By: Sam Scanlon ’19
28-3 with a little over two minutes remaining in the third quarter. The New England Patriots were trailing the Atlanta Falcons in Super Bowl LI and the chance to etch their names into the history books forever was slipping through their fingers. Tom Brady’s opportunity to be set apart as the winningest Super Bowl quarterback seemed as though it was not meant to be.
Sloppy play by the Patriots allowed for the Falcons to control the first half. Tom Brady and the Patriots struggled to move the ball downfield, as Brady had been sacked or forced to throw the ball away throughout the half.
The second quarter was an absolute feeble performance by the Patriots. Runningback LeGarrette Blount fumbled on the Falcons’ 29-yard line, and the Falcons took this opportunity to strike. Falcons’ runningback Devonta Freeman, who had been running all over the Patriots defense, marched untouched and leapt into the end zone, drawing first blood. With the Matt Ryan to Julio Jones connection fueling, and Freeman being impossible to tackle, it seemed that the Falcons’ offense was going to dominate the game.
The Patriots’ woes continued as the offense still struggled. Ryan was picking apart the their defense. He then slung a pin-point pass to Austin Hooper in the end zone. The “no team has ever come back from a two-touchdown deficit in the Super Bowl” rumors were beginning to swirl. However, it got worse.
Brady threw an interception to Robert Alford, who returned it 82 yards for the score. 21-0. It was over. The Patriots managed to make a field goal as the half expired and were looking at a 21-3 deficit. But, it still got worse.
Ryan continued his dominance and was able to march the Falcons downfield once more, throwing another touchdown pass. 28-3 Falcons. The Patriots scraped up six points to end the third, but still looked at a 28-9 deficit. Then, the fourth quarter happened.
The wheels finally started to turn for the Patriots. Brady started to look like Brady, connecting with an array of different weapons as they started to claw their way back into the game.
Next up to make some noise was the Patriots’ defense. Linebacker Dont’a Hightower sprung by the Falcons offensive line and drilled Ryan, causing a fumble that was recovered by the Patriots. A few plays later, Brady found Danny Amendola in the end zone. James White dove in for the two-point conversion and the Patriots were within eight points of the Falcons.
As time was running out, the Falcons looked to put the game out of reach. Jones made an impossible catch that seemed to seal the Patriots’ fate. However, a massive sack by Trey Flowers and a Falcons penalty moved them out of field goal range. After a few solid plays, Brady aired a pass that was deflected, but somehow Julian Edelman was able to keep an eye on it and come down with a miraculous catch. This eventually led to another Patriots touchdown and two-point conversion that tied the game with under a minute remaining.
In overtime, the Patriots won the toss and Brady made several incredible passes. From the two yard-line, James White made a heroic second effort and lunged into the end zone, completing the historic comeback. The New England Patriots became Super Bowl Champions. It was an incredible performance that culminated with 31 unanswered points to win the game in overtime. This comeback was not only one of the most incredible moments of the year, but will go down as one of the most incredible sports moments of all time.