Legendary — that is the only way to describe the New England Patriots’ improbable comeback performance in Super Bowl LI on February 5.
The Patriots were huge favourites over the Atlanta Falcons going into the game. New England had already won four Super Bowls under quarterback Tom Brady and head coach Bill Belichick. Throughout the first half of the game, however, the Falcons dominated.
The Falcons’ first touchdown came courtesy of a 71-yard drive, concluded by Devonta Freeman’s five-yard carry into the end zone.
On their next possession, the Falcons quarterback and NFL MVP Matt Ryan repeatedly connected with star receiver Julio Jones. Ryan finished this drive with a touchdown pass to Austin Hooper.
The Falcons finished off the first half in style when Robert Alford picked off Brady, before going all the way into the end zone to give the Falcons a 21–0 lead.
The second half of the game began with the Falcons up 21–3, and they extended their lead with another touchdown. But the momentum swiftly shifted, and that was it for the Falcons — Brady and the Patriots soon took over the show. On their next possession, the Patriots scored a touchdown but failed to convert on the extra point attempt.
The Patriots secured a field goal on their next drive. Shortly thereafter, the Patriots stripped the Falcons of the ball, deep in Falcons territory. They capitalized on the opportunity and completed the touchdown with a two-point conversion.
On their next drive, the Falcons looked strong, moving quickly up the field. Ryan was then sacked, and a holding penalty put them out of field goal range. The Patriots gained control of the ball on their own nine-yard line, with three and a half minutes to play.
A third-and-10 conversion kept the drive alive early, and then Julian Edelman made arguably one of the greatest catches in Super Bowl history to get the Patriots to midfield, grasping the ball from the feet of his defender and regaining possession of the ball a few inches above the turf.
From there the Patriots marched to the Falcons end zone again, pulling off a two-point conversion to send the game into overtime.
The Patriots received the ball first in overtime, knowing that they needed to score a touchdown to cement the greatest comeback in Super Bowl history — and that’s exactly what they did. An eight-play, 75-yard drive was capped off by James White’s run into the end zone, sending the Patriots onto the field in a roaring celebration.
Brady was named Super Bowl MVP for a record fourth time. Although he has won the award in the past, he has never before had to overcome a record 25-point deficit to win the honour.