Brady Leads Patriots to Historic Comeback
By Scott Taylor
LAS VEGAS, Nev. – The Atlanta Falcons allowed Tom Brady to hang around. In the end, he took Super Bowl LI right out of their hands.
In one of the most incredible comebacks in National Football League championship history, Brady led his New England Patriots to a stunning 34-28 overtime – come-from-way-way-behind – victory to claim the fifth Super Bowl championship of his remarkable career.
This was a game in which the Patriots were down and out. They trailed Atlanta 21-0 in the second quarter, 21-3 at halftime and 28-3 in the third quarter before Brady led his Pats to 31 consecutive, yes unanswered, points as the Pats beat Atlanta in an overtime thriller.
Not only was it a comeback for the ages, it put an exclamation point on a season in which Brady — suspended for four games for his part in the stupid (and it was really, truly stupid) Deflategate controversy — came back and led his Pats on a charge toward Super Bowl championship No. 5.
Not surprisingly, Brady told the Fox television audience that he and his teammates never felt out of the game. Of course, Brady finished the game with 43 completions on 62 pass attempts for 466 yards and two touchdowns. He also gave up a touchdown on a pick-six in the second quarter, but by the end of the overtime, nobody remembered.
“Everybody on this team, we all brought each other back,” he said. “We never felt out of it. It was a tough battle. They have a great team. I give them a lot of credit. We just made a few more plays than them.”
The Patriots went into the game as three-point favorites, but the Falcons came out of the gate and dominated the first 35 minutes of play. NFL MVP Matt Ryan, the Atlanta quarterback, and his marvelously gifted wide receiver Julio Jones, put on a show for the 71,000 inside Houston’s NRG Stadium. However, it was really the oft-maligned Falcons defense that gave Atlanta the early lead.
After a scoreless first quarter, the Falcons took over in the second. A fumble by the Pats LeGarrette Blount led to Atlanta’s first touchdown. The Falcons scored again and then with 2:36 left in the first-half, Robert Alford, picked off a Brady pass and literally trotted 82 yards into the end zone untouched.
That made it 21-0 and many of the bettors in the various Las Vegas Sports Books were about to tear up their Patriots tickets.
Before the half ended, Pats kicker Stephen Gostkowski booted a field goal to make it 21-3, but this one smelled like it was over. Lady Gaga’s brilliant halftime performance was significantly more exciting and productive than anything the Pats did in the first half. In fact, it appeared as if Gaga had come to play while the Pats had not.
Then, to start the third quarter, things got even worse for New England. Ryan led his team down the field — 85 yards in eight plays — at start of the third quarter, capping the drive with a six-yard pass to Tevin Coleman. At that point Ryan had completed 12 of his 14 pass attempts and the Falcons were ahead 28-3.
But when the going gets tough…
Brady led his team to a touchdown – Gostkowski missed the extra point – and then a field goal and with 9:44 remaining as the Patriots cut the Falcons lead to 28-12.
Then came the turning point. Ryan, under huge pressure from the Patriots D-line, fumbled before he could get his arm moving forward and the Pats had the ball on the Atlanta 25. A few plays later, Brady found Danny Amendola in the end zone and with a two-point conversion it was a one-score game — 28-20. There was still hope.
A holding penalty stopped the Falcons’ next drive, but a good punt left the Patriots on their own nine-yard line with 3:38 to play.
That’s when Brady put together a season-defining drive. Buoyed in no small way by a couple of key penalty calls and a truly miraculous catch by Julian Edelman, Brady moved the ball to the two and James White, with his second TD of the game, scored again to give the Pats a chance. It was 28-26 and all they needed was a two-point conversion to tie.
With that, Brady found Amendola with a short pass and the diminutive receiver did the rest. The game was tied and overtime beckoned – the first overtime in 51 years of Super Bowls.
“Unbelievable,” said Edelman, when interviewed by Fox after the game. “It’s the microcosm of our life, our season. Mental toughness, believe, do your job, work hard and we’d be champions in the championship game.”
Overtime ended when the Pats won the toss. The Falcons defense was spent. Brady had put up 19 unanswered in the fourth-quarter alone and there was this feeling, everywhere, that Brady was going to march the Pats down the field. A field goal meant that Atlanta would get the ball and have a chance to win or tie. A touchdown meant the game was over. It was clear early on that Brady was taking his team to the end zone.
He marched his team from his own 25 to the Atlanta two and from there, White scored his third touchdown of the game to win it.
“No doubt that was a tough one for us,” said Falcons head coach, Dan Quinn. “That’s a hard one in the locker room. I love (my players), they battled. Tonight we came up short.”
On Sunday night, the Patriots gave football fans a record-setting performance:
Brady completed 43-of-62 passes for 466 yards, two touchdowns and an interception, and he was 12 of 16 for 150 yards on the tying and winning drives in the fourth quarter and overtime.
James White scored on a two-yard run in overtime to cap the greatest performance of his career. He had six carries for 29 yards and two touchdowns and a Super Bowl-record 14 receptions for 110 yards and another TD as a receiver.
Historically, Super Bowl games aren’t this exciting. Historically, teams don’t score 31 straight points to come back from 25 down in the second half to win. But this game was historic in itself. It was, perhaps, the greatest NFL championship game ever played.
(Our weekly prognosticators here at Game Day Gold, The Coach and Dr. Football, both picked the Super Bowl winner straight up and against the spread. Dr. Football went 1-0 (174-93) straight up and 1-0 (142-125) against the spread while The Coach went 1-0 straight up (177-90) and 1-0 (141-126) against the spread. It was, in terms of wagers and accumulated finances, a terrific season).