Brady is GOAT, Wins 5th Super Bowl
by Andrew DAmbrosio on Friday, February 10th, 2017
It was a Super Bowl for the ages, as the New England Patriots battled back from a 25-point deficit to defeat the Atlanta Falcons 34 to 28 in overtime at NRG Stadium in Houston, Texas. Regarded by many as the most exciting Super Bowl ever played, the game was truly a story of two halves. The Patriots, pregame favorites to win the NFL Championship, played poorly in the first half. On two separate offensive drives, both near the red zone, the Patriots uncharacteristically turned over the football.
The Falcons’ ball-hawking defense caused Patriots running back LeGarrette Blount, who had 1,161 rushing yards and 18 TDs this season, to fumble on the 33-yard line, negating New England’s first likely scoring drive. Later in the half, speedy Atlanta cornerback Robert Alford picked off a Tom Brady pass and returned the interception a whopping seventy-seven yards for an immediate “pick 6” touchdown. After only his fifth interception of the season, Brady’s receivers, specifically Edelman and Hogan, had trouble catching the ball.
Defensively, the Patriots also struggled against a precise and talented Falcons’ offense. Atlanta Quarterback Matt Ryan — the league MVP — connected at-will with his targets and led the Falcons to 21 consecutive first half points. Ryan completed an impressive 7 of 8 pass attempts for 115 yards and a touchdown in the first half. Super-star wide receiver Julio Jones made his presence felt early in the game with a couple of incredible long catches. Shifty Atlanta running backs Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman were equally as difficult to bring down and punched in two touchdowns on the ground. All the Patriots could muster was a Stephen Gostkowski field goal after failing to finish the drive off with a touchdown. New England entered the locker room down 21-3 at the half, their stunned fans ironically “poker faced” at the start of Lady Gaga’s halftime show.
The second half picked up where the first left off. Matt Ryan connected with Tevin Coleman to extend the Falcon’s lead to a whopping 25 point spread. Even the most optimistic of Patriots’ fans would admit that doubt was setting in. The largest comeback in Super Bowl history was 10 points.
“We were down, some had some doubt,” said defensive end Chris Long, a veteran signed this offseason for the Patriots, in an interview with NBC Sports. “We’re only human. But we had enough guys pulling us along. Duron Harmon walked in and said, ‘This is going to be the best comeback of all time.’ And we completely believed that. And it was.’’
With that “never say die” attitude, the Patriots began the most epic Super Bowl comeback. Led by the unflappable Brady, the offense drove the Patriots 75 yards in 13 plays and pulled within two scores after a late third-quarter touchdown pass to scat back James White. Kicker Stephen Gostkowski missed the PAT though.
Early in the fourth quarter, Gostkowski recovered from his prior miss and continued the New England scoring streak with another field goal. However, the tide didn’t truly turn until Patriots’ standout linebacker Dont’a Hightower strip sacked Ryan. The Patriots’ big man Alan Branch recovered the football at Atlanta’s twenty-five yard line. “Biggest play of the game,’’ said Long — this turnover definitely swung the momentum in the Pats’ direction.
Brady made quick work of the opportunity by advancing the Patriots to Atlanta’s one yard line, where emerging-star James White ran into the end zone for his second touchdown of the game. After an all-important two-point conversion, the Patriots found themselves only one score back, 28-20. “We all brought each other back,” Brady said. “We never felt out of [the game].”
The signature play of the Patriot’s tying drive was as improbable a play as the Patriots’ comeback itself. With time running out in the fourth quarter, Brady laced a 23 yard throw that was tipped — and could’ve been intercepted by the Atlanta secondary — to clutch-receiver Julian Edelman. In perhaps the catch of the decade, Edelman reeled in the deflected pass, maintained possession, and won a first down. The ball had touched no fewer than five different limbs, but the Patriots now felt a comeback was inevitable. James White finished the drive with a short lunge into the end zone and wide receiver Danny Amendola caught the two-point conversion to equalize the game at 28-28.
After correctly guessing heads in the overtime coin toss, the Patriots were primed to put the nail in Atlanta’s coffin. Brady and White had performed the real Super Bowl show and wore down Atlanta’s defense with a season-high 99 offensive plays. What had been a fast and aggressive defense in the first half became a totally gassed squad in OT. Even safety Duron Harmon told the Patriots’ defensive coordinator to “not bother [drawing] up a defensive plan for overtime” as he “knew the QB would lead a touchdown drive to end the game on overtime’s first possession.”
The Falcons’ resistance proved futile as the Patriots stormed 75 yards downfield to cap it all off with James White’s heroic push into the end zone. New England won its fifth — and most improbable — Super Bowl win ever. Even Patriots’ owner Robert Kraft called this Super Bowl “unequivocally the sweetest,” partly because of the comeback and partly because of Brady’s comeback from the Deflategate suspension.
Brady was spectacular, winning his fourth Super Bowl MVP on a 43 of 62, 466-yard performance. Along with this, Brady surpassed Hall of Fame quarterbacks Joe Montana and Terry Bradshaw by capturing his fifth Lombardi Trophy. Previously unheralded, James White played phenomenally well and finished with 139 total yards and three touchdowns. Head Coach Bill Belichick, best known for his “Do your job” mantra, placed all the credit on his players: “They never gave up, they remained mentally tough throughout and played a full 60 minutes plus.” Somehow, some way, the Patriots orchestrated a miraculous 25 point comeback to vault Belichick further into football lore. He has now won more Super Bowls than any other coach.
“We made history,” Chris Long said. “We absolutely, positively made history.”
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