If the Patriots can knock off the Falcons in Super Bowl LI, it will set the stage for what could go down as the most awkward trophy ceremony of all-time as Goodell will have to either hand the Lombardi Trophy to Tom Brady, Patriots owner Robert Kraft or coach Bill Belichick.
The trophy usually goes to the owner, but it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Kraft to defer to Brady, especially since Brady was forced to miss the first four games of the 2016 season thanks to Goodell’s punishment for Deflategate.
Taking home the Lombardi Trophy won’t be easy though. If the Belichick and the Patriots want to take home their fifth trophy, they’re going to have to knock off the high-flying Falcons.
For the past six weeks, the Falcons have been blowing by everyone: Atlanta has scored at least 33 points in each of its past six games, which includes four regular season games and two playoff games.
Of course, the Super Bowl is different. Many teams have struggled because the moment gets too big, which is something the Falcons will need to avoid. The game against the Patriots will mark Atlanta’s first appearance in the Super Bowl since a 34-19 loss to the Broncos in Super Bowl XXXIII back in January 1999.
The game will also mark a chance at revenge for Falcons coach Dan Quinn. Before taking the job in Atlanta, Quinn’s was with the Seahawks. In his final game with Seattle, Quinn was the defensive coordinator in Super Bowl XLIX, which coincidentally just happened to end with Quinn’s team losing to the Patriots when the Seahawks decided not to give the ball to Marshawn Lynch at the one-yard line.
On the Patriots’ sideline, Belichick will be coaching in his NFL-record seventh Super Bowl. Belichick had held with the record of six with Don Shula, but now holds it by himself.
Brady has never loss to the Falcons, and Matt Ryan has never beaten the Patriots, but that could all change on Super Bowl Sunday.
Here’s a look at the Super Bowl schedule, along with a brief summary on each playoff game that got us to this point.
Super Bowl LI
Monday, Jan. 30
Opening Night, 8 p.m. ET (NFL Network): For the second straight year, Super Bowl festivities will kickoff with Media Day being moved to prime time again. If Brady’s going to get questions about Deflategate, it will come here. Pretty much every journalist who applies will get credentialed, which means we could see some wild questions being asked to Patriots and Falcons players.
Sunday Feb. 5
New England vs. Atlanta at NRG Stadium in Houston, 6:30 p.m. ET (Fox): The final game of the NFL season should provide us with some fireworks as we’ll be getting the NFC’s high-scoring team in Atlanta (33.8 points per game), going up against the AFC’s highest-scoring team in New England (27.6). This will be Patriots’ ninth Super Bowl appearance, which will break that all-time record they had previously held with the Cowboys, Broncos and Steelers. As for the Falcons, they’re slightly newer to this whole Super Bowl thing. The game against New England will mark just the second time in franchise history that the Falcons’ have reached the Super Bowl (lost in 1998).
Note: You can check out the results of every playoff game from the 2016 season below.
Wild Card Weekend
Saturday, Jan. 7
Texans 27, Raiders 14: Putting a rookie quarterback up against the top defense in the NFL is generally a receipt for disaster, which the Raiders found out first-hand against the Texans. Houston had no problem shutting down Oakland’s offense, which was led by Raiders rookie quarterback Connor Cook. Speaking of quarterbacks, the Texans were probably pleasantly surprised by Brock Osweiler‘s performance. The beleaguered quarterback played arguably his best game of the season. For more on Houston’s win, be sure to check out our takeaways by clicking here.
Seattle 26, Detroit 6: With Marshawn Lynch in retirement, Seahawks running back Thomas Rawls decided to honor him by going Beast Mode on the Lions. Rawls rushed for 161 yards against the Lions, breaking Lynch’s franchise postseason record of 157. The Seahawks also got a huge game from Doug Baldwin, who caught 11 passes for 104 yards. The win over the Lions means that the Seahawks will be heading to Atlanta for the divisional round. For more on Seattle’s win, be sure to check out our takeaways by clicking here.
Sunday, Jan. 8
Pittsburgh 30, Miami 12: For the first time ever, Ben Roethlisbeger, Antonio Brownand Le’Veon Bell all played together in a playoff game, which turned out to be horrible news for Miami. The Dolphins defense had no answer for Bell (29 carries, 167 yards, 2 TDs) or Brown (five catches, 124 yards, two TDs) as the Steelers rolled. For more on Pittsburgh’s win, be sure to check out our takeaways by clicking here.
Green Bay 38, N.Y. Giants 13: The way Aaron Rodgers is playing, the Packers might not ever lose again. Despite constant pressure from the Giants defense, there was no stopping Rodgers on Sunday in Green Bay. The Packers quarterback threw for 362 yards and four touchdowns. Over Green Bay’s past seven games, Rodgers now has 22 touchdown passes and zero interceptions. For more on Green Bay’s win, be sure to check out our takeaways by clicking here.
Saturday, Jan. 14
Atlanta 36, Seattle 20: The Seahawks defense had no answer for Matt Ryan, who torched Seattle for 338 yards and three touchdowns. The Falcons scored on five of their first six possessions as they jumped out to a 29-13 lead. The win means that Atlanta will be heading to the NFC title game for just the fourth time in team history. The Falcons are 1-2 all-time in the NFC Championship. For more on Atlanta’s win, be sure to check out our takeaways by clicking here.
New England 34, Houston 16: The Patriots got punched in the mouth early, but then recovered and KO’d the Texans in the second half of an 18-point win that was closer than the score indicated. Tom Brady threw as many picks against Houston (two) as he did during the entire regular season. The good news for the Patriots is that ugly wins count the same as every other win. New England will be moving on to the AFC title game for the sixth straight year. That streak sets a new NFL record, breaking the old mark set by the Raiders from 1973-77 and tied by the Patriots last year. For more on New England’s win, be sure to check out our takeaways by clicking here.
Sunday, Jan. 15
Green Bay 34, Dallas 31: In one of the wildest playoff games you’ll ever see, Aaron Rodgers threw for 356 yards and two touchdowns as the Packers beat the Cowboys to advance to the NFC title game for the third time since 2010. After two straight years of watching the Packers’ season end in overtime, Mason Crosby decided not to let the game that far this time around. The Packers kicker nailed a 51-yard field goal as time expired in regulation to give his team the win. For more on Green Bay’s win, be sure to check out our takeaways by clicking here.
Pittsburgh 18, Kansas City 16: Antonio Brown, Le’Veon Bell and Big Ben aren’t the only “Killer B’s” in Pittsburgh, there’s also kicker Chris Boswell, who put together one of the most impressive kicking performances in postseason history. The Steelers kicker set an NFL record with six field goals against the Chiefs, and as you can tell by the final score, all six of them were sorely needed. Bell (170 yards rushing) and Brown (108 yards receiving) also came up big in the win. For more on Pittsburgh’s win, be sure to check out our takeaways by clicking here.
Sunday, Jan. 22
Atlanta 44, Green Bay 21: The Packers had no answer for Matt Ryan or Julio Jonesas the Falcons completely steamrolled their way to an 23-point win in the NFC title game. Ryan threw for 392 yards and four touchdowns, and most of that went to Jones, who tallied 180 receiving yards and two touchdowns. Ryan’s four TD passes made him the first QB in eight years (Kurt Warner) to throw four or more touchdown passes in a conference title game. With the win, the Falcons are now headed to the Super Bowl for the second time in franchise history. For more on Atlanta’s win, be sure to check out our takeaways by clicking here.
New England 36, Pittsburgh 17: Tom Brady played like a man possessed, which makes sense because at 39-years-old, the Patriots quarterback might not get too many more shots at the Super Bowl. Brady was almost perfect against the Steelers, going 32 of 42 for 384 yards and three touchdown. The Patriots didn’t do much on the ground, but that didn’t matter because wide receivers Chris Hogan (180 yards, 2 TD) and Julian Edelman (118 yards, 1 TD) both had huge games for the Patriots. For more on New England’s win, be sure to check out our takeaways by clicking here.