June 22, 2024

Tom Brady leads Patriots to thrilling Super Bowl victory

Super Bowl LI was one for the ages, as Tom Brady led the New England Patriots to their fifth Super Bowl victory in franchise history, defeating the Atlanta Falcons, 34-28.

The New England Patriots' logo on a banner prior to the 2012 Super Bowl. The Patriots lost that Super Bowl to the New York Giants, 21-17. Photo obtained via creativecommons.org, no changes made.

Super Bowl LI will be remembered as the greatest comeback in the history of the National Football League.

Things are never easy on the hearts of Atlanta sports fans, and Sunday night was no different. In what was arguably the strangest Super Bowl of all time, the New England Patriots stormed all the way back from 25 points down to beat the Atlanta Falcons, 34-28, in overtime.

Tom Brady spearheaded a miraculous 19-point fourth quarter, leading the Patriots to their fifth NFL Championship. Brady dished a six-yard touchdown to Danny Amendola before James White took a direct snap and rushed up the middle for a two-point conversion, cutting the Atlanta lead to 28-20. On New England’s next drive, White scored on a one-yard run, and Brady tied the game at 28-28 after his screen pass to Amendola resulted in yet another two-point conversion, sending the Super Bowl to its first ever overtime.

The Patriots’ play during the fourth quarter of Super Bowl LI will live on forever, but the Falcons’ play will for different reasons.

Star wide receiver Julio Jones made one of the greatest catches in Super Bowl history with 4:40 remaining in the game and the Falcons leading 28-20. After the catch, Atlanta had the ball in field-goal range on the New England 22-yard line, only needing three points to basically clinch a championship. The Falcons then gave up a sack, offensive tackle Jake Matthews was called for holding and an incomplete pass on 3rd and 33 led to a punt, giving a red-hot Tom Brady the football back.

Brady took advantage of Atlanta’s shortcomings and calmly drove the Patriots on a game-tying touchdown drive capped off by White’s one-yard run. The drive was highlighted by New England wide receiver Julian Edelman, who topped Jones’ catch with a miracle grab of his own.

In overtime, the Patriots won the coin toss, elected to receive and Brady immediately went to work, marching New England down the field on 5-of-7 passing for 50 yards, setting up White’s game-winning two-yard touchdown run.

Brady, the Super Bowl LI MVP, finished with a Super Bowl-record 466 passing yards and two touchdowns. He also set Super Bowl records in completions (43) and pass attempts (62). The 39-year-old quarterback now has five Super Bowl rings, the most ever for a quarterback.

But the game didn’t always appear promising for the Patriots, as the Falcons completely dominated the first half. A five-yard rushing touchdown by Devonta Freeman followed by a 19-yard touchdown pass from Matt Ryan to Austin Hooper helped Atlanta storm to a 14-0 lead in the second quarter. Minutes later, Robert Alford picked off Brady and returned it 82 yards for a touchdown to extend the Falcons’ lead to 21-0. New England managed to put three points on the board before the half after Stephen Gostkowski connected on a 41-yard field goal.

The Falcons kicked off the second half with a six-yard touchdown pass from Ryan to Tevin Coleman, pushing Atlanta’s lead to 28-3. The Patriots followed with their first touchdown of the game, a five-yard pass from Brady to White, making it a 28-9 game after Gostkowski missed the extra point.

Even with the game inching closer, it never appeared New England would come back. And then, the game changed on a dime, as linebacker Dont’a Hightower sacked Ryan with 8:24 remaining in the fourth quarter, which led to a fumble and a Patriot recovery. Moments later, the Patriots pulled within eight.

New England head coach Bill Belichick knew just how important the strip sack was, saying, “Hightower’s play was the big one. We needed that one.”

As for the comeback, even Brady couldn’t believe it.

“It’s hard to imagine us winning (after falling behind),” Brady admitted. “It took a lot of great plays and that’s why you play to the end.”

Ryan, the 2017 NFL MVP, finished with 284-yards and two touchdowns on 17-of-23 passing. Julio Jones finished with 87-yards on four catches, while Freeman rushed for 75-yards and a touchdown on 11 carries.

“There’s nothing you can really say,” Ryan said after the game. “That’s a tough loss, obviously very disappointing, very close to getting done what we wanted to get done.”

Edited by David Bradford

Featured image by Steve Baker