The greatest Super Bowl in history also might be the greatest football game ever played. The New England Patriots made one of the most miraculous come backs, maybe, the most miraculous comeback, in sports’ history on Feb. 5 when they beat the Atlanta Falcons 34 to 28 in Super Bowl LI.
It was one of the most amazing things many of us football fans have ever seen. So many stories came out of this year’s Super Bowl. There are too many to count. I’m going to stick to what happened on the field by going through each quarter in my Super Bowl 51 recap.
Super Bowl 51 Recap
Both teams appeared to be feeling each other out. No points were scored in this quarter as the defenses, not surprisingly, picked things up in this quarter. Also, both offenses were off. New England QB Tom Brady appeared to be more off than Atlanta QB Matt Ryan.
The under bettors had to be scratching their heads after the quarter ended with no points scored. A football game doesn’t often go over a total as high as 57.5 points in some sportsbooks when no points are scored in the first quarter. Ah, but this is the Super Bowl, where craziness reigns.
Any under bettors high-fiving each other after the first quarter were singing for the fat lady instead of waiting for her to sing.
Patriots 0, Falcons 0
The action picked up big time in the second quarter. The first huge play of the game occurred on Atlanta’s side of the field. The Patriots were driving, no doubt about that. Even RB LeGarrette Blount was getting involved. For a moment, I thought I might have turned into a fortune teller since one of my predictions was that Atlanta’s defense was going to have trouble with Big Man Blount.
But, then, LeGarrette did something that he hadn’t done in a long time. As he struggled for more yardage on a basic run play, Atlanta rookie Deion Jones tore the ball from LeGarrette’s grasp. The Falcons recovered.
Atlanta drove down the field. They punched it in on a 7-yard TD rush by Devonta Freeman. Freeman made an impressive cut to leave the New England defenders in his dust. Atlanta went up 7 to 0.
Atlanta’s next score came on the Falcons’ next possession. The Falcons had driven to the Patriots’ side of the field. Atlanta QB Matt Ryan, the NFL League MVP, faced a 3rd and 9. It appeared as if New England’s defense was going to hold Atlanta to a field goal try. Ryan had other ideas. He threw a 19-yard dart to TE Austin Cooper. On the replay, it looked like Cooper had pushed off. No matter. The Falcons went up 14 to 0.
Atlanta’s Robert Alford ran back a bad Tom Brady pass 82-yards for the Falcons next TD. At that point, after Atlanta went up 21 to 0, I looked to my friend Greg and said, “Wow. They’re getting their asses kicked.” Greg, because he’s a Denver fan, smiled.
The Patriots did add a field goal before the end of the half.
Patriots 3, Falcons 21
The Falcons added to their lead early in the 3rd Quarter. Tevin Coleman, Atlanta’s other running back, rushed for a 6-yard TD. The Falcons were suddenly up 28 to 3 at the 8:31 mark in the 3rd Quarter. There was still a ton of time in the game. But, I must admit, Greg’s smile got just a bit wider after the Coleman TD even though, full disclosure, he did say that you can never “count out f_____ Tom Brady.”
Greg was right. Brady and the Patriots started the miraculous comeback after Coleman’s TD. The first key play was Terrific Tom scrambling for about 14 yards on a 3rd and 8. That kept a key drive alive. At the 2:06 mark in the third quarter, RB James White scored his first TD of the game on a 5-yard Brady pass. Stephen Gostkowski missed the extra point attempt. Patriots 9, Atlanta 28
Although nobody on the planet knew it at the time, White’s first TD signaled the greatest comeback in, maybe, sports history.
Patriots 9, Falcons 28
The next big play happened after Gostkowski made a field goal to bring the score to Patriots 12, Atlanta 28. On a 3rd and 1, instead of rushing the football, Atlanta OC Kyle Shanahan called a 7-step drop back pass play. As Ryan lifted his arm to throw the football, Patriot LB Dont’a Hightower smacked Ryan hard, forcing a fumble. New England recovered.
The play occurred at the 8:32 mark in the 4th Quarter. At that point, the Patriots needed 16 points, 2 TDs and two 2-point conversions, to tie the game. Greg still smiled. I supposed, he doesn’t detest Brady as much as I believed he does. Both of us could see how Greg’s prediction had a chance to come to fruition.
Brady threw his second TD pass of Super Bowl LI with 5:56 left in the 4th quarter. It was a nice 6-yard strike on a 5-yard route to WR Danny Amendola. On the 2-point conversion attempt, the Pats directly snapped it to White. He rushed it into the end zone. Suddenly, with 5:56 left in regulation, the score was Patriots 20, Atlanta 28.
It wouldn’t be right for me to not mention Julio Jones’s unbelievable catch when Atlanta was at 2nd and 9. Jones had to go high to grab the ball. Then, he had to concentrate on getting both feet in bounds. It may have been one of the greatest catches in Super Bowl history if Atlanta had won the game. The catch put the Falcons in field goal range.
But, OC Kyle Shanahan messed up again. Shanahan called a pass play on another 3rd and short situation. The Patriots sacked Ryan. That made the field goal attempt over a 50-yarder. Oh, but, wait, it gets worse for the poor Atlanta Falcons.
On the very next play, a 3rd and long where the Falcons just wanted to give their great field goal kicker Matt Bryant an easier shot, Atlanta was called for a holding penalty. That, my friends, was the miracle play of the game before the Super Bowl Miracle Catch of All Time. The 10-yards forced Atlanta to punt.
With 1st and 10, and on their own 42 yard-line, Tom Brady went back to pass. That’s the best way to start out describing the Super Bowl Miracle Catch of All Time. There was about 2:21 left on the clock. Plenty of time. Brady didn’t even have to throw it. Didn’t he see the Atlanta defender flying across the field?
Maybe, Terrific Tom didn’t. The defender got a hand on the football. It careened into the air. Both Patriots’ receiver Julian Edelman and an Atlanta defender crashed to the ground. Edelman got up first…with the football in his hands. Was it a catch? Was it?
Yes…thousands of Atlanta Falcon fans said silently to themselves, internal voices shaking…it was a catch.
With a minute left in the game, White rushed 1-yard for his second TD. But, even then, the Patriots had to convert a 2-point attempt. Was there any doubt? Not really. Although flags flew as soon as Danny Amendola put the football over the plane of the goal line for 2 points, and a tie in Super Bowl LI, everybody, even Atlanta fans, knew who had committed the infraction.
The Falcons had jumped off sides. The 2-points counted. The game was tied: Patriots 28, Atlanta 28.
What happened next shouldn’t have been a surprise to anyone. The Patriots won the coin toss. They drove the ball into Atlanta’s Red Zone. A pass interference call put the ball onto the 2-yard line.
At the 11:08 mark in overtime, James White rushed for a 2-yard touchdown. The New England Patriots had won Super Bowl LI.
QB Tom Brady had orchestrated the greatest comeback in NFL history. The New England Patriots had won their second Super Bowl in three years, and fifth overall.