Mar. 15, 2017
New Titles for Super Bowl Competitors
First of all, wow. Football history was made last night, and we should all appreciate the fact that we were alive to witness it. Arguably the greatest Super Bowl ever played, number 51 was one for the books, literally. It was the first Super Bowl to go into overtime, where the Patriots won in walk-off fashion by a score of 34-28 over the Falcons. Brady didn't score the final touchdown, but he was the hero. His heroics somehow brought his team back from a 25 point deficit. In addition to being historic, the game also provided some defining moments in the careers of some players and coaches. As the season ends in dramatic fashion, let's see the new personas that these men will now embrace.
Tom Brady: "Greatest quarterback of all time."
There is absolutely no argument anymore. Joe Montana was the biggest argument against him for the longest time, but this ring for Tom's thumb is the tipping point. You can throw any name in the argument, Elway, Manning, Unitas, Young, Marino, none of them stack up to what Brady has done. His 43 completions for 466 yards and 2 touchdowns in the game make the argument clear as well. Brady is also 4th currently in all time passing yards with 61,582. Even as old as he is, Brady has shown no signs of slowing down. The all time record, held by his old rival Peyton Manning with 71,940, could be within reach if his ridiculously productive play keeps up. Either way, Brady has the numbers and the hardware to be considered the greatest to ever sling the pigskin.
Bill Belichick: "Greatest coach of all time."
This one is far more cemented than Brady's. Yes, Vince Lombardi changed the game. Yes, George Halas, John Madden, and Don Shula were legends. But look at what Belichick has done in New England. His halftime adjustments won his team a Super Bowl last night. The epitome of student of the game, Belichick is constantly expanding his repertoire and learning from his mistakes. He's posted above a 70% win percentage in both the regular season and playoffs in his 17 years with the Patriots. He is unmatched. The man knows how to win a football game. For years to come, every up-and-coming coach will be regarded as "the next Belichick" and said coaches will be honored for the comparison. He's the best ever, and still has quite a few potential years left on the sideline if he wants to. He could easily add to his legacy.
Matt Ryan: "Elite Quarterback"
Did Matty Ice get the win? No. Did everyone think he would until about halfway into the 4th quarter? Yes. While victory may have eluded Ryan this time, this season has proven that he is in the upper echelon of active quarterbacks. He is officially in the same conversation as Brady, Brees, Rodgers, and Roethlisberger. This season may not have yielded a Lombardi trophy, but it did bring Ryan the Offensive Player of the Year and MVP awards. Hurling 4,944 is quite the feat. An even better feat is throwing for more than 4,500 yards every year since 2012. Matt Ryan can sling the pigskin with the best of them. Will he ever be a Super Bowl champion? Will he be in the Hall of Fame some day? Only time will tell. For now, all we know about the 31 year old is that he should be considered elite.
Devonta Freeman: "One of the best running backs in the league."
Though on the losing side of the Super Bowl, Devonta Freeman can take a lot of positives away from last night. He opened some eyes with his tenacious play. He ran hard every time he touched the ball. He posted 75 yards on 11 carries and one touchdown. He also caught 2 passes for 46 yards. While most would argue that he shouldn't be in the conversation of best running back, you have to remember the offensive system the Falcons run. Kyle Shanahan's offense is completely quarterback oriented. It is fine-tuned for Matt Ryan. The offense is a mix of bubble screens, slants, play action, and deep bombs. The entire structure of the scheme is to use the running back as a decoy and a receiving option. Yet, the 3rd year man out of Florida State has put up 1,000 yards rushing his past two seasons. While Ezekiel Elliot is exulted for his 1,631 yards this season, he did so with 95 more carries than Freeman, who put up 1,079. Freeman was extremely productive on the carries he received. In addition to being a ground threat, he fits the Falcons scheme well with his hands. He caught for 462 yards and 2 scores this season. A deadly dual threat, Devonta Freeman is among the best running backs in the league. With a long career still ahead of him, he very well may become the best.
Josh McDaniels: "One Ballsy Dude."
While this one isn't as serious as the others, it is still worth mentioning. When the Patriots were struggling to get any offensive production going in the middle of the third quarter, McDaniels called for a bubble screen to wide receiver (and former quarterback) Julian Edelman, who then slung the ball across the field to a well covered Dion Lewis. While the play was quite stupid and failed miserably, it took some guts to call in the Super Bowl when trailing by 25. Also, on the last play of regulation, he took another risk. His offense set up in what appeared to be a victory formation, an apparent kneel down was imminent to propel the game into overtime. However, this was not the case. Instead, McDaniels ran one of my favorite plays in all of football: The Annexation of Puerto Rico. A play almost as beautiful as it's name, The Annexation of Puerto Rico involves a direct snap to a running back in the back field, where said running back sprints behind a wall of blockers while all other backs run the opposite direction to cause distraction and confusion. Again, the play failed and the game went to overtime. While none of the gutsy plays he called worked, props to Josh McDaniels for not caring about what happens and calling what he wants.