Patriots

First impressions: Edelman circus catch highlights Patriots amazing comeback

First impressions: Edelman circus catch highlights Patriots amazing comeback

HOUSTON -- Here are some quick-hit impressions from the Patriots' incredible 34-28, come-from-behind victory in overtime over the Falcons in Super Bowl LI:

SUPER BOWL LI: GREATEST COMEBACK IN HISTORY

-- David Tyree, Mario Manningham, Jermanie Kearse . . . Julian Edelman. The Patriots finally had a circus catch go their way in the fourth quarter of the Super Bowl, and it could not have come at a better time. After a 20-yard completion to Danny Amendola, a 14-yard reception by James White and then a 7-yard catch by White, the Patriots were suddenly at the goal line after being sparked by Edelman's ridiculous grab. Brady handed to White, who had the game of his life, for an easy touchdown, and a two-point conversion to Amendola tied it. 

-- Are you kidding me? The Patriots were down 21-0 in the first half. They were down 28-3 at one point. The largest comeback in Super Bowl history was 10 points.

-- In overtime, Brady was masterful. He hit White for three catches that went for 13 yards. He hit Amendola for a 14-yard gain. Chris Hogan picked up 19. Edelman got 15 more. Brady threw incomplete to Martellus Bennett, but a pass-interference call put the Patriots at the one-yard line. After an incompletion on a fade to Bennett, Brady pitched to James White for the game-winning touchdown. 

-- White has been criticized throughout his pro career for an inability to fight through contact, criticism that has been brought to his attention, but he lowered his shoulder and dove for the goal line to give the Patriots their fifth Lombardi Trophy.

-- Dont'a Hightower, Trey Flowers and Chris Long came up with enormous plays to help give the Patriots an opportunity to come back. Hightower strip-sacked Matt Ryan, and Alan Branch fell on the football to prematurely put a stop to Atlanta's first drive of the final quarter. An Amendola touchdown made it a one-score game, 28-20. 

-- During the subsequent Falcons drive, Flowers sacked Ryan and Chris Long drew a hold to knock the Falcons out of field-goal range. Atlanta punted, which led to Brady's game-tying drive and Edelman's remarkable catch.

-- Tom Brady picked a bad time to throw his first-ever pick-six. Late in the second quarter, he dropped back to pass and attempted to hit Danny Amendola on a slant. The only problem was Falcons corner Robert Alford was reading Brady's eyes and undercut the route. Once Alford picked it, he had only Brady to beat for an 82-yard touchdown that made the score 21-0. Brady appeared to try to keep calm as he made his way to the bench, but eventually he chucked the pictures he was shown from the previous drive. 

-- Brady looked off throughout much of the second quarter after completing six of eight attempts for 68 yards in the first quarter. He was also sacked twice in the first 15 minutes, as the Falcons front proved it could give the Patriots problems even if sack leader Vic Beasley wasn't creating pressure.

-- In the second quarter, the Falcons made an obvious attempt to take away Brady's favorite target Julian Edelman, which seemed to help rattle the Patriots quarterback. Edelman was bracketed by linebacker Deion Jones and a corner at times, and on a third down in the middle of the second quarter, there were three Atlanta defenders in Edelman's vicinity. On that play, Brady was forced to go to James White, who was stopped short of a first down.

-- Facing consistent pressure, and with his No. 1 receiver taken away, Brady struggled. On his final offensive drive of the half, Brady missed a wide-open Edelman for a long gain, threw three yards behind Chris Hogan, was off-target to Edelman over the middle, and his screen to Martellus Bennett on third down went for a loss of three. The Patriots got a field goal from the series, but even after running their typica effective up-tempo offense, it was clear the Patriots had issues to iron out at halftime if they were to make the game competitive. 

-- The young interior of the Patriots offensive line had a difficult time with Falcons games up front throughout the first half. Oftentimes, Atlanta coach Dan Quinn's defense didn't need to bring extra bodies to pressure Brady. Shaq Mason was responsible for two quarterback hits and a sack in the first half, Joe Thuney appeared to be responsible for two pressures and a run-stuff, while David Andrews seemed to be the responsible party for two more run-stuffs. Left tackle Nate Solder was also responsible for a hit.

-- LeGarrette Blount's fumble at the Falcons 29-yard line early in the second quarter, recovered by Alford, was a momentum killer that eventually led to the first Falcons scoring drive. On that scoring drive, Matt Ryan worked his connection with Julio Jones for catches of 19 and 23 yards. On the touchdown play, Eric Rowe motioned to the middle of the field when Jones did. When Devin McCourty tried to push Rowe back out to the left boundary, Rowe barely moved. Ryan handed to Devonta Freeman at the five-yard line, and Freeman cut to the left side that Rowe had vacated and there was no one there to stop him. 

-- The Falcons offense had its way with the Patriots in the first half. Ryan completed 7 of 8 passes for 115 yards and a touchdown to tight end Austin Hooper, who beat Patrick Chung. Freeman ran for 71 yards on six carries, using his tremendous vision to cut back and find open running lanes against the Patriots defense. Stretch-run plays, a staple of offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan's offense, were particularly effective for Freeman, who exploded into openings when he found them and refused to be tackled easily.

-- As the Patriots attempted to come back, they broke out several gadget plays: Edelman attempted a pass to Dion Lewis that went incomplete; they tried an onside kick after White's touchdown in the third quarter that was unsuccessful, and they worked a trick return to start the fourth quarter where Edelman faked a catch to draw the Falcons coverage unit while Chung fielded it about 30 yards away near the sideline, but Atlanta was not fooled.

-- The Patriots threatened to take a chunk out of Atlanta's 28-9 lead early in the fourth quarter, but Brady was sacked twice by Grady Jarrett -- his second and third of the day, tying him for a Super Bowl record since 1982 -- to thwart the drive and force a field goal. Jarrett beat Marcus Cannon for one sack and then got by Mason for his second.

Patriots Talk Podcast: Youth - that means draft success - will have to fuel Pats' reboot

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Patriots Talk Podcast: Youth - that means draft success - will have to fuel Pats' reboot

It's simple, really. If the Patriots are going to avoid staying home again after the Wild Card Round of the playoffs next season and seasons to come, they've got to get younger.

And to get younger, they've got to be more successful in the draft.

In the latest edition of Tom Curran's Patriots Talk Podcast, Curran and Phil Perry focus on the last time New England was sent home this early in the playoffs a decade ago and if there can be lessons learned from that roster reboot in 2010. 

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The biggest issue confronting the Pats this time around is their age, which averages 31.6 years old (a 42-year-old quarterback skews that a little, of course). By comparison, the Super Bowl 54 opponents, the Kansas City Chiefs (26.8) and the San Francisco 49ers (26.6) are considerably younger.

Click here to listen and subscribe to Tom Curran's Patriots Talk Podcast: 

The age factor is why, as Perry pointed out, "the pressure is on for them to hit not only in this 2020 draft, where they do have 12 picks, they have no second-round pick, but 12 shots at the dartboard. Last year, they had 10 [picks] and nine guys are still with the team.

"It's clear they have told themselves, 'We need to get younger. We need to start hitting here if we want to sustain this success.' The draft is the lifeblood of any team."

The 2018 team and its victory in the Super Bowl over the Rams last February worked to hide some of those flaws from recent low-yield draft classes.

"They had a great quarterback when they needed him. They had a Hall of Fame quarterback when they needed him. The defense looked tremendous we know how that story played out," Perry said. 

What kind of draft yield are we talking about to fuel the next generation of Patriots' success?

Curran goes on to rattle off the names from 2008-2012 drafts (Mayo, Slater, Edelman, Vollmer, Butler, Chung, Gronkowski, McCourty) that fueled the second half of the Pats dynasty.

"I have upwards of 30 names from 2008 to 2012 who were contributing players to the Patriots. I'm not even talking a little contributing, but massive contributing...," Curran said.  

There's also a discussion of how the uncertainty surrounding Tom Brady will impact the 2020 draft strategy. Listen and subscribe to Tom Curran's Patriots Talk Podcast on the NBC Sports Boston podcast network.

 

That 617 Life Podcast: Patriots' ties to a Pats-less Super Bowl

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That 617 Life Podcast: Patriots' ties to a Pats-less Super Bowl

The Patriots may have been missing from the NFL's Championship Sunday, but that didn't stop them from being mentioned and having their former personnel play prominent roles in the AFC and NFC Championship Games.

Whether it was former Pats linebacker Mike Vrabel coaching the Tennessee Titans against the Kansas City Chiefs or former New England quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo helping the San Francisco 49ers beat the Green Bay Packers to reach Super Bowl 54, the Patriots continue to be a talked-about team. 

On the latest edition of the "That 617 Life" podcast, Leroy Irvin, Shanda Foster and Cerrone Battle discussed how the Pats still loomed over the games on Sunday.

"You can not say anything bad about the Patriots because we are always constantly producing talent," Foster said. "I think this is the perfect testament to Bill Belichick."

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Battle said it speaks to the dominance of the Patriots the past two decades that connections to their former players and staff are now all over the league.

"That's what happens when you win," Battle said. "When you win, everybody wants a piece. They want your waterboy. Look at the new head coach of the Giants [Joe Judge, the former Patriots special teams and receivers coach]?... When you're good for 20 years eventually you're going to have your roots all over the league. After years and years of success, I'm not shocked by it."

Irvin and Foster said instead of lamenting a rare NFL Final Four without New England, Pats fans should be grateful.

"I wish Patriot Nation would grow up," Irvin said. "By that I mean I'm tired of seeing on social media people just crying and complaining, 'Oh it's boring without the Patriots.' We've had almost two decades of excellence. We're not there. Get over it."

Said Foster, "I was grateful more than anything. Filled with gratitude. We may never see a run like this again."

In his "Hot Takes and Cold Cuts" segment, Battle says those crowning the Super Bowl 54 opponents as the next dynasties might want to pump the brakes a little. 

"First thing I heard [after the games] is, 'Kansas City they're gonna be around for years and San Francisco they're gonna be around for a long time. They're gonna be contenders forever,' " Battle said. "That was the story all day. 'What is anybody gonna do about these teams next year?' What are they gonna do next year? Not even worry about them. Why? Because this is the Not For Long League. The NFL. Every year, the teams that were hot the year before are never guaranteed to be hot the year after that. Unless you're the Patriots."

The crew also gives their reactions to the new Aaron Hernandez Netflix documentary. It's all in this week's "That 617 Life" podcast on the NBC Sports Boston Podcast network. Click here to listen and subscribe.