For the first 45 minutes of Super Bowl LI, it looked like the young gun Atlanta Falcons weren’t just going to win their first Super Bowl, but were going to embarrass the New England Patriots in a way that hadn’t happened since they lost Super Bowl XX to the Chicago Bears. However, a funny thing happened on the way to the end of the Patriots dynasty.
Trailing 28-3 midway through the third quarter, the Patriots dug deep and showed their greatness on both offense and defense on their way to scoring 31 straight points to win 34-28 in the first Super Bowl ever decided in overtime.
With the victory, quarterback Tom Brady joins Bart Starr as the only quarterback to win five NFL Championships and the only one with five Super Bowl victories (he joins Charles Haley as the only players with five Super Bowl titles). Head coach Bill Belichick now joins Vince Lombardi and George Halas as coaches with five NFL Championships and is the only one with five Super Bowl wins as a head coach.
Much like when the Green Bay Packers needed a final memorable drive to overcome a deficit to defeat the Dallas Cowboys in the Ice Bowl to claim their fifth NFL title, the Patriots needed some late miracles to claim their fifth title.
However, while Starr needed just one late drive to win, Brady and the Patriots had to score on their final five possessions to claim their championship.
Though he struggled early, Brady proved in the second half that he is the greatest quarterback in NFL history. He finished the game completing 43 of 62 passes for 466 yards and two touchdowns.
After the Falcons scored early in the third quarter to take a 28-3 lead, Brady led the Patriots on scoring drives of 75 yards, 72 yards (field goal), 25 yards and 91 yards to send the game to overtime. They then marched 75 yards in eight plays to win the game. Brady passed for all 91 yards in the tying job and 63 yards in the final winning drive.
For three quarters it appeared that Atlanta quarterback Matt Ryan would add a Super Bowl MVP award to the league MVP award he received the previous night. Ryan connected on 17 of 23 passes for 284 yards and two touchdowns.
However, after losing a fumble on a sack with 8:35 remaining in the game and the Falcons leading 28-12, Ryan was never able to close the deal. He made a great pass to Julio Jones that momentarily put the Falcons in field goal range while leading by eight points, but a sack and penalty led to a punt that gave Brady the opportunity for the tying drive.
Ryan had an opportunity to end the game in regulation, but the Falcons could manage only 16 yards and never saw the ball again.
As the first Super Bowl to reach overtime, Super Bowl LI will go down as one of the greatest championship games ever. It will also forever be the remembered as the game that sealed the legacy of Tom Brady and Bill Belichick.