Sunday night was fun!
Super Bowl 51 was a landmark for many reasons, but the real story had nothing to do with either team, it was really the culmination of a battle between two men.
The story of the end of the 2016-17 NFL season began on Jan. 19, 2015.
That was the day that the claims of under-inflated footballs being used in the AFC championship game changed the course of the Patriots — and more specifically, Tom Brady — forever.
Following the utter destruction of the Indianapolis Colts in the 2014-15 AFC championship game, reports of the footballs used at Gillette Stadium being under inflated and thus easier to catch made their rounds to the NFL commissioner's desk.
Following that game the Patriots snatched up their fourth NFL championship in Super Bowl 49 as they beat the Seattle Seahawks and once again, looked to be untouchable.
Commissioner Roger Goodell, already weary of any Patriot shenanigans, was determined to make Tom Brady and the Patriots pay for any perceived crimes against the NFL and quickly imposed a 4-game suspension on Brady.
Brady appealed the suspension and won, but Ol' Goodell didn't give up.
Following a District Court's vacation of Goodell's suspension, Brady proceeded to play all 18 of New England's 2015-16 games, including the playoffs.
In the meantime, Goodell continued to work at getting Brady to serve the 4-game suspension, as he and the rest of the NFL's higher ups appealed the District Court's ruling and on March 3, 2016, they were able to get a United States Court of Appeals judge to reinstate the suspension citing that, “the evidence of ball tampering was compelling, if not overwhelming,” and that the commissioner was right to believe that Brady probably knew about it.
That probability was all the judge needed to hand Tom Brady a 4-game timeout.
Instead of appealing that ruling to the United States Supreme Court, Brady took his suspension and began to plot his revenge.
The Patriots opened the season 3-1 during Brady's suspension, something that came as a surprise to many considering the Pats had to use two different QBs during that span, including a rookie, and still came out of the first quarter of the season with winning record.
Brady came back with a vengeance, lighting up teams to the tune of 28 touchdown passes to only two interceptions while going 11-1 the rest of the way.
As Brady's name once again found its way into the most valuable player discussion you could almost feel Roger Goodell shuddering at the thought of having to be in the same room as Brady, let alone handing him any sort of award.
As the playoff arrived there was chatter that the Patriots weren't as good as advertised and that they played a weak schedule and would probably struggle against the better teams of the AFC.
Wrong … so wrong.
In the two playoff games that Brady and the Patriots played they scored a scintillating 70 points while only surrendering 33, including a 36-17 shellacking of the Pittsburgh Steelers in the AFC title game.
Meanwhile the poor Atlanta Falcons rampaged through the NFC with no idea of the horror that they were about to be a party to.
The narratives of, “Is Tom Brady the greatest ever?” or “Can the Patriots defense handle the Falcons videogame-esque offense?” were just a few of the constant questions being asked headed into Super Bowl 51 (or LI if you're stuck up).
For exactly the first 36 minutes and 29 seconds Tom Brady was NOT the greatest ever and the Patriots could NOT handle the Falcon's videogame-esque offense, which led 28-3.
Goodell could be seen laughing and enjoying the end of the Tom Brady era with former players as he watched from his luxury box at NRG Stadium in Houston.
The Patriots were going down and he would never have to hand Tom Brady or the Patriots a thing (at least for another 12 months).
But then the Patriots happened and the Falcons never scored again.
Scoring 25 points in the final 17 minutes (and six seconds) including a missed extra point and then the success of two different two-point conversions, the Patriots defied reason and odds to tie the game at 28 with 57 seconds left remaining in the game.
To that point no team had ever come back from more than 10 points down to win a Super Bowl and no Super Bowl had ever gone into overtime.
We got both.
I can only imagine what was going through Goodell's mind as he watched James White drag three Falcon defenders across the goal line to secure a 34-28 win and Tom Brady's fifth NFL championship.
He knew instantly that he was going to be ruthlessly booed by the entire stadium as he handed New England head coach Bill Belichick the Lombardi Trophy, he knew that he was going to have to see that smile on Tom Brady's face as he walked up to the podium.
He knew who the fans were going to vote in as Super Bowl most valuable player.
Which meant he knew that he was going to be handing a trophy to, and posing with, and smiling with the man whose life he had sought to make so incredibly difficult over the past two years.
And they really booed him.
What was funny though, is as satisfying as this win should be for Brady and the entire Patriots organization, they have been (characteristically) professional.
Not once has Brady made a snide comment about Goodell in the (currently) 18 hours following the win.
He took pictures with Goodell.
He shook his hand.
He kept that million dollar smile.
He had won.
If they haven't found Tom Brady's missing jersey by now, I think I would begin looking somewhere around 345 Park Avenue in Manhattan.