Quarterback Tom Brady added more success to his legendary resume, taking home a fifth Super Bowl ring and fourth Super Bowl MVP title, both NFL records. The win also put Brady’s co-pilot Bill Belichick in the record books, as he walked off the field as the most successful football head coach in history, also winning his fifth title.
The game was steeped in narratives about Brady’s revenge on the NFL for last year’s controversial “Deflategate” scandal, which left him on the bench for the first four games of the season.
To the shock of many, the Patriots came out looking utterly confused. The Falcons ran over them during the entire first half, stomping them on both offense and defense. Fresh off his award for NFL MVP, Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan looked comfortable in the pocket, leading the team on efficient scoring drives that were powered by Ryan’s coolly efficient passing and an explosive run game.
Meanwhile, Brady was clearly frustrated as his receivers dropped pass after pass, and there was a clear pattern of frustration amongst the team and offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels. The mood was worsened when Falcons cornerback Robert Alford picked off Brady and returned the ball 82 yards for a touchdown. Despite a slew of opportunities, the Patriots entered the locker room at halftime with only one field goal under their belts, trailing 21-3.
As the second half opened, the Falcons seemed all but destined to walk away with the title. They quickly scored another touchdown, widening the gap to 28-3. The Patriots responded in kind with a touchdown, but still looked to be in troubled waters as kicker Stephen Gostkowski missed the extra point and then botched an onside kick.
However, the Falcons were running out of steam. They gained nothing from the gift of great field position offered by Gostkowski’s kick, and while they held the Patriots to another field goal on the following drive, the defense was seeming a bit gassed. Then, everything changed when Ryan fumbled the ball on a third and one in their own territory, leading 28-12 with 8:24 left in the fourth quarter.
From there, Brady came alive and the Patriots quickly took control of the game. He quickly hit wide receiver Danny Amendola for a touchdown, followed by running back James White punching in a two-point conversion. Suddenly, the Patriots were back in business, trailing 28-20.
Then things started to get absurd. Atlanta was able to push back New England’s momentum, advancing the football to the Patriots’ 22-yard-line on an acrobatic, tip-toe catch by Julio Jones. Despite being in field goal range, Atlanta would get burned for being too cute, attempting three throws in their next four plays. They lost 23 yards between a sack and holding penalty, forcing them to punt the ball and giving the Patriots one last gasp with 3:30 remaining.
Brady snapped the ball on his own nine-yard-line and proceeded to make chopped salad out of the defense. The vengeful scoring drive was highlighted by an otherworldly bobbling catch by wide receiver Julian Edelman made mere inches from the ground. By the time it was over, the Patriots had tied the game 28-28 and were heading into the first overtime in Super Bowl history.
The Patriots won the coin toss, and Brady proceeded to march the team down the field, leading them to victory on a touchdown from running back White. Brady finished the night with a Super Bowl record 466 yards on 43 completions, while White also had a record 14 catch, 110 yard outing.
The Belichick crew had made history with the biggest Super Bowl comeback ever, earning their revenge and cementing Brady and Belichick as perhaps the greatest player/coach combination of all-time.