On February 5, 2017, the Atlanta Falcons and the New England Patriots faced off in Super Bowl LI in Houston, Texas. Going into the big game, the Patriots were 14-2 and the Falcons were 11-5 in the regular season.
Previously, the Patriots have won four of the eight Super Bowls they have been to. Quarterback Tom Brady and head coach Bill Belichick won those four games together and have been to seven of them in the last 17 years with the Patriots. Although missing four games this season due to the 2015 “Deflategate,” Brady still managed to lead his team to his fifth Super Bowl with a quarterback rating of 112.2 in the regular season.
The Falcons have never won a Super Bowl in franchise history but have appeared in two. On Saturday, February 4, the day before the Super Bowl, Falcons quarterback, Matt Ryan, won several awards at the NFL Honors ceremony including MVP and offensive player of the year.
Many predicted that the Patriots would win the Super Bowl including Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and Siri. Four of the five Fox commentators also picked the Patriots to win, Michael Strahan being the only one to have faith in the Falcons.
The Patriots started the first quarter receiving the ball from the Falcons, but couldn’t seem to get into their groove, having to punt the ball away in only a few minutes. The Falcons offense made many good moves in the first quarter, but no scoring occurred.
The Falcons forced a fumble early on in the second quarter, and Falcons running back, Devonta Freeman, scored the first points of the game with 12 minutes left in the second quarter. From there, the Falcons only continued to expand their lead, scoring two more touchdowns in the second quarter. One 19 yard touchdown pass to tight end Austin Hooper and cornerback Robert Alford intercepted the football at the New England 18 yard line and ran 82 yards for a touchdown, extending the Falcons lead to 21-0 with two minutes left in the first half. The Patriots, desperate to score before the half, kicked a field goal after their first good drive of the game. Running back James White ran the ball a few times during this drive, helping the Patriots get down the field quickly. With 5 seconds left in the first half, the Patriots finally got on the board with a 41 yard field goal.
After the half, the sideline reports didn’t say much about the Patriots plan to get back into this game, but Belichick obviously had a plan. After a few incomplete passes from both sides, the Falcons started the third quarter with quite a few big plays by wide receiver Taylor Gabriel on a four minute touchdown drive. Once New England had the ball again, Brady threw the ball laterally to wide receiver Julian Edelman to then throw, but the pass was incomplete. Taking a chance on 4th and 3, the Patriots found their rhythm. Brady ran eight yards to finally get in the red zone. The Patriots scored their first touchdown but missed the extra point making the score 28-9 in favor of the Falcons. With two minutes left in the quarter, the Patriots wanted to get the ball back, so they did an on-sides kick which resulted in the Falcons getting the ball at New England’s 47 yard line. With two minutes, Atlanta couldn’t do anything before punting it away.
Beginning the fourth quarter, the Patriots were down 28-9, needing 19 points to tie the game. At one point, the Patriots were down by 25 points. Previously, the largest comeback in Super Bowl history had been from a deficit of 10 points, happening multiple times, and no Super Bowl prior has ever gone into overtime. New England settled for a field goal after Brady was sacked on first and goal, as well as on third and goal. Watching the game, junior Charlotte Manvell said at this point, “Bruh, you have to get rid of the ball [before getting sacked],” but Tom Brady didn’t listen to the aspiring coach. The field goal meant that now the Patriots needed 16 points to tie the game: two touchdowns with two 2-point conversions with the allotted nine minutes left. The Patriots sacked Atlanta’s quarterback Matt Ryan forcing a fumble that New England recovered on the 25 yard line. With six minutes left, Patriots wide receiver Danny Amendola scored a touchdown, followed by a 2-point conversion with a direct snap, closing the score gap to 28-20. The Falcons made two large plays in an attempt to get down the field quickly; however, the drive ended after a sack on second down and a penalty causing third and thirty-three. With three and a half minutes left in the game and New England starting on the 9 yard line, they had a lot of work to do. At the 36 yard line, Brady threw the ball to wide receiver Edelman, which was almost intercepted as the Falcons tipped it. The call of a complete catch was challenged, but the ruling remained. With 57 seconds left in the game, the Patriots scored another touchdown with a 2-point conversion tieing the game 28-28.
Starting the first ever overtime in Super Bowl history, New England won the coin toss and chose to start with the ball. Overtime is one 15 minutes sudden death period. If the first team to score scores a field goal, then the other team has a chance at the ball, but if any other scoring occurs first that team wins. The Patriots were in the red zone with close to 12 minutes left in overtime. After two incompletes to the end zone, running back James White ran the ball into the endzone scoring the game winning touchdown. Although some say that his knee was down before the ball crossed the line, the play was not challenged as people were swarming the field. The Patriots won Super Bowl LI 34-28. It was the largest comeback in Super Bowl history and the first overtime.