The Greatest Comeback in Super Bowl History

julian-edelman2

Julian Edelman make what is perhaps the greatest catch in Super Bowl history.

Ethan Bachand ’18
EE Co-News Editor

Football is a 60 minute game. Sometimes a little more, but never any less. Until three zeros are on the game clock, however improbable, anything is possible. In what can only be described as one of the most electrifying Super Bowls of all time, the New England Patriots rallied from a 25 point deficit to defeat the Atlanta Falcons in overtime.

The mission was clear for both teams well before the game even started. For the Patriots and their quarterback Tom Brady, they were chasing history as they hoped to seize a 5th Lombardi Trophy  for their owner, head coach, and star player. For the Falcons, they were simply in chase of their first ever NFL championship in franchise history. With both teams driven to succeed, the game was set up to be an instant classic. Lucky for us, it didn’t disappoint.

Through the first quarter, it was clear that no one would be walking away with an easy win on the grandest stage of them all. Both defenses made a stand early, halting the opposing offenses on their first two drives of the night. In what was projected to be a shoot-out with the highest over/under ever set for a Super Bowl, it seemed for a second that maybe points would come at a premium all night.

Yet that theory would not last very long. On a 1st and 10 early in the second quarter, Falcons’ linebacker Deion Jones stripped the ball away from Patriots’ running back LeGarrette Blount. This would prove to be the play that changed the complexion of the entire game. After getting the ball, Falcons’ quarterback Matt Ryan took his team down the field to finish off the drive with a 5 yard touchdown run by Devonta Freeman. Though they did not stop there. After once again stopping the Patriots, Atlanta once again drove into the end zone, where Ryan would hook up with tight end Austin Hooper for the 19 yard touchdown pass.

As Patriots’ fans began to squirm a little bit, it seemed as if it was crucial that New England stop Atlanta’s momentum before it got out of hand. Yet it would only get worse before halftime. On what was supposed to be a short slant route to wide receiver Danny Amendola with only three minutes left before the end of the second quarter,  Brady was intercepted by Falcons’ Robert Alford  on what would turn out to be a 82 yard pick-six.

Now down 21-0, it seemed as if nothing was going to click for the Patriots. The offensive line was letting Falcons’ players pour through and get to Tom Brady. Receivers, even the most reliable ones like Julian Edelman, were dropping passes like their hands were covered with grease. Even their star quarterback was unable to be the superstar he normally is. Despite a field goal to at least put points on the board before the half, there was no question it would take an almost perfect game from every member of the 46 man roster to pull off a comeback.

But before it got any better, it got a lot worse. On their second possession of the half, the Atlanta Falcons drove down the field to score another touchdown off a 6 yard catch and run by Tevin Coleman. This would be the greatest deficit of the game, with the Atlanta Falcons up 28-3.

To put this in perspective, there has never been a Super Bowl comeback greater than 10 points. The Patriots needed 25. In what seemed to be turning into a blow out, it would take a miracle for the Patriots to win. And when his team needed him the most, Tom Brady would produce.

Immediately responding to the Falcons’ latest score, the Patriots drove down the field to score their first touchdown of the game with only 2 minutes remaining in the 3rd quarter. Yet despite the two yard scoring run by James White, who some would argue would go on to be the savior of the Patriots, the missed point after by kicker Stephen Gostkowski felt more like taking a step backwards. On the next possession, the Patriots would have to settle for only a field goal, making the score 28-12. With it being a two score game and only 10 minutes left in Super Bowl 51, it made you think maybe, just maybe, the Patriots could pull it off.

From that moment on, the Patriots played literally perfect football. After quickly stuffing the Falcons’ offense, Patriots’ linebacker and captain Dont’a Hightower knocked the ball out of Matt Ryan’s hands to set Tom Brady and the offense up with only 25 yards to go. They were able to capitalize, with Danny Amendola catching a 6 yard touchdown pass, followed by James White completing the two point conversion.

The score was then 28-20, the Patriots with a comeback still in sight. Yet all the Falcons would need to put the game to sleep would be a field goal. The Falcons once again turned up their high power offense, getting well within field goal range. There are two ways to look at what happened next. Some will say the Falcons cost themselves the game, some will say that Patriots saved themselves the game. On consecutive plays, the Patriots not only sacked Matt Ryan, but a holding call against the Falcons’ left tackle pushed the Falcons out of field goal range. After failing to convert on 3rd and 33, the Falcons had no choice but to punt the ball away.

Now, with 3:30 left on the game clock and a score of 28-20, the Patriots would have to march 91 yards down the field in order to win tie the game. Reminiscent of the game winning drive in Brady’s first Super Bowl, the Patriots marched step by step down the field. With what may have been the greatest catch in Super Bowl history by Julian Edelman, the Patriots made it into Atlanta territory and were not slowing down. Eventually, at the one yard line, James White would take the ball to score his second touchdown of the night. All that was left was the two point conversion, and in a heroic effort, Danny Amendola once again provided and made it across the goal line to tie the game.

This play would inevitably bring the game into overtime, the first time the biggest game of them all has gone into extra time. The Patriots would win the coin toss, taking the ball first.

This was it. One last drive. One last touchdown. All they needed was one more beautiful drive, and Tom Brady could cement his legacy as the greatest to ever play the game of football. Just like the previous drive, Brady pushed the team all the way down the field. Atlanta tried all they could, but nothing could stop this man on a mission. With a pass interference call at the one yard line, Tom Brady only had one yard till glory. After what almost could have been an interception, James White was given the ball. With three defenders in front of him, he bobbed, weaved, and plowed his way through for the Super Bowl 51 win.

It seemed like a storybook ending, something straight out of a dream. No team had done it before, and most likely no one will ever be able to do it again. For years this game will be talked about and analyzed to see how the Patriots pulled it off, but the answer may just be too simple to accept. That of course being the greatest player of all time fought to the very end.

Brady, named the MVP of the Super Bowl for the 4th time in his career, threw for a record 466 yards while completing 43 of his 62 pass attempts. To capture his 5th ring, which puts him ahead of Joe Montana and Terry Bradshaw for the most by a quarterback, does it get any better?

Like I said, football is a 60 minute game. Sometimes a little more, but never any less. The Patriots, though they seemed out for the count, played all 60+ minutes. And that is why, for the 5th time in the Belichick/Brady era, the New England Patriots are Super Bowl Champions.

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