5. Super Bowl LI, 2017: New England 34—Atlanta 28
The incomparable Patriots juggernaut rolled into their seventh Super Bowl in 16 years, only to face a stiff challenge against an Atlanta team making its second-ever appearance. For the better part of three quarters, New England appeared to be shockingly outclassed on both sides of the ball, as the Falcons built a seemingly insurmountable 28-3 lead. What ensued from there was part luck, part tactical genius, and part sheer will, as New England somehow climbed even and finally overwhelmed a stunned Atlanta team in overtime for their fifth title.
Competitiveness: 10 of 10. The first Super Bowl game to reach overtime featured two teams nearly evenly split in terms of talent. In the end, the razor-thin margin was more a testimony to New England’s poise and experience, and less a display of superior personnel.
Star Power: 9 out of 10. The Falcons featured the league’s MVP in Matt Ryan and its most dominant receiver in Julio Jones. For the Patriots, game-changing plays by stars like Julian Edelman and Dont’a Hightower helped the greatest coach and the greatest quarterback in league history author one of the most breathtaking finishes ever in a championship.
Controversy/Intrigue: 9 out of 10. Having started the season serving a highly dubious four-game suspension for his role in the largely invented controversy known as Deflategate, Tom Brady took his revenge on the league office in his accustomed fashion, by hoisting aloft the Lombardi trophy. The Falcons baffling failure to run the ball late in the game allowed New England precious time to mount their comeback. Had they played even slightly more conservatively it is likely the Patriots furious rally would have run short of time.
Aftermath: 9 out of 10. The victory certified the Pats as the best team ever, and Brady as the most prodigious winner in the history of the sport. Despite mangling the Falcons play-calling late, Atlanta’s offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan was hired as head coach of the San Francisco 49ers, traded for prized Pats backup QB Jimmy Garoppolo and ended his inaugural season on a five-game winning streak.
Aggregate Score: 37 out of 40.
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