back from a 35-3 deficit in a 1993 playoff game, but … that wasn’t the Super Bowl, and it wasn’t against the league MVP and the offense that scored more regular-season points in league history. Tom Brady led the New England Patriots to an overtime win after being down 28-3 in the third quarter, and to a stunning overtime victory over the Atlanta Falcons.
This video gives a pretty good summation of Super Bow LI’s wild ride:
Just a few hours after the game’s stunning finish, Adam Kilgore called this the greatest game ever from an NFL quarterback, although for some reason Kilgore includes a shot at Donald Trump:
Sunday, Brady played the greatest game of football the sport has seen. Not the most perfect, nor the most artistic, nor even the most excellent. Just the greatest. He led the Patriots back from a 28-3 deficit on a stage that had never seen anything better than a 10-point comeback. He passed for 466 yards, a Super Bowl record, and completed 43 of 62 passes. He led a 91-yard drive touchdown in the final four minutes, capped with a two-point conversion.
The numbers are stupefying, and they would not have been unattainable [sic] if not for Brady’s central feature. He would not let anything that happened Sunday night make him anything less than whole. The Falcons slammed him and knocked him to the turf, and he betrayed no physical diminishment. He threw an inexcusable pass that swung the game in Atlanta’s favor by three touchdowns, and he showed no mental weariness. He knew how to fix the problem, and he knew he could do it. He kept coming. …
Brady, like the rest of us, has his flaws. He can be teased for underinflating footballs, dogged for evading questions about his pal Donald Trump and doubted for decisions in his personal life made when he was younger. But he is an impregnable competitor. He took a beating Sunday night and faced certain doom and, at that moment, at age 39, played quarterback at a level rarely attained before.
“We’re all going to remember this for the rest of our life,” Brady said.
So will everybody else.
Except for the gratuitous shots at Brady’s personal life and Trump, that’s a pretty good description of the game. By the end of the first half (21-3 Atlanta), it looked like the game would be another Super Blowout. Lady Gaga’s halftime performance was surprisingly impressive (and surprisingly apolitical, given some hints in the media otherwise), but we thought the fireworks were over. I mentioned The Comeback to my friends and family, but in a laughing manner. We ended up shocked at the outcome, but delighted that it turned out to be a real game.
This brings up a question that may take a while to be answered: Have we seen the last of Tom Brady on the field? He’s 39 years old, and now he’s won five Super Bowls, the most of any quarterback in NFL history. The man he surpassed, Terry Bradshaw, gladly handed Brady the Lombardi Trophy on the dais last night and passed that baton at the same time.
Kilgore mentions the chip on Brady’s shoulder over the last seventeen years for getting passed over repeatedly in the draft (going in the 198th position), but he has long established himself as an elite QB and now objectively the greatest champion of the Super Bowl era and probably ever. What’s left to prove? Last night, caught up in emotion, Brady looked like a man who might be absorbing this as the last opportunity to enjoy this moment … and there’s no better way to go out than on top.
That may or may not make NFL fans happy, depending on how they feel about Brady and the Patriots. Let’s end this on a note that will bring us all together in unity. Enjoy this clip of NFL commissioner Roger Goodell getting exactly what he deserves from fans as he presents the Lombardi Trophy to Pats owner Robert Kraft, who then shivs him in the acceptance speech: