HOUSTON – Breaking down the New England Patriots’ 34-28 overtime win over the Atlanta Falcons in Super Bowl LI:
THE BIG PICTURE: Now, they stand alone. A historic triumph for Tom Brady and Bill Belichick required a historic comeback. The duo’s record-setting fifth Super Bowl title – Brady now has the most of any quarterback, Belichick the most of any head coach – came after the Patriots trailed by as many as 25 points in the second half.
But a stirring comeback engineered by Brady forced the first overtime in Super Bowl history, and the New England Patriots won the franchise’s fifth world championship after running back James White found the end zone from two yards out on the first possession of overtime. It was the largest comeback in Super Bowl history and easily the most improbable of the Patriots’ five world championships. Brady finished 43-for-61 for 466 yards, two touchdowns and one interception.
He looked like a completely different player in the fourth quarter and overtime, carving up a gassed Falcons’ defense all over the field. He led a 75-yard touchdown drive on the first possession in overtime that White capped with the score. Then the confetti fell and the celebration began.
HOW THEY DID IT: Before Sunday, the largest comeback in Super Bowl history was a measly 10 points. No more. The Patriots were outschemed and outplayed for the first three quarters. Then they woke up. Then they dominated. A late rally led by Brady cut it to a one-possession game with six minutes left. After a Falcons’ drive stalled near midfield, the Patriots took over on their own nine-yard-line with 3:30 left. Chants of “Brady, Brady,” broke out in NRG Stadium.
After a critical third-down conversion to wideout Chris Hogan, Julian Edelman made one of the greatest clutch catches in Super Bowl history. His 33-yard grab off a deflection set up what would prove to be the tying touchdown. After Patriots running back James White found the endzone from one yard out, Brady hit Danny Amendola to convert the two-point conversion. The Falcons went three-and-out. Suddenly, and improbably, this game was headed to overtime. Brady was surgical on the first drive of overtime, and White’s run sealed it.
KEY PLAY: How did he catch it? A 33-yard grab by Julian Edelman on the final drive of the fourth quarter, a pass that was bobbled up into the air before Edelman snared it amidst three Falcons, was shades of David Tyree’s legendary helmet catch in Super Bowl XLII. The long gain set up the game-tying touchdown.
KEY STAT: Defense wins championships? Count on it. In six previous Super Bowl meetings between the league’s top scoring offense and top scoring defense, the defense won five of them. It felt like for a while Sunday the Falcons would buck that trend. But in the end, the Patriots’ top-scoring defense proved triumphant. Make it six of the last seven for the defense.
X-FACTOR: Robert Alford might be the answer to a trivia question someday. The Falcons’ fourth-year cornerback out of Southeastern Louisiana made the play of the game, intercepting Brady late in the second quarter and returning it for a touchdown. It was the first pick-six of Brady’s NFL-record 34 playoff starts.
WHAT’S NEXT: With the win, Tom Brady passes Terry Bradshaw and Joe Montana to become the only quarterback in history to hoist the Lombardi Trophy five time. Belichick passes Steelers legend Chuck Noll for the most Super Bowl titles as a coach.