Although Tom Brady, who was named MVP of Super Bowl LI for completing 43 passes for 466 yards and two touchdowns, gets the majority of the spotlight for the New England Patriots’ success, he certainly wasn’t the only player responsible for the New England’s epic 34-28 overtime victory over the Atlanta Falcons last Sunday.
Many players made critical contributions to help the Patriots claim their fifth Lombardi trophy in franchise history. For example, Trey Flowers registered 2.5 sacks, Malcolm Mitchell and Danny Amendola both came down with clutch fourth-quarter catches, and Stephen Gostkowski, despite botching one of his extra point attempts, was very efficient on kickoffs.
However, many people may not realize right tackle Marcus Cannon, a native of Odessa, Texas, was just as important to New England’s improbable victory as anybody else on their roster. Offensive linemen are constantly overlooked in football, even when they reach the professional level. There aren’t many stats you can judge them off of and you usually only hear of them if they make a mistake that negatively impacts their team.
Cannon, who was by far the Patriots’ most improved player in the 2016 season, was the unsung hero of Super Bowl LI. The Second-Team All-Pro turned Vic Beasley, one of the best pass rushers in the NFL, into a complete non-factor on the game’s biggest stage. Initially, many people viewed Beasley, who lead the NFL in sacks this season with 15.5, as someone who would have a colossal impact in the result of Sunday’s game; but he didn’t collect a single tackle. In fact, he recorded only one quarterback hit the entire ballgame.
Beasley wasn’t the first dominant pass rusher Cannon shut down this season. In Week 15 against the Denver Broncos, First-Team All-Pro Von Miller failed to record a sack when lined up against Cannon. Ironically, a big reason New England didn’t reach Super Bowl 50 was because they didn’t have any answers for Miller in last season’s AFC title game.
As for the rest of the Patriots’ offensive linemen, they didn’t play nearly as well as Cannon did against Atlanta, but the unit had an overall solid campaign in 2016 and they should only improve in 2017, as all five starters will be under contract next season.