Super Bowl LI will likely go down as one of the greatest Super Bowls of all time. Tom Brady and the Patriots erased a 25 point deficit. The Patriots outscored the Falcons 19-0 in the fourth quarter, tying the game with about a minute left in regulation. After winning the coin toss and electing to receive, Brady led the Patriots downfield on the opening drive of overtime. Running back James White clinched the victory for the Patriots on a 2-yard touchdown run. Brady and Belichick won their 5th Super Bowl, 34-28.
Both quarterbacks had outstanding performances. Falcons QB Matt Ryan ended up 17 for 23, with 2 touchdown passes and 284 yards. Tom Brady was 43 for 62, with 2 touchdowns and a Super Bowl record 466 yards, winning Super Bowl MVP. According to Jeremy Bergman of NFL.com, there were at least 30 Super Bowl records made or tied in this game between the Patriots and Falcons.
Despite the fact that Super Bowl lived up to the expectation of being a high-scoring game, the first quarter ended scoreless. With the Patriots within field goal range on the second play of the 2nd quarter, linebacker Deion Jones was able to force a fumble on Patriots running back LeGarrette Blount, which was recovered by the Falcons. Matt Ryan was quick to take advantage of the turnover, hitting Julio Jones on the first two plays of the drive for a combined 42 yards. The drive concluded with a Devonta Freeman 5-yard touchdown run. After forcing a three-and-out on the Pats, the Falcons again drove downfield, scoring on a Matt Ryan touchdown pass to tight end Austin Hooper. The Patriots were finally able to put together a long drive after this, thanks in large part to 3 holding penalties by the Falcons defense, all on third downs. However, on a 3rd and 6 from the Atlanta 23, Tom Brady’s pass to Danny Amendola was picked off and returned for a touchdown by Robert Alford, putting the Falcons up 21-0. The Patriots were able to quickly drive downfield again on their next possession, but were only held to a field goal by the Falcons defense. The game appeared to be over by halftime, with the Falcons ahead 21-3.
After each team began the second half with three-and-outs, Matt Ryan again drove his team downfield, concluding the 85-yard drive with a 6-yard touchdown pass to running back Tevin Coleman. At this point, many felt that the game was over, with the Falcons ahead 28-3 with about 8:31 remaining in the third quarter.
At this point, it looked as though Tom Brady came back to life, leading his team downfield and hitting running back James White for a 5-yard touchdown pass. Unfortunately for the Pats, kicker Steve Gostkowski hit the right upright on the extra point attempt, keeping the score at 28-9 with 2:12 remaining in the third.
After a failed onside kick and a penalty by the Patriots, the Falcons took over near field goal range. However, offensive tackle Jake Matthews was called for offensive holding on the second play of the drive, pushing them out of field goal range. 2 plays later, Matt Ryan was sacked by Kyle Van Noy, resulting in a wasted opportunity by the Falcons.
Tom Brady opened the 4th quarter by once again leading the Pats downfield. However, the Falcons defense was able to limit the drive, thanks in large part to 2 sacks by defensive tackle Grady Jarrett over the span of 3 plays. The Pats settled for a field goal, cutting the lead to 28-12 with 9:48 remaining. Perhaps one of the biggest moments of the game occurred on a 3rd and 1 for the Falcons from their own 36. Running back Devonta Freeman completely missed linebacker Dont’a Hightower rushing in, and he was able to knock the ball loose from Matt Ryan, with the Patriots recovering the fumble at the Atlanta 25. Brady quickly drove the Patriots deep into the red zone before hitting Danny Amendola for a 6-yard touchdown pass. The Patriots were able to convert on the two-point attempt on a direct snap to running back James White, who ran up the middle and into the endzone. All of a sudden, the Patriots were only trailing 28-20 with 5:56 remaining in the 4th quarter.
The Falcons took over from their own 10 yard-line. On the first play of the drive, Matt Ryan hit a wide-open Devonta Freeman on a short pass, who then ran downfield with nobody around him before finally being brought down at the Atlanta 49 for a 39-yard gain. 2 plays later, it looked as if the Falcons were about to seal the victory when wide-receiver Julio Jones made an incredible catch near the sidelines, somehow managing to keep both feet in-bounds and putting the Falcons in field goal range at the Patriots 22. However, after a 1 yard loss on a run, Matt Ryan was sacked by Trey Flowers, bringing the Falcons back to the Patriots 35. It looked as though the Falcons were able to make a field goal try more manageable when Ryan hit Mohamed Sanu for a 9-yard gain, but Jake Matthews once again cost his team a huge opportunity when he was called for holding on the play, pushing the Falcons back to the Patriots 45. After an incompletion, the Falcons were forced to punt the ball away with 3:38 remaining in the 4th.
After converting on a 3rd and 10 from their own 9 yard-line, the Pats were able to keep their drive alive. Later in the drive, on a 1st and 10 from the Patriots own 36 and 2:28 left on the clock, Julian Edelman, doing his best David Tyree imitation, made one of the greatest catches in the history of the Super Bowl, retrieving a batted football after it bounced off the leg of a falling Falcons defender, and somehow managing to hold on after bobbling it while also making sure it didn’t hit the ground. Brady continued to lead the Pats downfield, leading to a 1-yard touchdown run by James White with 1:00 remaining. The Patriots were able to convert on the 2-point attempt on a pass to Danny Amendola, tying the game 28-28.
The Falcons were unable to get anything going in the final minute of regulation, leading to the first overtime in Super Bowl history. The Patriots won the coin toss and naturally elected to receive. Brady quickly drove the Patriots offense downfield, eventually ending up at the Falcons 2-yard-line after a pass interference call. On the next play, Brady was very close to having his own Russell Wilson moment, when he under-threw a pass meant for Martellus Bennett. The ball went off the hands of Vic Beasley of the Falcons, who missed a golden opportunity to possibly save the game for his team. On the very next play, running back James White was able to push his way to the goal-line for the winning touchdown, completing one of the greatest comebacks in NFL history.