Tom Brady leads Patriots to fifth Super Bowl win as Falcons collapse
Tom : HOUSTON — Lady Gaga came down from the roof at halftime. Then the roof caved in on Atlanta.
The Falcons blew a 28-3 lead late in the third quarter and stunningly lost 34-28 in overtime to New England in Super Bowl LI on Sunday night at NRG Stadium. It marked the first overtime in the Super Bowl and perhaps cemented Tom Brady’s status as the greatest quarterback in NFL history.
Brady engineered the comeback for his record fifth Super Bowl ring for a quarterback, and New England’s Bill Belichick set a mark for his fifth Super Bowl win as a coach. The dramatic win was sealed when James White scored on a 2-yard touchdown run with 11:02 left in overtime, his third TD of the game, and Brady soon was on his knees in disbelief.
“Down 25 points, it’s hard to imagine us winning,’’ Brady said.
At halftime, Lady Gaga started on the roof of the stadium and came down on a cable. The roof was open only for her performance and was shut for the game.
At the time, the Falcons, leading 21-3, had shut down Brady, and that continued throughout much of the third quarter. The lead was 28-3 before the Patriots finally got their first touchdown on a 5-yard TD pass from Brady to White with 2:06 left in the third quarter.
The deficit was 28-9 after Stephen Gostkowski’s extra point clanged off the right upright. The Patriots appeared so desperate at that point they tried an onside kick, which Atlanta recovered.
Brady kept his cool and completed the comeback. He was 42 of 63 through the air for 466 yards, all Super Bowl records, and was named the game’s most valuable player.
“It was a hell of a football game,’’ Brady said. “We all brought each other back. We never felt out of it. It was a tough battle.’’
Brady’s fifth Super Bowl ring (in a record seven appearances) broke the quarterback mark of four he had shared with Terry Bradshaw and Joe Montana. Belichick broke a tie he had been in with Pittsburgh’s Chuck Noll for four Super Bowl wins.
“Chuck Noll is a tremendous coach and a tremendous legend,’’ Belichick said. “I always admired Chuck. It’s an honor to be mentioned in the same sentence as Chuck, but (Sunday was) about our team, not about some record.’’
Then again, the Patriots wouldn’t have won had they not made a record comeback. The previous biggest deficit a team had overcome to win was 10 points, which had happened three times.
The game appeared over when Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan threw a 6-yard touchdown pass to Tevin Coleman with 8:31 left in the third quarter for a 28-3 lead. That had followed in the second quarter Davonta Freeman scoring on a 5-yard run, Ryan throwing a 19-yard TD pass to Austin Hooper and Robert Alford returning an interception 82 yards for a score and a 21-0 lead.
“It was just an avalanche,’’ Brady said of what had happened to the Patriots.
Ryan had been named the NFL regular-season MVP on Saturday night over Brady. For most of the night, it looked as if Ryan, who competed 17 of 23 passes for 284 yards, was ready to add the Super Bowl MVP to his trophy shelf.
“There’s nothing you can really say,’’ Ryan said. “That’s a tough loss. Obviously, very disappointed, very close to getting done what we wanted to get done. But it’s hard to find words.’’
The outcome might have been different had Ryan not had a costly fumble. With 8:24 left in the fourth quarter and Atlanta up 28-12, Ryan was sacked by Dont’a Hightower and the loose ball was recovered by Alan Branch at the Falcons 25.
That led to a 6-yard touchdown pass from Brady to Danny Amendola with 5:56 left. A direct snap to White on a successful 2-point conversion left the Patriots within 28-20.
The Falcons then drove to the New England 22 and perhaps needed just a field goal to wrap up the game. But Ryan was sacked for a loss of 12 and the Falcons had a holding penalty, and an Atlanta punt gave the Patriots the ball back with left.
“No doubt that was a tough one for us,’’ said Falcons coach Dan Quinn. “I think at the end, when we go back and watch (film Monday), for sure, there were things that we could have done different or played differently.’’
On New England’s final drive, Julian Edelman made a acrobatic, juggling 23-yard catch when he was going to the ground that moved the ball to the Atlanta 41. White soon scored on a 1-yard touchdown run with 57 seconds left, and Brady threw a 2-point conversation pass to Amendola to tie the score 28-28.
The Patriots won the overtime coin toss and drove 75 yards for the winning score. White scored his third touchdown of the night.
“It hasn’t really set in,’’ said White, who had 14 catches for 110 yards and, with the 2-point conversion, 20 points in the game. “Honestly, it’s all very surreal now.’’
It was plenty real, though, when the NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell handed the Patriots the Vince Lombardi Trophy. The Falcons’ collapse was complete.
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