Can a football game have both a great comeback and an incredible choke job?
Yes. And Super Bowl LI did.
Tom Brady and the Patriots had to be magnificent to erase a 25-point lead in the second half and beat the Falcons 34-28 in overtime.
They made the Atlanta defense look helpless in the closing minutes.
Brady made great throw after throw while he got great protection and at least one spectacular catch.
But the lead and time were such that Atlanta could have won no matter what New England did.
The Falcons offense failed to maximize its opportunities to bleed the clock and add to the lead.
If it had succeeded in just one of those two things, they could have made the comeback impossible, but they went 0 for 2.
And when the Patriots eventually got it going with their offense, it was not all that surprising because they are, you know, good. It just should have been too late.
The first half was a perfect script for a Falcons upset. They ran the ball, which limited how many big passing plays they had to have. They had a defensive score and another turnover that stopped a Patriots drive.
They also rushed Brady relentlessly, knocking him off his game – which is exactly what the Giants did both time they beat him in previous Super Bowls.
Atlanta has a great offense, so it was fair to expect them to put up some points and have some success throwing the ball, but they weren’t going to overwhelm a very good New England secondary from start to finish.
A pair of productive running backs (and two timely turnovers, including a pick-six) provided the support Matt Ryan and Co. needed to build a big lead, but New England took care of the ball in the second half.
Meanwhile, the second half was a perfect script for how you blew a 25-point lead. At least assuming the other team has the best quarterback of all time.
Atlanta offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan left a strong running game idling in the barn, Ryan committed in untimely turnover of his own, and Brady and his bunch built momentum.
And so when it became a game again late in the fourth quarter, an average defense was worn out and Brady took full advantage.
Then Atlanta suffered the bad luck of not winning the coin toss after regulation, and the rest is history.
The Falcons left the door open, and Brady made them pay the ultimate price.