The New England Patriots beat the Atlanta Falcons 34-28 in the first Super Bowl to go into overtime in Houston on Sunday night.
It was the greatest comeback in Super Bowl history, as the Patriots fought back from a 28-3 deficit late in the third quarter to tie Super Bowl LI 28 – 28 in regulation, then won in sudden death overtime on a 2 yard touchdown run by James White.
It took 31 unanswered points from the Patriots to secure the victory.
After a scoreless first quarter, Atlanta struck first when they recovered a fumble by New England’s LeGarret Blount deep in his own territory.
Devonta Freeman ran it in from the 5 yard line to put the Falcons up 7-0 with 12:20 left in the half.
Less than four minutes later, Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan hit Austin Hooper on a 19 yard touchdown pass to put the Falcons up 14-0.
The Patriots were driving deep into Falcons territory late in the first half when Robert Alford picked New England quarterback Tom Brady off and returned it 82 yards for a touchdown to put the Falcons up 21-0 with 2:27 left in the half.
But the Patriots drove drove down the field from their own 25 yard line and set up a 41 yard field goal by Stephen Gostkowski to finally get on the board with 2 seconds left, narrowing the gap to 21-3.
It was a stunning half time score, and the question was whether the Patriots and their 39 year old quarterback had enough talent and fortitude to make a game of it in the second half.
Neither the Falcons nor the Patriots could do much on their first drives of the second half.
But when the Falcons got the ball back after a Patriots punt, they made the most of it, capping an 8 play, 85 yard drive with a 6 yard touchdown pass from Matt Ryan to Tevin Coleman for the fourth Falcon touchdown of the game.
Down 28-3, the Patriots had their backs to the wall with a quarter and a half to go in the game.
Brady and the Patriots fought back, capping off a 74 yard drive with a 5 yard touchdown pass from Brady to James White to cut the deficit to 28-9 with 2:06 left in the third quarter. But the almost always reliable Gostkowski hit the uprights and missed the extra point.
It was that kind of day for the Patriots to that point.
Down three possessions at the start of the fourth quarter, the ESPN win probability calculator gave the Falcons a 99.3 percent probability of winning the game.
The Patriots, however, weren’t watching ESPN and were making their own calculations.
They launched a long drive from deep in their own territory that gave them a first and goal, but the drive stalled and they settled for a Stephen Gostowski field goal and cut the deficit to 28-12, a two possession game if they could score two touchdowns and get a two point conversion after each score. But with 9:44 left in the game, that seemed like a tall order, even for the Patriots.
The Falcons did nothing on their next possession, and the Patriots roared back as Brady hit Danny Amendola on a 6 yard touchdown pass with 6:00 left in the game. The two point conversion, a direct snap and run by James White, was successful, and it was now a one possession game, 28-20.
The ensuing onside kick failed, and the Falcons took over on their own 49 yard line. The Falcons, however, could not sustain the drive.
The Patriots took over with 3:30 to go at their own 9 yard line with a chance to send the game in to over time with a touchdown and 2 point conversion.
Brady hit James White for a 1 yard touchdown pass with 1:00 to go, narrowing the gap to 28-26.
It all came down to the 2 point conversion now.
The Patriots converted the two point conversion in a pass from Brady to Danny Amendola to tie the game up at 28-28, setting the stage for what could potentially be the first overtime game in Super Bowl history.
The Falcons could do nothing on the ensuing kickoff, and were forced to punt from their own 27 with 18 seconds left in the game.
The Patriots took the ball from their own 25 on the ensuing kickoff to start the overtime and drove into Falcons territory.
Brady’s pin point passing took the Patriots down to the Falcons 25, then a screen to James White took them down to the 15.
A pass interference flag was thrown on Falcons DB Campbell in a pass to Martellus Bennett at the goal line, setting up the Patriots with a first and goal from the 2.
Brady’s pass to Bennett on first down was almost picked off by the Falcons in the end zone.
Then James White took a toss to the right from Brady and plunged over the goal line by inches before his knee hit the ground for the game winning touchdown.
“It looked to me like the ball was across,” Fox Sports commentator Troy Aikman said, and the call was not overturned on review.
With the win, Brady became the first quarterback in history to win five Super Bowls.
Brady was also named Most Valuable Player of Super Bowl LI, the fourth time he has won that award.
Under head coach Bill Belichick the Patriots have played in seven Super Bowls, winning five and losing just two, both to the New York Giants.
“What was a blowout turned into the greatest comeback in NFL playoff history,” one Fox Sports commentator exclaimed as the post-game show began.
Brady ended the game with 466 yards passing, the most in Super Bowl history. He was 43 for 62, with two touchdowns and one interception.
His Atlanta counterpart, Matt Ryan, went 17 for 23, with 284 yards and two touchdowns.
It was a poignant moment after the game when NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, who had doggedly pursued his successful four game suspension of Brady at the start of the season over the “Deflate Gate” controversy, gave Patriots owner Robert Kraft the Vince Lombardi Super Bowl Champion trophy.