Despite being hated by Patriots fans, the commissioner may have actually helped New England win this and more future Super Bowls.
How did a 39 year-old quarterback outlast a young defense that in the first half was flying to the ball and applying pressure without blitzing? The Patriots had more than twice the offensive plays as the Falcons. The lopsided time of possession difference was even worse than the stats indicated (40:31 vs 23:27) as New England’s 14 more incomplete passes added little clock time but substantial real time on the field. Atlanta defended for an unprecedented 93 plays. Brady passed more times than Matt Ryan even touched the ball. By the fourth quarter, the pass rush seemed to wear itself out and the tight coverage began to trail.
Don’t forget that the offense led by Brady was on the field the same number of plays as the “rise up” young defense. Why did the aging quarterback not seem tired? Brady is dedicated to his training regimen but there may be more to it.
The four-week forced hiatus where he not only missed games but had to be away from the facility and could not practice may have helped the veteran QB and his team in the long run. The Patriots with Brady only playing a 12 game season still ended up with the playoff bye and home field advantage.
The early rest and shortened season may have helped Brady during the playoffs and Super Bowl. He certainly doesn’t need the added reps. Perhaps it played a role in his strong 4th quarter as the Falcons defenders ran out of gas.
Bill Belichick used a boxing analogy at the MVP ceremony this AM saying “the mark of a true champion is winning after getting knocked down.” Staying in fight game analogies, this contest seemed like the famous rope-a-dope fight during the 1974 “Rumble in the Jungle”. The young George Foreman came out strong and punched himself out as Muhammad Ali conserved energy and stayed strong to finish the fight in the end.
During my time with the Chargers, LaDainian Tomlinson never played in preseason games. He didn’t suit up his rookie year due to a holdout. The newly announced Hall of Famer played so well his rookie season and became so valuable, the team decided to not mess with success. During his illustrious career, he always sat out preseason games. Perhaps this season will set the new precedent for the Patriots.
Father Time catches up to all of us. Perhaps the shortened season model is something Brady and the Patriots will adopt going forward to combat the effects of age. Inadvertently, the most hated man in New England may have helped the Patriots to their fifth Super Bowl and perhaps extended the career of Brady into winning more.
MMMD 1: Did injury play a role in who ultimately won?
By video, it was clear that Alex Mack would not be 100% even before the news of a broken/chipped fibula. He played surprisingly well but did give up the key sack to Trey Flowers that prevented the Falcons from icing the game with a late field goal.
Julio Jones was also still hampered by his turf toe injury. He made a spectacular catch but had a subpar performance for him with only four catches. Jones is reportedly still undecided on offseason surgery.
The lengthened pre-game and halftime made it harder on both Dwight Freeney and Chris Hogan who were playing through muscle injuries. Freeney recorded a sack but missed a short portion of the game with his calf and undoubtedly was not 100%. Hogan recorded 4 catches with his thigh issues but was not nearly as productive as during the AFC Championship Game.
Dont’a Hightower played through a likely left shoulder labral tear and has been using a harness/brace. He effectively used his left arm to make the pivotal strip sack resulting in the key Falcons fumble.
MMMD 2: Athletic trainers and doctors deserve rings too
The medical staff plays a vital role in not only health and safety, but also in a team’s winning. It is right that they too will be awarded with Super Bowl rings.
There is no better example of medical helping a team win than this year’s Super Bowl. The key play was Dont’a Hightower’s strip sack fumble. Despite a likely labral tear (which will need offseason surgery), he made the game-changing play with his injured arm. Doctors and athletic trainers had him safely on the field with a shoulder harness that provided stability yet did not restrict his motion to prevent reaching Matt Ryan to cause the turnover that launched the Patriots to victory.
This is nothing new for the Patriots ATCs as they have enjoyed many Championships. The head team doctor is a rookie this year, as was the lead physician two years ago when New England last won it all. In my 17+ years in the NFL, my team never even made it to the big game. But trust me, I am very happy for them as I know how much work is put in and how special it is.
MMMD 3: NFLPA agenda
Each year at the union players press conference, there seems to be a main agenda push. This year, the call is for teams to follow the concussion protocols exactly. For years, the mantra has been changing and advancing the head injury rules. Now, the players seem happy with the rules and want them strictly enforced.
Recall only two years ago, there was controversy over a big hit on Julian Edelman. That was the genesis of the medical timeout rule. Last year a second concussion spotter was added. Sideline replay, neutral independent physicians, standardized testing, mandatory rules for going to the locker room are just some of the many changes.
It is noteworthy that no new rules are being requested. Last year the commissioner announced a structure for penalties to teams of fines and/or draft picks for violations. To date, no one has been penalized.
The Dolphins were recently warned over their handling of Matt Moore.. The Chiefs are being investigated now over their handling of Chris Conley. I know Kansas City has a quality medical staff and the head athletic trainer is the current President of the Pro Football Trainers Athletic Society. I do not know the specifics of their care during the Division Round game in question. However, don’t be surprised if penalties are assessed for the first time as that is the push of the NFLPA.
MMMD 4: Pain medication lawsuit
News broke during Super Bowl week that the Falcons were worried about their reliance on painkillers in 2010 and how the team spent nearly three times the league average on narcotics. I am not an attorney and I do not know details about the pending lawsuit but I don’t believe this story is not nearly as explosive as it sounds on the surface. In fact, it is my understanding that some teams, including the Falcons, have been dropped from the legal action (although they could be added back in).
To me, the emails show that Atlanta executives acted as soon as they realized their team used more pain medication than the rest of the league. Medical staff changes were made to make sure this problem didn’t go forward.
The Falcons should be applauded not criticized for their actions. In medicine, there is something called peer review. Any internal criticisms and actions to improve medical care are exempt from attorney discovery. The purpose is to encourage the process of improving patient care and to remove the fear of plaintiff attorney discovery. Here it seems like the Falcons found a problem and then acted to correct it.
MMMD 5: Medical Mike Pereira
As most of you realize, I am not a trained professional writer or full-time media member. I have a “day job” as an orthopedic surgeon. I hope this and my almost two decades of experience as an NFL team physician gives me the unique perspective that you enjoy. Hopefully, I can be as good at analyzing injures as Pereira is at breaking down the rules.
I have written a 1500 word article for over three straight years with a one main and seven subtopic format including through the offseason. Add in watching games, keeping up with news, speaking to other reporters, my SiriusXM sport medical analyst duties and my Real Football Network work. It is almost a 40 hour a week second job..
I enjoyed my time at Radio Row and the game. I especially enjoyed taking the media bus all week long. Every ride provided a nice opportunity to randomly meet a fellow media member that we have been mutually following. I was so surprised and flattered that a few fans recognized me and even asked to have their picture taken with me.
MMMD 6 Mrs. ProFootballDoc
I have to thank my wife as she has been so supportive. She takes the kids every Sunday so I can do football. This past week she was single parent for the week as I attended Radio Row and the Super Bowl. She is eight and a half months pregnant and still managed to take the kids to Disneyland for her birthday. There is NO ONE like her.
I also want to thank my co-stars on the Periscope broadcast, Davis and Dylan. My weekends are free again so more Daddy time on the way.
MMMD 7: ProFootballDoc scorecard
This marks the end of my tally of initial impression right/wrong for this season. There may be adjustments as new information is revealed but any subsequent injuries will not count to this total.
This year concludes with a 95.1% record (203-10) of correct injury predictions. Last year the final record was 94.3% (165-10) and the year before that was 137-11 (92.6%). The number of first impression assessments have gone up slightly as well as the percentage correct. With a three-year track record, I am not sure if I will track it again next year as the concept seems to be proven. Using video and insider medical knowledge is at least 90% accurate.
Two decades of NFL team physician experience including two Super Bowls and two Pro Bowls. Providing unique perspective to injuries and the NFL sideline/locker room. Successful orthopedic surgery and sports medicine practice in Southern California.