Tom Brady exacted his revenge, and cemented his legacy as the greatest quarterback in NFL history as the New England Patriots beat the Atlanta Falcons 34-28 in overtime of Super Bowl LI. In his seventh Super Bowl appearance, the legendary Patriots quarterback mounted one of the largest come-from-behind victory in NFL playoff history to shock an Atlanta team that seemed to have the game in hand well into the third quarter.
The game started out slowly, with neither team pushing very far into their opponents half of the field on a pair of drives each. But things would pick up in the second quarter, with Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan finding Julio Jones twice in a row for big gains en route to the game’s first touchdown, scored by Devonta Freeman on a five yard run. New England would proceed to go 3-and-out, handing the ball right back to Matt Ryan who led his prolific Falcons offense back down the field and finished off the touchdown drive with a 19-yard throw to tight end Austin Hooper.
Tom Brady, yet to make anything happen at this point nearly halfway through the second quarter, responded by marching the Patriots deep into Atlanta territory. But what looked to be a promising drive for New England ended in disaster as Falcons cornerback Robert Alford stepped in front of a Tom Brady throw at his own 18-yard-line and ran it back all 82 yards for a touchdown.
A visibly upset Brady would lead his team back down the field with under two minutes left, but was forced to settle for a field goal before fans in Houston, and around the globe, were treated to Lady Gaga’s energetic (and acrobatic) halftime performance. Things seemed to go from bad to worse for New England to start the second half however, as Matt Ryan finished off another successful Falcons drive with a 6-yard touchdown pass to Tevin Coleman. This put the score at 28-3, a deficit no Super Bowl team had ever overcome.
Magnificent Julio Wasn’t Enough
That’s where Tom Brady came in. The 17-year pro, and four-time Super Bowl champion, answered with a 13-play, 75-yard drive of his own ending with a throw to running back James White, though a missed extra-point attempt by Stephen Gostkowski left the score at 28-9. Gostkowski would later hit a field goal from the same spot to bring the Patriots within 16. With just under two minutes remaining in the third quarter however, it seemed to be too little too late for head coach Bill Belichick, who himself had led the Patriots to seven Super Bowl appearances along with Tom Brady.
And then a mostly uneventful game quickly peaked everyone’s interest when Dont’a Hightower sacked Matt Ryan, forcing a fumble that would be recovered by the Patriots at Atlanta’s 25-yard-line. Brady, determined as ever, made four quick passes to get into the end zone, and his offense followed up with a successful two point conversion to make it a one score game with six minutes left in the contest. But Matt Ryan, doing his best to live up to his Matty Ice nickname, appeared to have put the game out of reach with this magnificent throw to Julio Jones, putting the Falcons into field goal range:
OMG JULIO JONES pic.twitter.com/m8wKAAye7g
— Isaac (@WorldofIsaac) February 6, 2017
Unfortunately for Atlanta, a big sack and a holding penalty pushed them out of field goal range, and they were forced to punt the ball back to the Patriots with about three and a half minutes remaining. Pinned back at his own 9-yard-line, Brady got to work, making a couple key throws, and getting a little bit of help from Julian Edelman and a few Falcons’ defenders limbs on the most ridiculous catch we’ve seen in the Super Bowl since David Tyree:
THAT IS INCREDIBLE. EDELMAN!!!!!! pic.twitter.com/CHD8JSIPeO
— Spark Sports (@Spark_Sports_) February 6, 2017
Brady only needed four more plays to get into the end zone, with James White punching it in from a yard out to set up the most meaningful two-point conversion in Patriots’ history. A successful screen pass from Brady to Danny Amendola miraculously tied the score and led to the Super Bowl’s first ever overtime period. With all the momentum in the world, the Patriots won the coin toss, elected to receive the ball, and Tom Brady took them down the field one more time. It was James White scoring once again, sealing the Super Bowl victory, a fifth for the Patriots, on a run from two yards out.
After the game, a triumphant Tom Brady stood atop the podium, Lombardi Trophy in hand, next to his longtime coach Bill Belichick knowing full well the history the two of them had just made together. Not only had they become the first quarterback, head coach, and team for that matter, to win five Super Bowl Championships, but they did so by mounting the largest comeback in the history of America’s favorite football game. While many had dismissed the game as dull, and over, by halftime, this Patriots team was far from ready to quit. And thanks to them, Super Bowl LI will go down as one of the most captivating ever.