By Joel Norman, Originally written for Sports Heaven
As soon as the game ended, we knew.
After a couples days to comprehend the events of Sunday night, we still know.
Love or hate the results, Super Bowl LI was the greatest Super Bowl of all time.
Was it a complete game? Nope. The first quarter could have put the most die-hard of fans to sleep. A combined four punts and zero points will bore anyone to death.
From that point on, it was a game to behold.
You already know what happened; the Patriots trailed by as much as 25 points yet rallied back to tie the game up and send it to overtime, where they ended it on the first drive.
How can a historic 25-point comeback not make for the greatest game of all time?
Consider just a couple other records set in this game
-First overtime in Super Bowl history
-Most combined passing yards (682)
–Tom Brady’s 43 completions and 466 passing yards
–James White’s 14 receptions and 20 points accounted for
As much offense as was mentioned above, there was defense played on Sunday. Both teams fumbled, no one on New England rushed for more than 31 yards and Devonta Freeman rushed for four yards in the second half (rushed for 71 in the first half).
Really, this game was all about three periods: the second quarter, the fourth quarter and overtime. No points in the first quarter and both teams got a touchdown apiece in the third, though Stephen Gostkowski missed the extra point for the Patriots.
The best part about this game is that both quarterbacks were excellent. However, Brady’s aforementioned stats were mostly in the second half and Matt Ryan did the bulk of his damage in the first half en route to a 284-yard, 2 touchdown performance.
To declare this game, let’s look at the two games it was better than.
Super Bowl XLIII
Sure, it did not go to overtime, but it was a thriller. After a late score by Larry Fitzgerald gave the Arizona Cardinals a 23-20 lead with 2:37 to go.
It was enough time for the Pittsburgh Steelers, who were trailing for the first time all game. Santonio Holmes made four catches for 73 yards on the drive, including the go-ahead 6-yard touchdown grab with 35 seconds left in regulation.
The drive was perhaps the finest high-pressure scoring drive in Super Bowl history. Unlike New England in Super Bowl LI, Pittsburgh had not been racking up offense in the second half. In fact, Holmes toe-drag touchdown was only the second offensive touchdown of the game for the Steelers.
This game is not ahead of Super Bowl LI because besides the dramatic final three minutes and James Harrison’s 100-yard interception return for touchdown at the end of the first half, it lacked the offense of this past Sunday’s game. Super Bowl XLIII was a back-and-forth game, unlike LI, but the drama to end LI ultimately puts it past XLIII all time.
Super Bowl XLIX
Similar to XLIII, Super Bowl XLIX had a dramatic late game play to seal the deal. This time, it was a defensive stop on the most unexpected goal line play call of all time.
After a four yard run by Marshawn Lynch got the Patriots’ 1-yardline, Malcolm Butler’s interception ended the Seattle Seahawks’ season in the most depressing way. Two years later and fans and critics alike still have no clue why Pete Carroll ran a dangerous passing play with a chance to win the Super Bowl.
Patriots’ fans have good memories of their last two Super Bowl victories, but like LI, XLIX did not start out favorably and seemed like a certain defeat for some time. Despite a 14-14 halftime tie, the New England offense fell asleep in the third quarter and hung a zero on the scoreboard. Meanwhile, the Seahawks tacked on a touchdown and a field goal to take a commanding 24-14 lead into the final quarter of play.
New England got two touchdowns in the fourth quarter to take the lead, but gave the Seahawks 2:02 to win the game. Instead, Seattle blew it despite and improbable 33-yard catch by Jermaine Kearse to put the Seahawks inside the 5-yardline with 1:06 left.
Despite a fantastic comeback by New England in Super Bowl XLIX, its comeback two years later was much better. There was never a point in XLIX that the Patriots seemed destined for defeat until Kearse’s late grab put the Seahawks in striking range.
In LI, the Crying Jordan memes were already trending and the Falcons championship gear was already lining up sporting goods stores.
There may never be another Super Bowl like Super Bowl LI.