Gorch on the Porch: It's okay to be lucky and good

Bob Andres/Atlanta Journal-Constitution/TNSThey are calling it "The Catch." If wide receiver Julian Edelman hadn't made that catch, the greatest comeback in Super Bowl history may never have happened and the New England Patriots wouldn't have been Super Bowl champions. "It was one of the greatest catches I've ever seen," quarterback Tom Brady said. "I don't know how the hell he caught it." The Atlanta Falcons lost to the New England Patriots in Super Bowl LI on Sunday at NRG Stadium in Houston, Texas.

Sorry for pontificating about the Super Bowl a couple days late, but I’m off on Tuesday while teaching aspiring young journalists in a college class (fill in random joke here about how they’re in trouble or how Calumet College in Whiting must be desperate).

Normally, a Super Bowl might not be worthy of a follow-up Gorch on the Porch rant. But Sunday’s roller coaster ride was the greatest Super Bowl ever and deserves extra accolades and analysis.

And some random columnist like myself saying the Patriots won due to luck more than skill.

(Pardon me while I duck from flying objects thrown by Patriot Nation.)

Sure, the G.O.A.T. (Greatest Of All Time) quarterback Tom Brady did orchestrate the greatest comeback in a Super Bowl of all time with 466 yards passing. But the greatest comeback in anything — and boy, did we have some doozies last year — is always paired with a remarkable choke, too.

In just the last eight months we’ve had the first 3-1 series lead blown in the NBA Finals with LeBron James leading the Cleveland Cavaliers to a title over the Golden State Warriors, and the Chicago Cubs winning their first World Series in 108 years after being down 3-1 to the Cleveland Indians.

So a 25-point deficit midway through the third quarter in the Super Bowl and subsequent comeback are par for the course.

But luck played a huge part in the Patriots’ win, no doubt about it. How can it not when the Falcons were had a 99.6 percent chance of winning after they went up 28-3 in the third quarter? I come from a family of mathematicians, and when the number is that high and it doesn’t happen, that’s really lucky for the 0.4 percent-chancer.

First, the Patriots scored a touchdown on the next possession after falling behind by 25, but missed the extra point. Then they tried an onside kick — not a good decision by the great Bill Belichick — and failed. Atlanta couldn’t take advantage.

After the Patriots cut the lead to 16 with a field goal, early in the fourth quarter, they basically needed everything to go right the rest of the way — no more points scored by Atlanta, a pair of two-point conversions after two touchdowns, and a coin flip in overtime.

In the midst of those general needs of luck, they also got the benefit of some blatant incompetence by the Atlanta coaches. When you get down to the opponent’s 22-yard line with about 4:30 left in the game — the biggest game of your life — and an eight-point lead (28-20) and a very good field goal kicker in Matt Bryant, you have to come away with points.

Have to, need to, required to … you better, you better, you bet (yes, those are the words of the great philosopher Pete Townshend and The Who). Otherwise, you don’t deserve the overinflated paycheck you’re getting.

Instead of running the ball three times, forcing the Patriots to take timeouts or see the clock dissipate, then kicking a fairly easy field goal to virtually clinch the Super Bowl, the Falcons tried to pass, a couple times with quarterback Matt Ryan being sacked and then a holding penalty moving them out of field goal range.

That’s not on the Patriots’ skill. Even the sack could have been avoided if Ryan threw the ball away. Instead, Atlanta punts to the Patriots with about 3:30 left — plenty of time for Brady and company.

And even then, the Patriots needed an improbable catch by Martellus Bennett off a deflection, and then the most miraculous catch of all time by Julian Edelman after the ball hit off a couple arms and legs of three different players before he grabbed it a centimeter from the ground.

All of that luck doesn’t take away what the Patriots accomplished. Fortune favors the prepared mind (yes, that’s from Louis Pasteur, but I prefer the version from the villain, Travis Dane, in the movie “Under Siege 2: Dark Territory”). It also helps to have dummies on the other side who couldn’t finish the deal.

Reach sports editor Steve T. Gorches at sgorches@thenewsdispatch.com or (219) 214-4206. Follow him on Twitter @SteveTGorches.

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