For the fifth time in the past 16 years, the New England Patriots are Super Bowl Champions.
Despite being down 21 and 25 points at different parts of the game, the Patriots scored 31 unanswered points to mount the biggest comeback in Super Bowl history to defeat the Atlanta Falcons in overtime 34-28.
This was the first time that a Super Bowl has gone into overtime.
Even though this was a high-scoring affair, no points were scored in the first quarter. However, it was all Atlanta in the second quarter. The Patriots had the ball to begin the second period on their own 38-yard line, but running back LeGarrette Blount fumbled the ball and Falcons corner-back Robert Alford recovered it. From there, the Falcons ran five plays and got on the scoreboard first with a five-yard run by Devonta Freeman.
Following a New England punt, the Falcons scored again in five plays, this time with a 19-yard catch by tight end Austin Hooper from quarterback Matt Ryan. Just a few minutes later, Atlanta would extend their lead even further when Alford intercepted Patriots quarterback Tom Brady at the Falcons’ 18-yard line. Alford ran the ball all the way back for a pick-six, giving the Falcons a 21-point lead. The Patriots would kick a field goal to make the score 21-3 at halftime, but had lots of work to do in the second half to make it a competitive game.
Following a series of punts to open up the second half, the Falcons got things going again. Ryan found receiver Taylor Gabriel for gains of 17 and 35 yards, setting up Atlanta in New England territory. The Falcons were facing a 3rd-and-four play at the Patriots’ nine-yard line, and picked up a first down off of a pass interference call on Patriots corner-back Malcolm Butler. That gave the Falcons a first down at the Patriots’ six-yard line, and running back Tevin Coleman scored on a six-yard reception from Ryan.
Now being down 28-3, the Patriots had even more of a hole to dig themselves out of. They did answer the call on a 13 play, 75-yard drive that ended with a five-yard touchdown pass to running back James White. Despite the boost in confidence with the touchdown, kicker Stephen Gostowski missed the extra point. With 2:05 remaining in the third quarter, the Falcons seemed to be firmly in control with a 28-9 lead.
To put it nicely, the fourth quarter and beyond featured the Atlanta Falcons getting spanked by the greatest coach & quarterback of all time – Bill Belichick and Brady. The Patriots scored 19 points in the fourth quarter, and held the Falcons to absolutely nothing to tie the game. Those 19 points came via field goal, and two touchdowns that were both followed up with a successful two-point conversion.
On the Falcons’ drive before the Patriots tied the game, the Falcons arguably could have put the game away if they had scored even a field goal. With 4:40 left to play, the Falcons had a 1st-and-10 on the Patriots’ 22-yard line. From there, Ryan was sacked for a 12-yard loss, and a 10-yard holding penalty pushed the ball all the way back to the New England 45-yard line. Atlanta ended up punting, squandering their chance to take an 11-point lead with three and a half minutes to play.
The Patriots tied the game with 57 seconds to go, and Atlanta had to timeouts to work with. Following the New England kickoff, the Falcons got the ball at their own 11-yard line. They ended up punting with just a few ticks left, and the game was sent into overtime. New England won the coin toss, and went right down the field to score the winning touchdown.
On the winning drive, Brady completed passes of 14, 18, and 15 yards before the Patriots had a 1st-and-goal on Atlanta’s two-yard line. White scored the winning touchdown on a two-yard run, and the confetti immediately dropped.
The win gives Belichick and Brady their fifth Super Bowl win together. They are 5-2 overall in Super Bowl appearances. Brady won his fourth career Super Bowl MVP, and the Lombardi Trophy was handed to the Patriots by NFL commissioner Roger Goodell. Of course, Goodell suspended Brady for the first four-games of the season for his involvement with “deflategate,” making the exchange a bit awkward.
Just to put into perspective how dominant Brady was in the game, look at his final line. Brady finished the game with 466 passing yards – 246 of those came after the third quarter. He threw a touchdown pass and converted a two-point conversion through the air during the big comeback, and led the team down the field in each scoring drive. Anyone who says that he is not the greatest quarterback ever is wrong. What’s perhaps the most impressive thing about Brady is that he continues to pull this off at 39-years old. And it does not look like he will be done anytime soon.
Before Super Bowl 51, no team had ever come back from a deficit above 10 points. The Patriots shattered that record, making this both the greatest comeback of all time by the Patriots and the greatest choke in NFL history by the Falcons. Some are already dubbing this as the greatest Super Bowl of all time, but one thing is for sure – the New England Patriots are quickly becoming the greatest NFL dynasty ever.