By: Donnie Menke ~Staff Writer~
There were high expectations heading into Super Bowl LI, as the highest scoring offense in the NFL met the top scoring defense when the Atlanta Falcons and New England Patriots earned their spots in the biggest game of the NFL season.
The game exceeded all expectations, giving fans possibly the best Super Bowl of all-time. A total of 31 records were either set or tied, including the largest overcome deficit, as the Patriots rallied from 25 points down in the third quarter to win the game and the championship by a score of 34-28 in overtime.
This was also the first Super Bowl to go to overtime.
The first quarter was a stalemate as neither offense could get into a rhythm, and the quarter ended with a score of 0-0.
In the second quarter, the Falcons seemed to take control of the game, limiting the Patriots to just three points while scoring 21 of their own. This included the second longest pick-6 in Super Bowl history when Falcons cornerback Robert Alford jumped a route and took a Tom Brady pass 82 yards to the end zone.
All seemed lost for New England at half time. Prior to last night, the largest comeback in Super Bowl history was 10 points. New England had less than a one percent chance of winning, according to ESPN. It seemed like a situation not even Brady and Patriots head coach Bill Belichick could dig themselves out of.
A comeback seemed even more improbable when the Falcons took a 28-3 lead early in the third quarter. That’s when all the momentum shifted. From that point, the Patriots scored 31 unanswered points to complete the greatest comeback in Super Bowl history.
The Patriots would score a touchdown with 2:06 left in the third quarter, but a missed extra point by the usually automatic Stephen Gostkowski seemed to further seal the Patriots’ fate.
In the fourth quarter, everything broke the Patriots’ way. Gostkowski connected on a field goal, and the Patriots defense came to life, shutting down the Falcons offense and forcing Atlanta’s first turnover of the postseason. A Matt Ryan fumble led to a quick touchdown and two-point conversion for the Patriots to bring the score to 28-20.
The highlight of the fourth quarter came on the Patriots’ final drive in regulation. The Patriots had the ball on their own 36-yard line on first and 10 with 2:26 to go in regulation. New England was down 28-20 and needed a touchdown and two-point conversion just to tie. Tom Brady took the snap and fired a pass in the direction of wide receiver Julian Edelman, only to have it tipped up in the air by Alford. Edelman, however, kept his eyes on the ball and made one of the greatest catches in NFL history, snagging the ball just a few inches from the ground not once, but twice, as he lost control of it initially.
The Patriots would go on to score a touchdown and convert the two point attempt to tie the game at 28-28.
In overtime, the Patriots completed the comeback, as they marched right down the field to score a touchdown on the opening drive. Brady was named MVP, breaking single game Super Bowl records for completions (43), passes (62) and passing yards (466).
This Super Bowl was nothing short of historic, and it will be incredibly difficult for the teams that get to the game next year to top it.