Patriots Clinch Super Bowl with Historic Comeback
Markel Turrell & Jacob Jardel
The New England Patriots overcame a 25-point deficit to defeat the Atlanta Falcons Super Bowl LI on Feb. 5 in Houston.
The Patriots dug themselves into a 28-3 hole at half-way through the 3rd quarter. But New England quarterback Tom Brady would lead his team to the largest comeback in Super Bowl history.
This championship was the team’s fifth – all since the turn of the millennium, leaving them one behind the Pittsburgh Steelers’ six for the most Lombardi Trophies. This Super Bowl was also the first in the game’s history to go into overtime – an outcome that did not appear plausible midway through the game.
However, quarterback Brady led the charge on the comeback, setting records in yards thrown (466), passing attempts (62) and pass completions (43). Running back James White made his own history, snagging a record 14 passes on the day.
But one of the biggest plays happened in the fourth quarter when receiver Julian Edelman caught a tipped ball that gave New England a much-needed first down. The play effectively extended the Patriot’s title hopes, setting up a game-tying touchdown.
This effort represented a drive that Brady said permeated throughout the sidelines.
“We couldn’t worry about the score,” he said in a post-game interview. “We just had to keep playing.”
Falcons quarterback and NFL Most Valuable Player Matt Ryan finished the game with 284 yards and two touchdowns on 17-of-23 passing, leading the first half charge before New England’s comeback. He had one word to describe the outcome of the game.
“Disappointing,” he said. “There really [aren’t] other words to describe how I am feeling.”
The game appeared to be a defensive battle after the first quarter went scoreless. The Falcons would be ready to take over the second quarter, which started with Atlanta’s Deion Jones forcing a fumble on a LeGarrette Blount run.
The Falcons would capitalize on this opportunity, with Ryan finding star receiver Julio Jones on two long passes. The drive would finish with a 5-yard touchdown run by Devonta Freeman for the games first points.
The Falcons stopped the Patriots on the next drive to get the ball back. Ryan threw a 25 yard pass to wide receiver Taylor Gabriel to put the Falcons at the Patriots 38-yard line. The MVP finished the drive with a 19-yard touchdown to Austin Hooper to put Atlanta up 14-0.
Three Atlanta penalties would set up a promising drive for New England. However, Robert Alford’s interception on third down turned into an 83-yard touchdown return to bring the lead to 21.
Shortly after, Tom Brady led the Patriots down the field for a field goal right before the half to cut the lead to 21 to 3.
After both teams failed to score on their opening drives, the Falcons moved the ball up the field, finishing the drive with a six-yard touchdown pass to Tevin Coleman to extend their lead to 28 to 3 with 8:31 left in the third quarter.
At that point, Brady channeled the late-game heroics the football world knows him for. A few plays after a converted fourth down, the Patriots got their first touchdown of the game with a five-yard touchdown catch to White. But a missed extra point would only cut the deficit to 28 to 9.
Two drives later, the Patriots moved down the field into the Falcons’ red zone. But after a couple of Falcons sacks, the Patriots would settle for a field goal cutting the margin to 28-12.
As soon as the Falcons got the ball back, Ryan lost a fumble after a sack from Donta Hightower.
The Patriots capitalized on this opportunity with a six-yard Danny Amendola touchdown. A successful two-point conversion cut the deficit to 28-20.
Despite a Falcons drive that wasted 3 minutes of game clock, a sack and a penalty pushed Atlanta out of field goal range, giving the Patriots the ball back with a chance to tie the game.
The Patriots would not waste this opportunity. Tom Brady hit five different receivers on the drive, including Edelman’s drive-saving catch to give the Patriots the first down. The Patriots tied the game on a White TD run and a two-point conversation.
The Patriots won the coin toss and elected to receive the ball first. A long drive and a pass interference penalty set up White’s game-winning two-yard touchdown run.