Wednesday, February 8, 2017
Thoughts on being at Super Bowl 51
By Steve Kallas (posted by Rick Morris)
It was amazing to be at the greatest football game ever played (given the stakes and the comeback). Here are a number of thoughts about the game, including a few that were never seen nor discussed despite all of the coverage of this event.
THINGS YOU COULDN’T HAVE SEEN OR KNOWN UNLESS YOU WERE AT THE GAME, PART I
About two hours before the game (give or take a few minutes), place-kicking star Stephen Gostkowski came out to warm-up for the game. He first kicked an extra point going from left to right on your TV screen. His kick bounced off the right upright. After the Patriots scored to make it 28-9, Gostkowski went out to kick the extra point, kicking from left to right on your TV screen. His kick bounced off the right upright. It was eerie.
THINGS YOU COULDN’T HAVE SEEN OR KNOWN UNLESS YOU WERE AT THE GAME, PART II
Before and during the coin flip, Alan Branch of the Patriots walked back and forth between the 20-yard line and the 45-yard line for at least five minutes. He was the only player on the field other than those out for the coin flip. It looked like he wanted to be alone in a stadium with over 70,000 people in it. Strange but true.
KYLE SHANAHAN GETS THIS SUPER BOWL’S “PETE CARROLL” AWARD
Two years ago it was clear that Pete Carroll did not understand the difference between being aggressive and being stupid. Not giving the ball to Marshawn Lynch down at the goal line late in the game was the dumbest play call in Super Bowl history. But once Julio Jones made a spectacular catch late in the fourth quarter, up eight, at the Patriots 22, the game was over – if the Falcons had let reliable Matt Bryant come in and kick a 39 or 40-yard field goal.
But, alas, after a one-yard loss on a running play, Shanahan lost his mind and decided to throw the ball (we were being “aggressive”). Once again, guys who make millions of dollars (or will soon make millions of dollars as a head coach) didn’t understand the difference between aggressive and stupid. Run it up the middle twice, move the ball on third down to wherever Bryant likes it and kick a field goal (yes he could miss it, but the odds are very low and you would still kill clock and/or Patriots timeouts). Up 11 with less than four minutes to go most likely would have clinched the Super Bowl. We’ll never know, but this was a colossal screw-up, all in the name of being aggressive. Hard to believe it’s now happened twice in the last three Super Bowls.
THE PATRIOTS DID TO ATLANTA WHAT CLEMSON DID TO ALABAMA
The Falcons defense played great for two-and-a-half to even three quarters. But they ran out of gas, much like Alabama’s vaunted defense did against Clemson in this year’s NCAA Championship game. The constant in both games: both Clemson and the Patriots ran over 90 plays, an incredibly high number. In fact, the Patriots ran more than twice as many plays as the Falcons ran (93-46). This clearly showed late in the game.
JAMES WHITE “KEVIN FAULKED” THE FALCONS
If you are a die-hard Patriots fan (I’m not but have watched virtually every one of their games since the year before Mo Lewis became the Patriots MVP for life), when the Patriots went for two down 28-18, you knew what was going to happen. White was split out to the right, then came into the backfield next to Brady. He took the direct snap, Brady makes that weird fake like the ball is going over his head and White scores up the middle for the second of the four scores (that’s right, two TDs and two two-point conversions) the Patriots needed to tie the game.
If you are a die-hard Patriots fan, then you know that this was the Patriots top two-point conversion play for many years and that Kevin Faulk was the man to do it. In fact, I was sitting with a die-hard Patriots fan (my son, Johnnie) who reminded me that thirteen years ago, on this field, Kevin Faulk had done the exact same thing to the Carolina Panthers in the Super Bowl. It didn’t look like the Falcons knew it was coming, but most Patriots fans did.
SHEA MCCLELLIN MADE A GREAT PLAY STOPPING THAT EXTRA POINT
Up 13-0, with Atlanta lining up for the extra point, the Patriots tried the play that was previously executed well by now-gone Jamie Collins. But Shea McClellin has some athleticism of his own, perfectly timed the snap and jumped over the guard to make it impossible for Bryant to even kick the extra point. Improperly called for a penalty, this one point swing (and also Gotskowski’s extra point miss) shows how single points can change a Super Bowl score.
THINGS YOU COULDN’T HAVE SEEN OR KNOWN UNLESS YOU WERE AT THE GAME, PART III
Within a minute, Bill Belichick had what had to have been a photograph of McClellin legally jumping over the guard to stop the extra point. While on TV they showed Belichick showing the picture to McClellin, he actually spent the next five minutes showing it to every official who walked near him or who came over to him. It was fascinating to watch.
ONE OF THE MOST INCREDIBLE PLAYS OF THE YEAR WAS HARDLY NOTICED
After the Patriots cut the lead to 28-20, Atlanta had the ball first and ten at their own ten with 5:53 left in the fourth. You will probably remember that Devonta Freeman, who was an MVP candidate in the game (until he didn’t block Dont’a Hightower and until the Falcons lost the game), went out on the flat all alone and caught a pass for a 39-yard gain. On the TV coverage (which I watched the next night), Troy Aikman said he didn’t know if middle linebacker Elandon Roberts (#52 if you watch the replay) was responsible or not for Freeman being wide open.
But Aikman failed to mention that, once Roberts saw it was not a running play, he was actually running away from Freeman and was even knocked down by a Falcon wide receiver. And what Aikman and virtually everybody failed to see was that Roberts, at least 20 yards from Freeman and on the ground going the other way when Freeman caught the ball, got up, sprinted out towards mid-field and made the tackle on Freeman. Had Roberts not made that incredible hustle and athletic play (he ran about 25 yards on yard markers and another 20 yards or so across the field), there’s no telling how far Freeman would have gone (the only other Patriot in front of Freeman was being blocked). Sheer hustle and determination saved the day on that play. An amazing play that got little or no recognition.
HERE’S ANOTHER WAY THAT BILL BELICHICK HAS CHANGED THE NFL
The NFL moved the kickoff up (and put the ball on the 25 rather than the 20 after a touchback) to have more touchbacks and fewer collisions during runbacks. But Bill Belichick has used this rule to great advantage for the Patriots. He has Gostkowski try to kick the ball to the five-yard line or so (give or take a few yards) in order to have his excellent special team players surround the ball carrier at the ten or fifteen, well short of the twenty-five.
On two Patriot kickoffs late in regulation, the Falcons had to start at around their own ten. It was a rare sight this season (I would guess you could count them on one hand) for a return against the Patriots, when the ball was kicked inside the ten, to go past the 25-yard line.
It says here that by next year or certainly two years from now, virtually every team will try to do what the Patriots have done this year in the kickoff game. Just another example of Belichick changing the game. It reminds me of Joe Maddon and the shift at Tampa Bay – it took the other baseball teams a year or three, but now virtually everybody does it.
THINGS YOU COULDN’T HAVE SEEN OR KNOWN UNLESS YOU WERE AT THE GAME, PART IV
If you bought a $6 bottle of water at the Super Bowl, you were given the bottle with a blue sleeve that I thought, maybe, was to keep the water cold for a longer period of time. When I went down at the half and got a second one, I asked the woman who sold it to me why she had to put this blue sleeve over the water bottle. She said, “This is Dasani water, do you know who makes it?” After I said I thought it was Coke but wasn’t sure, she said, “You’re right. Now, who’s sponsoring the Super Bowl? Pepsi, right?” And, of course, she was right. With 70,000 plus in the seats, I’m going to guess they sold over 100,000 bottles of water. I should have (but didn’t) asked her who paid for the blue “cover-ups.” You can’t make this stuff up.
FINALLY, THINGS YOU COULDN’T HAVE SEEN OR KNOWN UNLESS YOU WERE AT THE GAME, PART V
I debated whether or not to put this one in, but it happened and it was fascinating to watch. We stayed for the entire post-game celebration (and even this Giant fan booed Roger Goodell when he went up to the microphone – nobody in the stands heard a word he said; he was totally drowned out). In any event, sitting in the upper deck, literally three rows in front of the last row, I saw a number of fans (Patriot and even a few Falcon fans) running around the upper deck dumping out soda or beer from Super Bowl 51 special souvenir cups (I know the price was absurd but don’t remember exactly what it was). They were stacking these cups to take home and are probably on a website for sale near you. Maybe I’m wrong; whatever people paid for them you might now be able to get more for them (than when they were full) online.
After all, they are now a collector’s item (maybe?) from the greatest football game ever played (definitely!).