What. A. Game.

$.01--Super Bowl LI turned out to be one for the ages. It sure didn’t look that way early on, as Atlanta raced out to a 21-3 halftime lead.

My kids went to bed when the Falcons pushed the lead to 28-3 halfway through the third quarter. They’re gonna be real surprised when they get up in the morning and see the final score:

New England 34, Atlanta 28

Tom Brady wasn’t sharp up to that point, and the Atlanta pass rush was controlling the game. LeGarrette Blount couldn’t do anything to help, and he hurt with the lost fumble too. Then the script flipped.

The Patriots deserve a lot of credit, but the Falcons were explicitly complicit in their own collapse. Instead of playing smart and realizing the clock was the opponent more than the Patriots, Atlanta kept throwing. There were penalties (all valid ones too) and the Patriots' own pass rush started to make more of an impact.

When it got to 28-20, you could sense the Falcons panic. Atlanta defenders started looking at each other after plays, pointing fingers like “I thought you…” back and forth.

The experience gulf between New England and Atlanta was the biggest difference. New England never panicked, never lost confidence even when way down. The Falcons players tightened, and their coaching staff couldn’t refocus or rejuvenate them.

The Patriots found ways to win. Guys like James White on offense and Trey Flowers on defense came up with big plays. Julian Edelman made a legendary snag off a deflected pass, a ball which probably should have been intercepted. The Falcons couldn’t get anyone to step up. Julio Jones tried with an incredible catch, but it was wiped out by a penalty.

That’s the story of the game. No team has ever so consistently found role players who can step up and make big plays, and their history of doing so is what fed the confidence to fuel the comeback. Atlanta clearly hadn’t been there before, and it showed too.

$.02--Tom Brady is the first quarterback to win five Super Bowls, and he was the easy choice for MVP.

There will always be detractors who will point to the Patriots’ scandalous “-gates” and the impact of Bill Belichick as the head coach, but this performance cements Brady as the best quarterback in the Super Bowl era in my mind.

This was his fourth Super Bowl MVP, and he deserved every one of them. Leading a team on such a historic comeback, racking up 546 yards of total offense and over 40 minutes of time of possession, that’s the ultimate capper for Brady, the final feather in his cap.

Belichick proved he’s the greatest coach in the Super Bowl era as well, but I’m not sure anyone could have offered a compelling argument to the contrary even before this game. You might not like his methods. You might hate his controversial choices which produced all those “-gates”. But you have to respect how well he manages the talent on hand and picks apart every opponent.

Some will quibble that the two of them together dampens the legacy of both. Hogwash. While it might be a symbiotic success, it’s an unprecedented one. Brady didn’t need Belichick to be great, and the converse is true as well. But together they’re the best 1-2 punch in modern NFL history. You might not like it, but you’d better respect it.

$.03--The NFL had its award ceremony over the weekend, and there were some interesting choices.

At MVP, we knew Matt Ryan would win. The voting behind Matty Ice is where the intrigue comes. Ryan captured 25 of the 50 votes. Tom Brady was second with 10, which isn’t unexpected. Ezekiel Elliott came in third along with Raiders QB David Carr, both of whom received six. You’ll see why Elliott’s place here is curious in a minute…

All of those guys topped Aaron Rodgers, who had a monster year with a lesser supporting cast than anyone above him. I’m not saying Rodgers deserved to win over Ryan, but what he did with Green Bay’s weakest roster in years in resurrecting the Packers from 4-6 to the No. 3 seed in the NFC deserved more love.

Back to Elliott. Even though he came in third in MVP voting, he did not win Offensive Rookie of the Year. He apparently wasn’t even the best rookie on his own Dallas team, as QB Dak Prescott captured the honor instead.

Nothing against Prescott, who had an impressive season for sure, but without Elliott doing his magic at running back there’s no way the QB is anywhere close to as successful as he became.

If you ever needed evidence that quarterback is the most important position, this is it. Elliott led the league in rushing as a rookie and for my money was the best rookie RB since at least Adrian Peterson. Remember that when four quarterbacks get drafted in the top 25 and the third running back doesn’t come off the board until the middle of the second round.

The closest vote came at Defensive Player of the Year, where Oakland’s Khalil Mack edged out Denver’s Von Miller by just one vote. Miller had 2.5 more sacks but Mack forced two more fumbles and also recovered three, with an INT for good measure. Miller did not record a takeaway. My pick for the award, Atlanta’s Vic Beasley (see the $.05 here) didn’t garner a single vote. 

$.04--Halftime show

Frequent readers know I have an intense disdain for fabricated pop music and divas, so I went into Lady Gaga’s exhibition with very low expectations. I’m only familiar with a handful of her catalog.

I came away impressed. More than anything else, Gaga can actually sing. Strong, powerful, clean singing always makes for a good show no matter the genre. She has a great voice and controls it without throwing it in your face like most pop tartlets.

Starting out singing This Land is Your Land and God Bless America on the roof of NRG Stadium, with a recital of the Pledge of Allegiance underneath a patriotic light display, was a bold move. I’m sure some will find some way to spin that into a negative shot, but I found it a sign that America is still great and we should be proud even in these trying political times.

The descent into the field and the singing on the tower were probably great in person, but it didn’t come across well to me on TV. I thought the pacing was a little slow off that, but it perked back up. Again, her impressive singing carried me through songs I only sort of recognize.

Visually I was reminded of an Olympic opening ceremony with the flashes of color and the mass choreography. The slow song seemed a bit out of place but again I think that probably went over very well in person, or if you knew the song ahead of time.

I’ve come to grips that we’ll never get a rocking halftime show. My dream of Coheed and Cambria will never come true. Even mainstream stuff like Foo Fighters is apparently too much to ask. Yet I really liked the Bruno Mars show last year, and Gaga’s set was a lot better than recent yawners from The Who or Beyonce. It made me want to see her perform in person, so that’s a big win.

$.05--The ads

Many people watch the big game just for the advertisements, as it’s the Super Bowl for the marketing world too. This year’s crop was decent, with no egregious misses like there typically are (puppy/monkey/baby, anyone?).

Some of my favorites include:

The Buick ad with Cam Newton taking over for a pee-wee QB. Well-scripted and I like that it highlighted a lot of the product line.

Kia scored with the Melissa McCarthy hero ad, though I don’t remember the name of the car they were promoting. I’m not typically a fan of her comedy, but in that small of a dose it was perfect.

Staying with the car commercials, the Ford spot with all the sticky situations which immediately followed George H.W. Bush doing the coin toss was a winner for me.

World of Tanks can’t possibly recoup all they spent on the ad time, but their spot with a tank destroying a “teeny” house really hit home. I’m giggling right now just thinking about doing that.

It was a quick hitter late in the game, but the Amazon ad where the man is wolfing down Doritos and the woman quietly asks her app to order more, with a drone delivering instantaneously, was great.

I see very few trailers that want to make me see the movie itself. I’m going to see “Baywatch” with The Rock simply because the trailer was awesome.

It was an ad that went over the head of anyone younger than about 40 but the Peter Fonda “Easy Rider” redux Mercedes ad was a winner, too.

The updated Mr. Clean was a winner. The updated Spuds McKenzie was not.

Now I’m just hopeful not to get too sick of any of the ads I currently like by the end of the week.