The over-under for the game was an all-time high. No one thought either defense was very good compared to the offenses they were facing.
The only question was whether the Falcons offense would score enough to keep the lead. If anyone told me that Matt Ryan and the offense would only put up 21 points in the Super Bowl, I would assume the Patriots would win by a couple of touchdowns.
Atlanta’s inspired defensive effort in the first half was a wonderful surprise, but was not going to last.
Atlanta’s quick scores in the first half and horrendous second half offense (punt, touchdown, punt, fumble, punt, punt) didn’t give the defense any rest — total possession was only 23:37, with Atlanta running only 41 plays to New England’s 88.
As soon as the pass rush slowed down, it was just a matter of time for the Brady to pick them apart and start scoring at will. (Remember, he made one horrible decision and threw a pick six at the Atlanta 23. If they kick a field goal instead, the Pat’s last drive wins the game in regulation.)
Those last three Atlanta possessions are all on the offense:
- The Falcons recovered an on-side kick and had the ball at the Patriot 41 up 28–9, with 2:05 left in the third quarter. They had 2nd and 1 at the 32. A field goal probably wins the game.
- The next Falcons possession was the Ryan fumble on 3rd and 1. A punt forces New England to use up more clock to score, meaning there is even less time left when the Falcons made their last drive…
- With the Falcons still leading 28–20, they drove to a 1st and 10 at the New England 22 with 4:40 to go in the game. If there was only 2:40 left in the game, they run three times, forcing New England to use up all their time outs. If they make the field goal, they are up by 11 with two minutes to go, and the Pats with no time outs.
It is within the realm of possibility for a team to score quickly, recover an onside kick and then make another field goal to win the game in the last two minutes — Seattle was down by 12 when they got the ball back with 3:52 left in the 2012 NFC Championship, then scored two touchdowns in 2:37, allowing the Packers to kick a field goal and force overtime.
But I’d still take my chances with the team that is up by 11 with less than three minutes to play.