Now that we have canonized Tom Brady and anointed the New England Patriots as the greatest NFL franchise of all time, could we take a pause and at least recognize that they were more lucky than good on Sunday.

Make that on their last two Super Bowl Sundays.

While workmen were vacuuming up the confetti in Houston on Monday, I happened upon my original “instant analysis” of the game, which was written about halfway through the fourth quarter and would have been posted online if the Atlanta Falcons had not suddenly forgotten that they were beating the Patriots like an old rug.

“It’s not often you get to see the Patriots manhandled like this …” I wrote.

The game was over. The only thing left to do was to run the ball and throw a few short passes here and there, and the clock would do the rest. But apparently quarterback Matt Ryan and offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan were wearing their WWPCD (What Would Pete Carroll Do?) bracelets and decided to keep the pedal to the metal.

So Ryan got blindsided and fumbled to set up a quick Patriots touchdown and then, with a chance to put the game away with a very makeable field goal, the Falcons continued to outsmart themselves.


Ryan dropped back again for no apparent reason and got sacked. Then he dropped back again and the Falcons were called for holding. And then everybody who has ever watched an NFL game knew what was going to happen.

No disrespect is intended toward four-time Super Bowl MVP Tom Brady, but the only reason he threw the ball about 150 times in the game was because it was a blowout. That he dialed it way up at the end is a testament to what an amazing quarterback he still is at 39 years old, but he never should have been in that position.

He has five rings instead of three because less-experienced teams have a tendency to get full of themselves and forget that they call the final minutes “crunch time” for a reason.

Somewhere, Marshawn Lynch was smiling ruefully and remembering a similar play-calling brain cramp in Super Bowl 49, though it would probably be unproductive to try and interview him about that.

He chalked it up to divine intervention in a postgame tweet late Sunday night.

“I kno y I didn’t get the ball now. Yes Lawd!!!!!”


The Seahawks very likely would have won their second straight Super Bowl if Russell Wilson had simply handed the ball to Lynch on second down at the 1-yard line. But Wilson inexplicably went for the quick pass in traffic and it was intercepted to seal the Patriots’ four-point victory.

Mind you, this doesn’t mean that the Patriots don’t deserve their last two Lombardi trophies. They certainly do deserve them and they deserve to be recognized as the undisputed kings of the NFL’s salary cap era. And Brady is one tough hombre who was knocked silly over the course of Sunday’s game and should be portrayed as the Energizer Bunny in one of next year’s $5 million Super Bowl commercials.

But the Falcons weren’t beaten by Brady or Bill Belichick.

They were beaten by the Patriot mystique.

It was always in the back of Ryan’s mind that no matter how close he was to shaking the postseason monkey off his back, that was the Patriots over there, and if he didn’t drive a stake into their evil heart they would surely rise from the dead and steal his ring. They are the pro football equivalent of a self-fulfilling prophecy.

The Patriots have earned that kind of intimidating respect, so they earned their latest championship, but it wasn’t because Brady threw for a million yards or because Belichick is the greatest football coach of his era – though he certainly is.

All that’s left is to wonder what they’ll do for an encore.

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