New England Patriots 34 – 28 Atlanta Falcons
New England Patriots claimed a fifth Superbowl title and their second in three years in what was arguably the greatest comeback not only in NFL Superbowl history, but possibly in all of sports too. The Boston based side came back from the biggest points deficit ever in a Superbowl, to lift the Vince Lombardi trophy once again. The Atlanta Falcons were 21-3 points up at half time and cruising, before Patriots quarterback Tom Brady produced one of the greatest performances ever seen at a Superbowl as dragged his team not just from the jaws of defeat but the throat of of defeat, to see the Patriots recording a stunning 34-28 points victory at Superbowl LI at Houston’s NRG Stadium.
A scoreless first quarter between the sides saw Atlanta looking the more likelier to break the deadlock, as Devonta Freeman caused the Patriots trouble throughout the game as he was picking up yards for fun and a 37-yard carry by the Falcons man was the longest run in the quarter. New England struggled offensively and saw Deion Jones causing a fumble off LeGarrette Blount to see Robert Alford recovering the ball for the Falcons and had them in complete control. Atlanta’s quarterback Matt Ryan made two passes to Julio Jones who got them into good field position and that allowed Devonta Freeman to finish off the drive with success, as he ran in for a 5-yard touchdown to see Atlanta go 7-0 up.
With New England still unable to get a score or look likely at that point to score, it saw Ryan and his Falcons offense moving up the field once more and a 19-yard touchdown pass to Austin Hooper was caught in the endzone to have Atlanta leading 14-0 and make it an unbelievable first half for the side. The Patriots sideline was in utter shock and disbelief at what was happening out on the field and non were shocked than Patriots head coach Bill Belichick who saw his side being dominated in the game. Around the stadium people were in shock too with the majority of them being New England fans inside the NRG Stadium.
Tom Brady was having a nightmare game at this point in time, and saw him being ineffective with the ball for the Patriots as his receivers were unable to make any catches at all. His night got worse when he threw an interception to Robert Alford and the Falcons player ran in for a 82-yard score and saw the Falcons crushing the odds on favourite New England Patriots 21-0 and was threatening to become one-sided.
In all the Superbowl’s that Brady had been involved in not once had they been so far behind an opponent in the game, and the previous deficit was 10 points that he was forced to bring his side back from. Atlanta’s defence had spent the far majority of the second quarter on the field and was giving Matt Ryan and his offense a long long rest of it, with the Falcons not even needing Ryan on the field of play to score points.
With Atlanta being dominant and suffocating the New England offence, it did start to see some slight chinks in the Falcons armour appearing as towards the back end of the first half, as it saw the Falcons picking up three defensive penalties for holding and in doing so it helped the Patriots gain vital yards up field. With time on the half coming to an end it saw Stephen Gostkowski drilling a field goal to get the AFC Champions on the board with three second before the half came to a close.
Second half saw both teams unable to score on their opening drives and that meant that the Patriots were forced to punt to the Falcons. Atlanta’s Taylor Gabriel then connected on two passes that saw the Falcons continuing their march up field and their 85-yard drive was finished off by Tevin Coleman who caught a 6-yard pass and went in for the touchdown to see them lead 28-3 with 8:31 left in the third quarter. Those fans in Red shirts and everyone watching at that point in time seemed convinced that the Superbowl trophy was heading for Georgia as their opponents seemed crestfallen.
New England knew that if they didn’t start playing sooner rather than later, that this could become an embarrassment and even surpass their huge defeat back at Superbowl XX, when the Chicago Bear of 1985 destroyed the Patriots 46-10. Tom Brady wasn’t about to let that happen and saw him starting to get going much to joy of their fans.
After he run 15-yards himself and was the longest run by any Patriots player in the whole of the game, it gave his team a first down and finally within range of scoring their opening touchdown as James White who had their only stand out player for the opening three quarters, claiming a catch to see the Patriots getting it to 28-9. Gostkowski then missed the extra point attempt for New England and thoughts of this wasn’t going to be their day was still surfacing.
Stephen Gostkowski then tried an onside kick for the Patriots, but he managed to see the ball hitting him before it reached 10-yards and gave away a penalty which seemed to sum his day. Atlanta now saw them starting to struggle a bit going forward, which forced them to punt away as they were unable to get their offence moving as well as they done in the first half.
Atlanta were just fifth-teen minutes away from Superbowl glory and their cause was helped by Tom Brady getting sacked twice by Grady Jarrett, and he was proving to be big player in the Falcons defensive after making two huge plays in stopping Brady. Goskowski then shrugged off his poor game to nail a 33-yard field goal for New England and make it 16 point ball game and give the Patriot fans in the stadium some hope that the impossible might be possible.
Atlanta needed some much needed points quickly if just to keep the pressure on the Patriots, but instead on their third play of the drive Dont’a Hightower caused Ryan to fumble the football and give New England possession in the process. Danny Amendola then made a 6-yard catch to get his side back within two scores of tying the game up if they were able to score 2 two-point conversions. New England faked a high snap to Brady and saw everyone looking at the quarterback instead of James White, who went in for a two-point conversion to make it a 28-20 game with 5:56 in the game.
This performance by Tom Brady was becoming special, but no-one knew how special it would go on to be as the contest unfolded. In Atlanta’s penultimate drive of the fourth quarter, it saw some of their decision making being questionable and would prove to be one of the talking points later in the game. From kick off it saw Greg Hardy choosing to run the ball instead of letting it go out of bounce in the endzone possibly, which would have given the Falcons a much chance with field position for their drive.
Ryan though did manage to engineer a move up field for Atlanta, while Freeman was continuing to get good yardage on plays and then saw Julio Jones, who had been a player that wasn’t used far enough in the game by Atlanta, but he made a fantastic acrobatic 27-yard catch by the sidelines to see them in field goal range. T
The Falcons were in great position and arguably should have closed the game out too considering where they were. Everyone expected the side to just keep running the football and gain extra inches or yards on the drive and move them up field a bit a more, but instead a 1-yard loss from Freeman saw them moved back a touch and then had a 9-yard pass to Mohamed Sanu cancelled out thanks to a holding penalty and saw Atlanta now 3rd and 33 on the New England 45 yard line.
With an incomplete throw by Matt Ryan, it gave the Patriots a final chance of getting this game tied up with 3:30 left to go in the contest and plenty of time for another Brady special, but also crucially they had all their timeouts still intact. Passes by Brady to Chris Hogan for 16-yards and then Malcolm Mitchell for 11-yards, saw the Pats’ move up field with ease and against a tiring Falcons defence now.
For years New England and their fans have been forced to watch replays of Seattle’s Jermaine Kearse juggling catch against them at Superbowl XLIX a couple of years ago, and then of course the infamous ‘Helmet Catch’ by David Tyree of the New York Giants at XLII of which the Giants beat the Patriots in for the second Superbowl in as many years.
This time however the Patriots would have their own moment of brilliance coming their way, when a pass by Brady was deflected up in the air by Alford and saw three Falcons players and Edelman all trying to make the grab, but the ball bounced off the ankle of Alford and saw the diving Patriots man making a stunning catch inches off the ground to see New England now having the momentum and having the game swinging massively in their favour.
Atlanta challenged the play to with they burned their final timeout over with a coaches challenge. Brady would go on to make exceptional plays and had him leading his team up to the 1-yard line, before White scored again and made it a two-point game at 26-28, before Brady found Amendola in the endzone to tie the game up at 28-28 and see the Superbowl heading to its first ever overtime.
Atlanta got the ball in the closing stages, but they were nowhere near to getting a chance to kick a field goal and so we headed into unheralded territory of overtime. New England won the coin toss and elected to receive, with saw the four-time champions having the chance to win the game and left Atlanta a broken side after watching Tom Brady basically producing the most stunning performance in Superbowl history.
An incomplete pass to Martellus Bennett saw De’Vondre Campbell called for a pass interference and that penalty took the Patriots to the Falcons 2-yard line and a first down for New England. Vic Beasley almost intercepted a pass from Bennett and that proved to be the last action for the Falcons, when James White went over for his third touchdown in the game and also the Superbowl winning score too, as he stretched out to break the pane before his knee touched the ground. That score gave New England an unbelievable come from behind victory take it 34-28 over the Atlanta Falcons and claim a franchise record 5th Superbowl crown.
The games MVP could only go to one man and whether you love him or hate him you had to take your hat off to the performance of Tom Brady who literally dragged his team from oblivion, and then produced the greatest comeback of all-time and sports period, as you have to remember they were 21-3 points down and looked dead and buried at half time to then comeback and take victory.
The trophy presentation was an interesting one to say the least, as NFL Commissioner Robert Goodell handed the trophy over to Robert Kraft the Patriots Owner and after his speech was drowned out by the New England fans booing him, this was after the Commissioner suspended Tom Brady for his part in ‘Deflategate’ last season in a playoffs match against Indianapolis.
With Goodell walking off stage right, it gave Kraft the open mic and had the following to say in his Superbowl winning speech: “Two years ago, we won our fourth Super Bowl down in Arizona and I told our fans that was the sweetest one of all. But a lot has transpired over the last two years,” Kraft said, as the crowd, sensing where he was going, roared in response. “And I don’t think that needs any explanation. But I want to say to our fans, to our brilliant coaching staff, our amazing players who were so spectacular: this is unequivocally the sweetest.”
Tom Brady then collected the MVP of the Superbowl and was emotional in his speech to the crowd and his final words to the New England fans was: “Boston, we’re bringing this sucker home!”. This performance by Brady leaves no one in any doubt now that he is the G.O.A.T and some have even been quoted as saying that this would be a perfect way to retire and bow out, as nothing will ever surpass this moment. However you get the sense that there is still a few more years left in the Patriots ’12’.