Snap Judgments: Tom Brady directs greatest comeback in Super Bowl history, Patriots win their 5th Lombardi Trophy in OT

Mike Petraglia
February 05, 2017 - 5:29 pm
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[caption id="attachment_116947" align="alignright" width="400"] The Patriots overcame a 28-3 deficit to beat the Falcons in overtime.(Bob Donnan/USA Today Sports)[/caption] HOUSTON -- The Patriots made history in the most dramatic way Sunday night in Super Bowl LI. James White scored his third touchdown of the night on a 2-yard run with 11:02 left in the first overtime in Super Bowl history, giving the Patriots their fifth Super Bowl title with an unbelievable 34-28 win over the Falcons. The winning touchdown came after a 14-yard pass interference call on the Falcons.

After being handed the Lombardi Trophy by NFL commissioner Roger Goodell (who was roundly booed while delivering his congratulatory speech), Patriots owner Robert Kraft called the victory, "unequivocally the sweetest" of all the team's championships.

Brady finished 43-of-62 for 466 yards and two touchdowns and earned his fourth Super Bowl MVP. White had a pair of touchdown runs and a touchdown catch. Down 28-3 with two minutes left in the third quarter and 19 points in the fourth quarter, Tom Brady engineered the greatest comeback in Super Bowl history and the greatest fourth-quarter comeback in NFL playoff history. Julian Edelman got his hands under a tipped pass just before the ball hit the ground before the two-minute warning. The miracle catch put the Patriots at the Atlanta 41. Several plays later, James White ran it in from two yards with 57 seconds left, followed by a two point conversion from Brady to Danny Amendola. Matt Ryan threw two touchdown passes and the Falcons turned two turnovers into scores as the Falcons appeared on their way to their first world championship in their 51-year history. Ryan played the first three quarters with a perfect 158.3 quarterback rating. The Patriots played their most uncharacteristic game at the worst time. LeGarrette Blount fumbled deep in Atlanta territory in a scoreless game and Tom Brady had a nightmare of a first half that included a pick-6 by Robert Alford. Picked by nearly every national expert to lose, the touchdown underdog Falcons certainly didn't play like it. Led by a Super Bowl-tying three sacks from Grady Jarrett, they manhandled the Patriots on both sides of the ball. The Patriots finish the season 17-2 and are now 5-4 in their nine Super Bowl appearances. The game started after an emotional rendition of "America The Beautiful" from the cast of "Hamilton" and the national anthem from Luke Bryan. Following that, President George H.W. Bush and his wife Barbara were carted onto the field and made their way to midfield for the coin toss. Both had been recently released from the hospital after battling various medical issues. Matthew Slater called heads and the former President flipped the coin and it turned up tails. The Falcons deferred and the Patriots received to open Super Bowl LI. Brady targeted Julian Edelman on the first two plays of the game. The first was an incompletion over the middle followed by an inside slant for nine yards. But the Patriots were forced 3-and-out when LeGarrette Blount ran to his right and was stopped for no gain. Ryan Allen boomed a big punt and, after a holding call, pinned the Falcons inside their 10. On the first play, Devonta Freeman broke loose for 37 yards when he went to his left and cut back up the middle. But the Patriots quickly recovered, with the key play coming on a Patrick Chung tackle on Patrick DiMarco in one-on-one coverage. On the next play, Rob Ninkovich broke through for the drive-ending sack. The Patriots got the ball for a third time in the first quarter but not before it ended, extending the first-quarter scoreless streak in Super Bowls to seven. In all seven Belichick-Brady Super Bowl appearances, the Patriots don't have a single point in the opening 15 minutes. Following a 27-yard completion from Brady to Edelman, the Patriots had the ball first-and-10 at the Atlanta 33. But on the very next play, Falcons linebacker Deion Jones made a huge play, powerfully stripping the ball from LeGarrette Blount. Defensive back Robert Alford recovered at the Atlanta 29. The Falcons wasted no time capitalizing. Matt Ryan fired a 19-yard bullet over the middle to Julio Jones, who wrestled the ball from Logan Ryan. On the next play, Ryan targeted Jones on the left sideline. He was wide open for 23 yards to the Patriots 29. Freeman followed with gashing runs of 15 and 9 off right and left tackle, respectively. The Patriots were obviously on their heels against the hurry-up Falcons. The Patriots called time out on 2nd-and-1. But it didn't help. Jones came in motion to the inside but Freeman ran a misdirect and jogged untouched to the goal line before diving in for the first score of the game. The Falcons made it 14-0 against a reeling, backpedaling and seemingly winded Patriots defense. Ryan found tight end Austin Hooper on an in-slant from 19 yards. It marked the biggest Super Bowl deficit in the Belichick-Brady era. Desperate for a score, the Falcons young secondary aided the Patriots' cause immensely on the ensuing drive. The Falcons committed three defensive holding fouls on third down and the Patriots looked ready to capitalize, with the ball at the Falcons 23. But on yet another third down, there was no bail out from the officials, only a telegraphed pass to Julian Edelman on an slant that Robert Alford stepped in front of at the Falcons 18 and raced 82 yards for the second-longest pick-6 in Super Bowl history (James Harrison, 100 yards, Super Bowl XLIII), falling behind 21-0. The Patriots, in desperate need of a drive and some big breaks, got one on the next drive. Brady dropped back to pass and was hit. The ball wobbled. But instead of another turnover, the ball landed in the hands of Martellus Bennett, who gained 19 yards. Then several plays later, Brady hit James White in the right flat. White made 28 yards. The Patriots made it down to the Atlanta 3 on another completion to White. But a holding call on Bennett brought it back to the 23. On the next play, with 12 seconds left, Brady threw to Bennett in the left flat on a screen. The clock nearly ran out as Bennett was tackled. But the Patriots were able to execute a 41-yard field goal from Stephen Gostkowski to make it 21-3 Atlanta at the half. The Falcons ran just 19 plays in the first half to New England's 40.

[For a full box score and stats, click here.] After a spectacular halftime show from Lady Gaga, in which she descended from the roof of NRG Stadium, Patriots defense played with fire amid the smoke from the halftime show. The Falcons, who hadn't been on offense in 68 minutes of elapsed time, suffered their first 3-and-out, highlighted by a Dont'a Hightower stop of Devonta Freeman, for a two-yard loss. He pointed to the fans in the end zone, ala Dikembe Mutombo. The Falcons punted and the Patriots took over at the their own 47 after the Falcons challenged a Edelman return in front of their sideline. But the uncharacteristic play continued as Chris Hogan and Julian Edelman dropped sure first downs. The Patriots punted again and the Falcons picked up where they left off in the first half. Matt Ryan found Tevin Coleman isolated on Rob Ninkovich and hit him wide open in the right flat for an easy touchdown that made it 28-3 with 8:31 left in the third. The Patriots responded with their first touchdown drive of the night, as Tom Brady hit James White in the left flat at the Falcons 2. White juked a defender and dove in. But Gostkowski hit the right upright on the point after and missed his fourth extra point of the season and marked the first Super Bowl missed extra point since Super Bowl XXV in 1990. That made it 28-9 with 2:06 left in the third. With his defense struggling to stop the Falcons, Bill Belichick gambled with the onside kick. Gostkowski illegally touched the ball after nine yards. The Falcons recovered at the Patriots 46 and the penalty gave them the ball at New England's 41. The Patriots defense stiffened and sacked Ryan, forcing a punt. Brady directed a drive that had the Patriots on the doorstep following a 15-yard pass to Bennett down to the 3-yard line. But Brady was sacked on back-to-back plays and the Patriots settled for a 31-yard Gostkowski field goal with 9:44 left. The Patriots then got the turnover they needed. Dont'a Hightower strip-sacked Matt Ryan and Alan Branch recovered at the Falcons 25. Five plays later, Brady found Danny Amendola from six yards with 5:56 left. James White took a direct snap and ran right up the middle for the two-point conversion that made it 28-20 Falcons. But pinned at their own 10-yard line, Ryan found an uncovered Freeman on a dump off for a 39-yard gain to the Falcons' 49. Two plays later, Julio Jones made one of the most spectacular catches in Super Bowl history. Ryan threw down the right side line and Julio Jones reached out over Eric Rowe and caught the ball at the Patriots 27. But Trey Flowers followed with a sack and then a holding was called on the Falcons left tackle Jake Matthews. The Falcons punted and the Julian Edelman made a fair catch at the Patriots 8 with 3:32 left. Brady, channeling his idol Joe Montana, engineered a 92-yard drive to tie the game with 57 seconds left.