Rapid Reaction: Super Bowl LI

What started as a bland, boring match-up turned into a game for the history books, as the New England Patriots completed the biggest comeback in Super Bowl history with a 34-28 overtime victory over the Atlanta Falcons.

Things started off incredibly slow—there was no scoring in the entire first quarter—but things got going quickly in the second.  New England was driving, but Patriots running back LeGarrette Blount had the ball stripped by Atlanta rookie linebacker Deion Jones, and when Atlanta recovered, the Falcons went on an incredible run.  Falcons stars Devonta Freeman, who scored the team’s first touchdown, and Julio Jones had their way with the Patriots defense, and while the legendary Tom Brady was effective, he wasn’t quite able to crack the young Atlanta D.  That D was able to crack him, though, as on the team’s deepest first half drive outside of the one that culminated in Blount’s fumble, Brady was picked off by cornerback Robert Alford, who returned the ball 82 yards for a touchdown.  While the Pats were able to tack on a field goal before the half, they still found themselves down 18 points, which, even at that time, would have been the biggest lead ever overcome in the history of the Big Game.

The hole got bigger in the third quarter, when Tevin Coleman plunged in to give the Falcons a 28-3 lead.  It seemed as if the Falcons were left for dead.  But Brady, who wound up finishing with a Super Bowl-record 466 yards passing, was having none of it—he led his team down the field to get a score in before the end of the quarter, and then kept up the momentum by getting a field goal on the first drive of the fourth quarter.  The Patriots defense came up big, forcing the league’s MVP, Matt Ryan, to fumble the ball and give it ball to Brady, who responded by quickly tossing a touchdown to Danny Amendola and calling a gutsy play for a two-point conversion.  The Falcons had a chance to put the Patriots away on their next drive, as they were still up 8, and an incredible sideline catch by Jones seemed to do just that.  However, after a sack and a costly holding penalty, Brady and company got the ball back.  They drove swiftly and efficiently down the field, capping their drive with a one yard plunge by running back James White, who had a Big Game-record 14 catches on the day, and a two-pointer by Amendola to tie the game.

The game went to overtime for the first time in Super Bowl history, and when the Patriots won the toss, they elected to receive.  The Falcons wouldn’t see the ball again.  Brady, who was named MVP for the fourth time in his five Super Bowl wins, marched his team down the field, and when White dove past the goal line to secure the victory, all of New England went bananas.  The Patriots were champions again.

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