What Have We Learned From Super Bowl 51 Sunday & beyond of the 2017 NFL Playoffs plus offseason

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Tom Brady

New England Patriots’ Tom Brady raises the Vince Lombardi Trophy, after defeating the Atlanta Falcons in overtime at the NFL Super Bowl 51 football game Sunday, Feb. 5, 2017, in Houston. The Patriots defeated the Falcons 34-28. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

Here is What Have We Learned from Super Bowl 51 Sunday of the 2017 NFL Playoffs plus going into the offseason, thanks to the AP Pro 32 for photos & help in this article.

Ups

  • Tom Brady earns 4th Super Bowl MVP trophy with epic comeback– The greatest quarterback in NFL history led the biggest Super Bowl comeback to be the MVP on Sunday night.Tom Brady rallied New England from a 25-point third-quarter deficit for a 34-28 win over the Atlanta Falcons in the first overtime game in Super Bowl history to earn his fifth Super Bowl title and fourth MVP trophy.”They’re all sweet,” he said. “They’re all different and this was just an incredible team and I’m just happy to be a part of it,” he said.

    Brady threw touchdown passes of 5 and 6 yards in the second half and tied things at 28-28 when he connected with Danny Amendola on a 2-point conversion with 57 seconds left.

    He then directed the drive in overtime which ended with a 2-yard run by James White to make the Patriots the first team to win a Super Bowl after trailing by more than 10 points.

    “We all brought each other back,” he said. “We never felt out of it. It was a tough battle.”

    His performance certainly wasn’t without its struggles. His incredible second half and overtime came after a first half where the Patriots managed just three points and he threw an interception which Robert Alford returned 82 yards for a touchdown. He was hurried and harassed for much of the games. The Falcons sacked him five times and hit him on another eight occasions.

    He noted the beating he took when he was trying to recount the details of the comeback and couldn’t remember what the score was at one point in the rally.

    “There was a lot of (stuff) that happened tonight,” he said. “I got hit pretty hard.”

    His 466 yards passing are a Super Bowl record, surpassing the 414 yards Kurt Warner had 17 years ago. He also set a record for most passes completed in a Super Bowl with 43 and most attempts with 62.

    He is the first to play in seven Super Bowls and the victory ties him with Charles Haley for most Super Bowl rings.

    After all Brady has done in his career, was this his finest moment?

    “Tom’s had a lot of great ones,” coach Bill Belichick said. “But, yeah tonight was one of them.”

    It’s a triumphant end to a difficult season for Brady, who missed the first four games because of his “Deflategate” suspension and dealt with his mother Galynn Brady suffering through an undisclosed illness. The Super Bowl was the first game she’s attended all season.

    “They’re all happy,” he said fighting back tears. “It’s nice to have everybody here and it’s going to be a great celebration tonight.”

    He shared a quick moment with her right after the game, but was looking forward to more time with her in the upcoming days.

    “It’s kind of madness after the game so I didn’t get much quality time with her but we’ll get it this week,” he said.

    But he certainly wasn’t asking for sympathy for his rough road to this title though, chuckling when someone asked about the adversity the Patriots have gone through in the past couple of years.

    “We’ve done pretty good over the last few years … so I don’t think anyone’s feeling bad for the Patriots,” he said. “I don’t think anyone feels bad for the Patriots.”

    Brady also collected the MVP trophy in 2001, 2003 and 2014.

    “It was just a lot of mental toughness by our team and we’re going to remember this one for the rest of our lives,” Brady said.

  • Who’s White? The young Pats RB had 3 TDs including winner– James White sure waited a long time to get his first rushing touchdown of the season.It came with 57 seconds left in the fourth quarter of the Super Bowl Sunday night , leading to a 2-point conversion for the Patriots to tie the game at 28, forcing the first ever overtime in the history of the big game.He didn’t wait very long to get his next rushing score. It came about four minutes into overtime and won the Super Bowl for New England 34-28 over the Atlanta Falcons.

    “Felt like everything went in slow motion,” White said. “That’s dream about as a kid, ball in my hands with the game on the line, I’ve got to find the end zone.”

    White, who didn’t have a rushing touchdown all season, immediately popped up and sprinted around the end zone before being tackled by teammate LeGarrette Blount.

    “All the hard work you put in all season long just for that moment, just trying to get a victory for my teammates, is really amazing” said White, who had no idea he was the only player in the NFL’s 51 Super Bowls to score a touchdown on the game’s final play.

    The third-year running back from Wisconsin also had a TD reception and a 2-point conversion as the Patriots rallied from down 28-3.

    White, who had one rushing attempt for no gain and four catches in New England’s two AFC playoff games, also finished with a Super Bowl-record 14 catches for 110 yards. His 5-yard TD catch in the third quarter started the rally, cutting the lead to 28-9.

    The Patriots often get performances from little-known players in big games. In the AFC championship, receiver Chris Hogan surprised the Steelers with 180 yards receiving.

    White’s 20 points were a Super Bowl record, and included his run for a 2-point conversion that got the Patriots within one score after Brady’s 6-yard TD pass to Danny Amendola, who then caught the overtime-forcing 2-point conversion after White’s touchdown.

    “James White is just — he’s everything you want in a teammate and football player. Dependable, consistent, durable, the best attitude,” Brady said. “He brings it every day and we just kept going to him so I think that speaks for itself.”

    Brady set a Super Bowl record with 466 yards passing and the Patriots had the biggest comeback ever to win the NFL’s signature game. If not for that performance, White would have been a strong contender for MVP.

    Asked if he expected to be such a big part of the game plan, White responded, “I just wanted to be a viable option for my team.

    “The ball came my way. Blocking, running, I just wanted to do whatever it takes to get a victory,” he said. “It’s a Super Bowl, you’ve got to lay it all on the line.”

    The game-ending run was a toss right, with White finding a crease and pushing forward. And he knew right away he was in the end zone.

    “It really hasn’t set in,” he said. “It’s surreal right now.”

Middle

  • 2016: Greatest year in sports history?– The New England Patriots pulled off the greatest comeback in Super Bowl history, rallying from a 25-point deficit to beat the Atlanta Falcons 34-28 in overtime.They may have also capped one of the greatest one-year stretches in U.S. sports history.The run started last April, when Villanova knocked off North Carolina on Kris Jenkins’ buzzer-beating shot in the NCAA Tournament title game in Houston _ the same stadium where the Patriots won.

    The Cleveland Cavaliers followed that by rallying from a 3-1 deficit in the NBA Finals and beat the Golden State Warriors in a tense Game 7 that wasn’t decided until the final minute.

    The Chicago Cubs took their turn in November, ending 108 years of frustration by outlasting the Cleveland Indians 8-7 in 10 innings of Game 7 in the World Series.

    Not to be outdone, college football had one of the most thrilling championship games in its history, with Clemson scoring with 1 second left to knock off top-ranked Alabama 35-31. Not a bad year at all.  Maybe the best ever.

 

  • Patriots add to list of title-clinching comebacks– There have been bigger comebacks in sports history than what the New England Patriots pulled off in Super Bowl 51.But such a comeback, on the ultimate stage, in a championship-deciding game — that simply doesn’t happen very often.Before Sunday, no team in Super Bowl history had ever successfully rallied from more than 10 points down. The Patriots erased a 25-point deficit to win their fifth Super Bowl victory, somehow rallying from 28-3 down to beat the Atlanta Falcons 34-28 in overtime.

    “Down 25 points, it’s hard to imagine us winning,” said Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, who took home his fifth championship and fourth Super Bowl MVP trophy. “It took a lot of great plays and that’s why you play to the end.”

    What the Patriots did will go down in sports lore.

    And here’s a look at some of the other great title-clinching comebacks that have been pulled off over the years.

    ___

    2017 COLLEGE FOOTBALL PLAYOFF

    Alabama never lost under coach Nick Saban when it entered a fourth quarter with a double-digit lead — 96-0 in such situations until last month in Tampa, Florida. The Crimson Tide led Clemson 24-14 with 15 minutes remaining in the national championship game. But a wild fourth quarter awaited, and Clemson got the winning touchdown on a Deshaun Watson pass to Hunter Renfrow in the final seconds as the Tigers (who trailed 14-0 early) won the title, 35-31.

    ___

    2016 NBA FINALS

    Cleveland was down by eight in the third quarter, on the road no less, against Golden State in Game 7 of the NBA Finals. But the Cavaliers outscored the hosts by 12 points the rest of the way, held the best team in NBA regular-season history scoreless in the final four-plus minutes — helped by LeBron James’ amazing chasedown block in the final moments — and pulled off a 93-89 win. It was a comeback game and comeback series for the Cavs, who trailed the finals 3-1 before rallying.

    ___

    1997 WORLD SERIES

    The Florida Marlins were four strikes away from elimination in Game 7 of the World Series, trailing 2-1 to the Cleveland Indians in the bottom of the ninth inning. But Craig Counsell’s sacrifice fly off Indians closer Jose Mesa tied the game, and the Marlins won it in the 11th when Edgar Renteria hit a series-ending single.

    ___

    1992 NBA FINALS

    Game 7 was awaiting the Portland Trail Blazers. They were up by 15, in Chicago, going into the fourth quarter. But Michael Jordan and the Bulls decided to end the season right then and there. They outscored Portland 33-14 in the fourth quarter, and wrapped up their second consecutive NBA title with a 97-93 win.

    ___

    1988 NCAA WOMEN’S FINAL FOUR

    Louisiana Tech had lost the NCAA championship game the year before, and the Lady Techsters looked like they would do so again. They were down 37-23 with 15 minutes left, but behind Erica Westbrooks’ 25 points and a stellar defensive effort by Teresa Weatherspoon a comeback was pulled off — Louisiana Tech winning 56-54. It remains the biggest deficit overcome in NCAA women’s title game history.

    ___

    1978 PGA CHAMPIONSHIP

    John Mahaffey trailed by seven shots going into the final round, but shot 66 at Oakmont to put himself in position for what became his only major championship. Mahaffey beat Tom Watson and Jerry Pate in a playoff, making birdie on the second extra hole.

    ___

    1971 STANLEY CUP FINAL

    Chicago was up 2-0 in Game 7, on home ice, midway through the second period and well on its way to beating the Montreal Canadiens for the Stanley Cup. But the Blackhawks let it slip away. Jacques Lemaire had a goal and an assist 4 minutes apart late in the second period to tie the game, and Henri Richard’s second goal of the night at 2:34 of the third period was enough to give Montreal a 3-2 Cup-clinching win.

    ___

    1963 NCAA MEN’S FINAL FOUR

    Loyola-Chicago was down by 15 points with 14 minutes remaining, before coming back and stunning top-ranked Cincinnati 60-58 in overtime. All five Loyola starters played the entire game, and the Ramblers made history by starting four black players in the championship game. Vic Rouse got the gamewinning basket at the buzzer.

 

  • Now attention turns to 2017 NFL offseason, draft– The New England Patriots have some more catching up to do.Bill Belichick hardly took time to relish the greatest comeback in Super Bowl history when he declared “in all honesty, we’re five weeks behind in the 2017 season to most teams in this league.”After overcoming a 25-point deficit to win their fifth title, the Patriots will pick last in the NFL draft April 27 in Philadelphia. Last year, they were stripped of their first-round pick in the “Deflategate” ruling that included a September suspension for Super Bowl 51 MVP Tom Brady.

    Cleveland had the worst record in the league at 1-15 and will pick first, followed by San Francisco, Chicago and Jacksonville. Among the possible top picks is Texas A&M edge rusher Myles Garrett, whom many project will follow in Super Bowl 50 MVP Von Miller’s footsteps.

    Between now and draft weekend, prospective rookies will be poked, prodded and peppered by NFL personnel. Some players will get extra scrutiny at the NFL combine in a month or on their pro days in March because of discipline issues or health concerns.

    Some have already seen their stock slide based on poor decisions or plain bad luck, and others are steadily climbing all the mock drafts.

    Two running backs who are projected high picks — Leonard Fournette of LSU and Christian McCaffrey of Stanford , skipped their bowl game a year after Notre Dame linebacker Jaylon Smith cost himself millions by blowing out his left knee in the Fiesta Bowl.

    Smith was projected as a potential top-five pick before his injury, and instead went to the Dallas Cowboys in the second round with the 34th overall pick. The difference in guaranteed contract money is about $19 million.

    McCaffrey, the 2015 Heisman Trophy runner-up, sat out the Dec. 30 Sun Bowl between Stanford and North Carolina after an injury-marred 2016 season “so I can begin my draft prep immediately.” Three days later, Fournette said he would miss LSU’s Citrus Bowl matchup with Louisville on Dec. 31 to rest an injured ankle.

    Both would love to be like Dallas rookie running back Ezekiel Elliott, who led the Cowboys’ turnaround from bottom-feeder to the NFC’s top playoff seed. Elliott didn’t like Fournette and McCaffrey bailing on their teammates, tweeting, “I would do anything to play one more time with my brothers in that scarlet and gray.”

    When others pointed out he skipped his senior season to enter the draft, Elliott tweeted: “there is a difference between not coming back for your last year and not finishing your last season.”

    Tell that to Jake Butt. Michigan’s star tight end is this year’s cautionary tale after tearing an ACL in the Wolverines’ 33-32 loss to Florida State in the Orange Bowl.

    Other college stars who will draw extra attention from teams trying to pry the Lombardi Trophy from Belichick and Brady:

    JOE MIXON: The Oklahoma running back set the school’s single-season record for all-purpose yards last season, but he was suspended for the 2014 season after punching a woman in the face. Mixon’s lawyers released video in December of him breaking Oklahoma student Amelia Molitor’s jaw and cheekbone in July 2014, and heavy criticism of Mixon and Sooners coach Bob Stoops followed. Mixon gave a tearful public apology a week later.

    CHAD KELLY: The Ole Miss QB is both a character concern and a health risk . He was leading the SEC with 2,758 passing yards when he tore his right ACL and lateral meniscus and underwent surgery in November. His long list of off-the-field troubles include getting kicked off the Clemson team in 2015, an arrest after a bar fight in 2014 and sparking a brawl at his brother’s high school football game. “I’ve made stupid mistakes in the past. I can’t deny that,” he said. “But … I’ve learned from it.”

    SETH RUSSELL: Like Kelly, Baylor’s QB went to the Senior Bowl, where he sat in on meetings and observed practices even though he couldn’t play in the game. Russell broke his left ankle in a loss at Oklahoma in November. He had 2,126 yards passing with 20 touchdowns and eight interceptions, and also ran for 506 yards and eight more scores. He was 14-3 as the Bears starter.

    SHAWN OAKMAN: Baylor’s career sacks leader went undrafted last year after finishing his eligibility in 2015. He was indicted last July on a charge of sexually assaulting a woman. The school was criticized after Oakman was seen on the sideline at the Bears’ game against Rice in 2016. Coach Art Briles was removed last year following a report alleging the private Baptist university mishandled complains of sexual assault, a cloud that could hang over other Bears prospects.

    DALVIN COOK: The Florida State running back has both a long list of accomplishments and arrests. He topped 1,000 yards in all three seasons and ran for 46 career TDs. He’s No. 2 on the ACC career charts in yards rushing and is the ACC’s all-time leader with 5,399 yards from scrimmage. His run-ins with the law include accusations he punched a woman outside a bar, brandished a firearm and mistreated dogs.

    COREY DAVIS: The Western Michigan wide receiver might not work out at the combine in Indianapolis because of ankle issues. Davis could have been a high draft pick had he left after his junior year last season, but he returned for his senior season and had 97 receptions for 1,500 yards and 19 TDs. That gave him 331 catches for 5,278 yards and 52 TDs overall.

    MALIK HOOKER: The Ohio State All-American safety will miss the combine after undergoing hernia surgery. He returned three of his seven interceptions for TDs last season when he also made 74 tackles and broke up 11 passes. Ohio State co-defensive coordinator Greg Schiano has compared the 6-foot-2, 205-pounder to former NFL All-Pro safety Ed Reed.

Downs

  • Falcons’ flop a new low for Atlanta’s sad sporting history– Well, Atlanta, there’s nothing left to say.The city once known as “Loserville” was cruising toward its first Super Bowl championship, leading Tom Brady and the mighty New England Patriots by 25 points.TWENTY-FIVE!

    Back in Atlanta, the city was all ready to bust loose in a celebration like no other, seemingly assured of finally putting to rest its history of sports flops.

    Then, it happened.

    The greatest flop of them all.

    This one will take a long, long time to get over.

    Brady engineered a stunning comeback, guiding the Patriots to a pair of touchdowns and a pair of 2-point conversions that sent the Super Bowl to overtime for the first time.

    At that point, it was a mere formality.

    The Patriots won the coin toss.

    Of course.

    The Patriots drove right down the field for the championship-winning touchdown.

    Of course.

    The final: New England 34, Atlanta 28.

    This one will go down as one of the greatest title games in NFL history.

    That’s little consolation to Atlanta.

    In the A-T-L, this will join the Braves blowing a 6-0 lead in Game 4 of the 1996 World Series, the Hawks squandering a chance to eliminate Larry Bird and the Boston Celtics in the 1988 NBA playoffs, Danny White leading the Dallas Cowboys back from 10 points down in the fourth quarter to beat the Falcons in a 1981 playoff game.

    But, really, nothing comes close to this level of sporting disappointment.

    The Falcons spent 2½ quarters playing with the swagger and confidence of a team that wasn’t the least bit concerned about their city’s history.

    Even in the closing minutes, after the Patriots made a game of it, Atlanta was in position to put the victory away when Julio Jones made a stunning catch along the sideline, going to rip the ball away from a defender and somehow getting both feet down before tumbling out of bounds at the New England 22.

    With under 5 minutes remaining and the Falcons still up 28-20, all they needed to do was run three more plays and set up for a field goal by Pro Bowl kicker Matt Bryant that would finally put the Patriots away.

    Devonta Freeman was thrown for a 1-yard loss, but that was OK.

    But then, instead of another run, Ryan dropped back to pass.

    He was thrown for a 12-yard loss and, just like that, the Falcons were on the fringe of Bryant’s range.

    Any hope for a field goal was lost when Jake Matthews was called for a holding penalty that set Atlanta back another 10 yards.

    Ryan followed with an incomplete pass, and the Falcons were forced to punt it back to Brady and a Patriots team that was suddenly brimming with bravado.

    It wasn’t the least bit shocking when they marched right down the field, 91 yards, for James White’s short touchdown run.

    It wasn’t the least bit shocking when Brady hooked up with Danny Amendola on a 2-point pass that tied the game with 57 seconds remaining.

    It wasn’t the least bit shocking when the Falcons, without any timeouts, failed to muster anything on their final offensive possession.

    It wasn’t the least bit shocking when the Patriots won the toss and drove down the field one more time, 75 yards in just eight plays, and finished off the Falcons with a 2-yard touchdown run.

    The city of Atlanta had seen it all before.

 

  • Falcons shaking up defensive staff after Super Bowl collapse– After squandering a 25-point lead in the Super Bowl, the Atlanta Falcons are shaking up their defensive staff.The team said Wednesday that coach Dan Quinn has dismissed coordinator Richard Smith and defensive line coach Bryan Cox, though there’s a chance Smith could stay with the Falcons in an advisory role.The changes mean the NFC champions will have two new coordinators next season. Kyle Shanahan left to become head coach of the San Francisco 49ers and was replaced as offensive coordinator by Steve Sarkisian .

    Also, the Falcons will need a new quarterbacks coach. Matt LaFleur is expected to be named offensive coordinator of the Los Angeles Rams.

    Smith will likely be replaced by a coach already on staff. The Falcons are considering defensive backs coach Marquand Manuel, linebackers coach Jeff Ulbrich and defensive passing game coordinator Jerome Henderson.

    Manuel interviewed for the defensive coordinator post in Jacksonville last season.

    The 61-year-old Smith served as defensive coordinator during Quinn’s first two seasons in Atlanta, after previously working as a linebackers coach in Denver. He has more than a quarter-century of NFL coaching experience.

    Under Smith, the Falcons showed significant improvement over the second half of the season and two playoff victories with a unit that often started as many four rookies and four second-year players.

    But in the Super Bowl, Atlanta couldn’t protect a 28-3 lead midway through the third quarter. Tom Brady and the New England Patriots scored 31 consecutive points for the greatest comeback in title game history, winning 34-28 in overtime .

    The Patriots piled up 546 yards and a staggering 37 first downs while running more than twice as many plays as Atlanta, 93-46. Brady, the game’s MVP, completed 43 of 62 passes for 466 yards and two TDs. In addition, New England made two straight 2-point conversions to force the first overtime game in Super Bowl history.

    The 48-year-old Cox had been with the Falcons for three seasons. He was a holdover from Mike Smith’s staff when Quinn took over in 2015.

    Cox played in the NFL for 12 years, earning three trips to the Pro Bowl.

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