Tom Brady Leads Patriots to Biggest Comeback in Super Bowl History
On Sunday, Feb., 2017, the biggest sporting event took place: Super Bowl LI, where the New England Patriots faced off against the Atlanta Falcons. The Patriots would overcome a 28-3 deficit late in the third quarter to score 31 unanswered points to beat the Falcons 34-28 in overtime—the first OT game in Super Bowl history—and secure their fifth Super Bowl victory.
The Patriots entered Super Bowl LI with a 14-2 record—the best in the 2016 NFL regular season—while the Falcons entered the game with an 11-5 record. This marked New England’s ninth Super Bowl appearance and seventh with head coach Bill Belichick and quarterback Tom Brady. Meanwhile, this is only Atlanta’s second big game appearance. Their first appearance was in 1999.
After a scoreless first quarter, the Falcons’ early stampede of the Patriots began in the second quarter when quarterback Matt Ryan, who won the NFL’s MVP award a day earlier, drove Atlanta 67 yards down the field to set up a five-yard rushing touchdown by running back Devonta Freeman to put the Falcons up 7-0. On Atlanta’s next possession, their lead would improve to 14-0 thanks to a 14-yard TD pass from Ryan to tight end Austin Hooper.
New England would get the ball on the ensuing drive, as Brady led the Patriots into Atlanta territory, hoping to make it a one-score game. However, Falcons cornerback Robert Alford picked off Brady for an 82-yard pick six, putting Atlanta up 21-0. The shutout would disappear, though, as New England kicker Stephen Gostkowski made a 41-yard field goal that somewhat lowered their deficit to 21-3 at the half.
After Lady Gaga’s acrobatic halftime show, the Falcons would drive 79 yards deep into Pats territory to set up a six-yard TD pass from Ryan to running back Tevin Coleman that increased their lead to 28-3, looking like a surefire Super Bowl victory for Atlanta.
Or so we thought.
New England’s quest for a comeback began late in the third quarter when Brady completed a five-yard pass to running back James White for six, but Gosktowski would miss the extra point, leaving the score at 28-9. Gostkowski would bounce back with a 33-yard field goal early in the fourth quarter, making it 28-12, a two-score game.
On Atlanta’s ensuing possession, on third and one at their own 36, instead of just running the ball, Ryan dropped back to pass and was sacked and stripped of the ball by Patriots linebacker Dont’a Hightower and the ball was recovered by New England at the Falcons’ 25. That turnover set up a six-yard TD pass from Brady to wide receiver Danny Amendola, followed by a two-point conversion scored on a James White run, making it a one-score game at 28-20 with 5:56 left in regulation.
The Falcons looked to be in good shape when Julio Jones made an amazing toe-tapping catch near the sideline at the New England 22-yard-line on a 27-yard pass from Ryan. However, when it looked like the Falcons were going to put the game away, Ryan was sacked on second and 11 which put Atlanta out of field goal range. As a result, the Falcons were forced to punt.
On the Patriots’ ensuing drive, Julian Edelman made the play of the game when he wrapped up a pass deflected by Atlanta’s Robert Alford, then bounced off Alford’s knee and shin. Edelman trapped the ball against Alford’s foot, then got both hands underneath the ball, resulting in a good catch at the Atlanta 41 and a first down. Four plays later, James White scored on a one-yard run which led to a successful two-point conversion on a Brady pass to Edelman, tying the game up at 28-28 with 57 seconds remaining. The game would go to overtime.
In overtime, the Patriots won the coin toss and the Falcons would never get the ball. Brady led his team down the field and on second and goal, at Atlanta’s two-yard-line, White stretched his body towards the end zone as the ball crossed the goal line, resulting in the game-winning touchdown to give the New England the 34-28 victory in Super Bowl LI.
Previously, the biggest comeback margin in Super Bowl history was ten points. In this game, New England overcame a 25-point deficit to win. This game ranks as one of the greatest Super Bowls ever, as well as one of the greatest games in NFL history. The Patriots won their fifth Super Bowl, and all five have been won with Brady and head coach Bill Belichick, who have made their marks as one of the greatest QB-coach tandems ever.
In the end, Brady would win Super Bowl MVP, as he was 46-of-63 and passed for 466 yards, two TD’s, and only one INT. But you could also make an MVP case for Brady’s teammate James White, who caught balls for 110 yards and one touchdown as well as 29 yards and two TD’s on the ground. Meanwhile, Matt Ryan and the Falcons will have to wait another year to chase a championship.