It was a combination of the greatness of Tom Brady and the Falcons defense fatigue that allowed the New England Patriots to win their fifth title. 

  • Atlanta Falcons 28 (13-6)
  • New England Patriots 34 (15-2)
  • Super Bowl, Final OT, Box Score
  • NRG Stadium, Houston, Texas

For the first time in a long time, an NFL head coach proved to the world Bill Belichick isn’t the only genius. Second-year head coach, a New Jersey product who many fans of the New York Jets ached for two summers ago, Dan Quinn, took the four-time champion behind the woodshed for a good part of Super Bowl LI.

But then something funny happened, No. 12 happened.

Facing a 28-9 deficit entering the fourth quarter, Brady went to work against a tired defense who faced 87 snaps as opposed to the 41 the Pats defense saw.

The Falcons allowed a crease for Tom Brady and he took advantage. A combination of his greatness, fatigue on the side of the Falcons defense and a bonehead decision by the NFL MVP, Matt Ryan, allowed the New England Patriots to capture their fifth Super Bowl championship, 34-28, in overtime.

The game-winner came in the form of James White, on a pitch to the right side that saw him fight for the championship:

The Super Bowl MVP, Tom Brady, finished 43-of-62 for 466 yards and two touchdowns to one interception. He, of course, was named the Super Bowl MVP for the fourth time of his career.

It wasn’t all roses for the new champs, however.

From the get-go, it was evident that Quinn wasn’t going to flinch from the gameplan. He had his athletic D-line pinch on almost every play and his secondary in the face of every Pats wideout. The aggressive nature for which Atlanta’s defense played flew right in the face of the New England Patriots “kill ’em softly” offense.

The strategy worked in the first quarter when Deion Jones ripped the ball from LeGarrette Blount on a costly Pats fumble. Corner Robert Alford recovered.

This led to the game’s first touchdown of the game after a “feel ’em out” scoreless first quarter, a five-yard Devonta Freeman bounce-out to the left side:

Before anybody at home knew it, New England saw the deficit move to 14 when tight end Austin Hooper caught a five-yard TD from the NFL MVP, Matt Ryan:

Brady then marched his troops down the field, but suffered the lowest point of his Super Bowl career. He was picked off by Robert Alford for the dreaded pick-6, one that went 82 yards:

Halftime came with the score helplessly sitting at 21-3, but the viewers at home were treated to a Lady Gaga spectacular, one that saw her jump from the stadium’s roof.

Though the second half commenced, the style of play remained the same, much to the dismay of Belichick and the Pats. Quinn’s defense remained aggressive on all fronts, challenging the 39-year-old four-time champ to test downfield. Meanwhile, Ryan and the Falcons capitalized on the few play opportunities that were granted.

The second half scoring started with Atlanta receiving the ball and promptly driving it down the field for a score, one of the Tevin Coleman variety through the air capping off an eight play, 85-yard drive.

Brady, for as horribly as he struggled, didn’t give up. He methodically led his team on a drive capping off with a James White TD reception:

Stephen Gostkowski missed the extra point, and although New England’s offense continued to stall afterward, Brady was granted new life after the Pats D forced a strip-sack on Matty Ice.

Brady then went to work. He found Danny Amendola for the TD and allowed White to take a direct-snap to make it a one-score game:

Starting pinned within their own 10-yard line, Ryan and the Falcons needed to respond. At the very least, they needed to provide their defense with a rest. They did just that with a big play to Freeman through the air and then, perhaps, the most skillful Super Bowl catch of all-time via Julio Jones:

Absolutely absurd. Jones finished the game with four grabs for 87 yards.

Unfortunately for the Dirty Birds, a terrible Ryan sack and a holding call knocked them out of field goal range which set up a final Tom Brady drive with a chance to tie the game down eight points.

This was the critical play of the game. When Kyle Shanahan decided to throw on second down while already in field goal range with a chance to go up 11 points and Ryan took the sack to knock them out of field goal range, it opened up that small window of opportunity for Brady.

He capitalized. Part of capitalizing meant the “reverse helmet catch,” in the form of Julian Edelman:

Brady marched down the field thereafter. White, who finished the game with the game-winner, came up with the final regulation TD and a well-executed wide-receiver screen (that was, technically, offensive pass interference), tied the game:

From there, the Pats won the toss and took kickoff of the first OT game in Super Bowl history all the way to glory, capping off in the organization’s fifth title.

Ryan, who will rue the day he took that sack in the fourth quarter, finished 17-of-23 for 284 yards and two touchdowns to no interceptions. Devonta Freeman led all rushers with 75 yards on just 11 carries. White led the way on the receiving side with a ridiculous 14 catches and 110 yards.

This was the largest Super Bowl comeback of all-tme and first OT game in the history of the game.

Congrats to the New England Patriots, Super Bowl LI champions.


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