The Patriots had pulled within two points in a record-breaking fourth-quarter comeback, but with only 57 seconds remaining, the ensuing two-point conversion was probably a make-or-break play. They had only two timeouts remaining, so barring recovery of an onside kick, the Falcons could have run the clock out on the next possession. In the 2016 regular season, NFL teams converted two-point plays 48.6 percent of the time. (The Patriots were 1-for-2; in the Brady era they are 16-for-32.) Brady’s successful pass to Danny Amendola was hardly a given.
The Patriots were not yet in field goal range, much less in position for the winning touchdown, when they faced second-and-13 at the Falcons’ 40-yard line on the fifth play of overtime. Julian Edelman’s reception put the Patriots in scoring position for their first lead of the game. Three plays later, one of which was a Falcons pass interference penalty, the Patriots won on James White’s 2-yard scoring run.
You could make the case for the Broncos to be in a higher tier, because they like what Trevor Siemian did in 2016, and they used a first-round pick on Paxton Lynch. But they don’t know when Lynch will be ready, what Siemian’s ceiling is, or what they might do about adding someone this offseason. Confusion reigns around the QB position in Denver.
Of course. As I wrote last month, the Bears would be foolish not to kick the tires on a potential trade for Jimmy Garoppolo. If the Bears are truly convinced Garoppolo is a future franchise quarterback … swing a deal with New England and then sign Garoppolo to the long-term deal he wants. There is no substitute to finding the right quarterback.