by Tony Fiorello
(Photo Courtesy of Washington Post)
The New England Patriots executed a comeback for the ages on Sunday night, rallying from a 28-3 third quarter deficit to win Super Bowl LI in overtime by a final score of 34-28.
With the victory, coach Bill Belichick and quarterback Tom Brady each set multiple records. Belichick broke a tie between himself and Chuck Noll for most Super Bowl rings among head coaches, while Brady established standards for Super Bowl MVP awards with four, and also notched marks for most passes (62), completions (43) and passing yards (466) in a championship game, among others.
The Falcons jumped out to a 21-3 halftime lead after a five-yard touchdown run from Devonta Freeman, a 19-yard pass from Matt Ryan to Austin Hooper and an 82-yard interception return for a score by Robert Alford. Stephen Gostkowski put the Patriots on the board with a 41-yard field goal shortly before halftime.
Tevin Coleman gave Atlanta a 25-point lead after taking a six-yard swing pass from Ryan into the end zone with 8:31 remaining in the third quarter. Then the Patriots woke up.
Running back James White ignited New England’s rally with a five-yard touchdown reception and Gostkowski’s 33-yard kick at the start of the fourth quarter pulled the team within 16. Then Atlanta made two crucial gaffes that swung the game in the opposition’s favor.
While in Patriots’ territory late in the fourth quarter, the Falcons allowed a sack on Ryan and took a holding penalty. These two mistakes cost the team field position and an opportunity to put the game away on a field goal.
Shortly thereafter, two more Patriots touchdowns – a six yard pass to Danny Amendola and a one-yard run by White, plus a pair of two-point conversions – tied the game at 28 apiece.
What followed was a first in the 51-year history of the Super Bowl. An overtime session saw the Patriots winning the ever-important coin toss, allowing them to march down the field and never giving the Falcons an opportunity to answer back. White tacked on a third visit to pay dirt slightly more than four minutes into the extra period of play, giving the Patriots the win.
It is the fifth world championship for the Patriots, placing them in a tie with the San Francisco 49ers for second-most Super Bowl titles in league history. Only the Pittsburgh Steelers have more, with six.