By CHRIS HAVEL
Brady, Belichick cement legacy with legendary comeback
In case there was any doubt, the New England Patriots proved once again that they are the NFL’s greatest team this century.
New England’s 34-28 overtime victory against the Atlanta Falcons Sunday in Super Bowl LI was a vivid reminder.
The Patriots rode Bill Belichick’s genius, Tom Brady’s right arm and James White’s ability to catch and run to KO Atlanta and cap the greatest comeback in Super Bowl history.
Trailing by 25 points in the first half, the Patriots resembled the Green Bay Packers in the NFC Championship game.
They were down and out by any objective, reasonable standard. Super Bowl LI was all over but the halftime show. The Patriots could’ve collapsed and called it a day.
Instead, they relied upon a veteran nucleus of 23 players with Super Bowl experience and what they do best, which is to control the football with the short passing game, mix in the run and let Brady do his thing.
How does this differ from Green Bay’s 44-21 loss?
First, the Patriots’ defense stayed with it. They got pass rush when they needed it. They defended the ball in the air as well as expected against Matt Ryan, Julio Jones and the rest, and they out-coached the Falcons’ staff.
All Atlanta had to do to win was call a running play three straight times and kick a 40-yard field goal. Instead, the Falcons’ offensive genius, Kyle Shanahan, elected to throw it.
Shanahan should be ashamed. A holding penalty and a sack knocked them out of field goal range. The ensuing punt allowed Brady enough time to drive the Patriots to the tying touchdown and 2-point conversion.
That was possibly the worst coaching decision of Falcons head coach Dan Quinn’s career.
It would’ve been glossed over if not for Brady and White. White, the ex-Badgers running back, was a fourth-round pick. He has parlayed that into a 14-catch, highlight-reel performance on the NFL’s grandest stage.
Compare it to Green Bay’s offense vs. Atlanta.
Ty Montgomery (1 for 2), Aaron Ripkowski (2 for 28) and Christian Michael (1 for 3) caught a combined four passes out of the backfield. White had nearly as many catches (14) as the Packers’ backs had targets (16). The running back position is a glaring hole in Green Bay.
Montgomery offers hope, but he needs help. Besides, the Packers had him against Atlanta and didn’t use him. That’s on the coaching staff.
Packers head coach Mike McCarthy isn’t Belichick – nobody is except Vince Lombardi and a handful of others – but he IS one of the NFL’s top head coaches.
He needs to re-think his preferred way of playing offense.
Is it going to be an up-tempo, high-flying attack that merely sprinkles in the run when needed? Is it going to be Montgomery as the lead dog in the backfield?
Or is McCarthy going to try to earnestly build an effective running game to complement his passing attack?
Against Atlanta, the Packers didn’t run the football, and they didn’t use the short passing game to replace the run.
The Patriots were headed that direction in the first half before wising up and taking what the Falcons would give them. The result was time-killing drives, points and worn-out Atlanta D.
By the time the fourth quarter arrived, the Falcons vanished.
Ryan, the NFL’s MVP, had a 144 quarterback rating and LOST.
Rodgers vs Ryan
I’ll take Aaron Rodgers over Ryan every time – and twice on Sundays’ – because he’s a much better quarterback.
But even the great Aaron Rodgers wouldn’t have defeated the Patriots on Sunday. He couldn’t do it by himself, anyway. The Packers’ resources need to be put in two areas: Running back and defense.
My recommendation would be to search for a veteran back in free agency, at least ONE kick-butt linebacker high in the draft, and then some of both with the remaining picks.
If ever there was a time to “go for it,” it’s now. The Falcons’ offense is the NFC’s best and the defense is ascending. They appear to be the greatest obstacle in Green Bay’s path to Super Bowl LII.
Next week, I’ll go into some detail as to moves I’d like to see the Packers make going forward. Meantime, all an NFL fans can do is bow to the Patriots, and if they don’t like it, beat ‘em.
Chris Havel is a national best-selling author and his latest book is Lombardi: An Illustrated Life. Havel can be heard Monday through Friday from 4-6 p.m. CDT on WDUZ FM 107.5 The Fan, or on AM-1400, as well as Fan Internet Radio (www.thefan1075.com). Havel also hosts Event USA’s MVP Parties the evening before home games. Also check out our new Podcast: Between the Lines for more Packers insights. New episodes every Wednesday.