Patriots face unthinkable deficit, win Super Bowl LI

New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady solidified his name as the greatest quarterback in NFL history with his record-breaking fifth Super Bowl title – the most ever by a quarterback in a career.

Coming into Sunday’s Big Game, New England sat as the heavy favorites to win. The story was set: Brady’s offense and the number-one scoring defense in football against the NFL’s MVP, Atlanta quarterback Matt Ryan and the number one offense in football. As history has shown, defense comes up big in championship games, yet that wasn’t the driving force to the Patriots’ victory.

In the seven Super Bowls before Sunday’s matchup, the NFL’s top-scoring defense had won six of the last seven Super Bowls in which the best offense and defense face each other. The odds were on the Patriots’ side before the game started and history has shown to be their friend, but early on in the game it wasn’t looking good for the four-time Super Bowl champions.

New England started the game with the ball going three-and-out, punting the ball. The Patriots and the Falcons would trade three-and-outs, punch-for-punch on several drives. Then with about two minutes into the second quarter, Patriots’ running back LeGarrette Blount fumbled at Atlanta’s 29-yard line. Atlanta’s Deion Jones recovered the loose ball, and the Falcons offense took over with decent field position.

On the ensuing drive, the Falcons drove the ball downfield and scored on a 5-yard touchdown run by Falcons’ running back Devonta Freeman, for the first score of the game. Atlanta went 71 yards on five plays for the score and the floodgates opened.

The Patriots would immediately go three-and-out again, punting the ball to the Falcon’s 38-yard line. The Falcons went 62-yards on just five plays going downfield, seemingly at will and scored on a 19-yard touchdown pass from Ryan to Austin Hooper. The game was pushed to 14-0 Falcons lead and the Patriots’ backs were against the wall.

Brady was back on the field and the Patriots seemed determined to put points on the board. New England was in Atlanta-territory after a 12-play, 52-yard drive when Brady threw an interception for a pick-six, extending the game to 21-0 Atlanta.

With just over two minutes left to play in the first half, the game seemed all but over. New England was able to kick a field goal on the drive after, but with the score 21-3 at half and Atlanta getting the ball back, the game looked to be up in wraps.

The Falcons dominated the first half and more of the same was expected to start off the third quarter. After each team punted the ball, the Falcons scored on a 6-yard touchdown pass by Ryan to Tevin Coleman extending the game to 28-3. With little hope left, Brady took the field again ready to take on the biggest comebacks in Super Bowl history.

That drive, the Patriots scored on 5-yard touchdown pass from Brady to running back James White. New England’s defense started to show up in the second half, not allowing the Falcons to score on a single drive after that. Not a moment too late, as the Patriots’ offense was settling into a groove as well.

The Patriots kicked a field goal and then scored a touchdown on the next two drives, tying up the game with two converted two-point attempts making it 28-28. The Falcons failed to do anything with the few seconds they had left on the clock, so the Super Bowl went into overtime for the first time in NFL history.

New England won the coin toss and began with the ball in overtime. If there’s one thing most NFL teams have acknowledged, it is to never bet against Brady. In eight plays, the Patriots went 65-yards downfield and scored on a two-yard touchdown run by White to end the game with a walk-off touchdown.

Brady finished the game with 466 yards through the air, completing 43 of 62 passes. He finished with two touchdowns, an interception and a quarterback rating of 79.6. Brady did his usual job of spreading the ball around, but his main recipients were Julian Edelman and White. Edelman made five catches for 87 yards (including a miraculous catch in the second half), and White caught 14 balls for 110 yards and a touchdown. White also ran for 29 yards and two touchdowns, giving him a total of three for the game.

For the Falcons, Ryan threw for 284 yards and two touchdowns, completing 17 of 23 passes. Julio Jones led Atlanta in receiving yards with 87 yards, tight-end Hooper and running back Coleman each came down with a touchdown reception. On the ground, Freeman ran for 75 yards and a touchdown on 11 carries.

Though the Falcons had the lead for the majority of the game, the pressure was too much for them and they collapsed on themselves. Atlanta has a young, talented football team and should have more opportunities to get back to the Super Bowl. It seemed like the Falcons were going to upset history and win their first Super Bowl ever, but the Patriots never quit. The greatest comeback in Super Bowl history happened, and with his fifth title, Brady will go down as the greatest quarterback of all time.

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