The New England Patriots overturned a record 25-point deficit against the Atlanta Falcons to win a thrilling Super Bowl LI in the showpiece’s first ever overtime as Tom Brady and Bill Belichick won their fifth rings with the franchise.
No quarterback or head coach had previously won more than four in those posts, and signal caller Brady, who threw 466 yards, and his boss Belichick elevated themselves above the pantheon of other NFL greats, though they had to do it the hard way despite being tipped to win by eight points by American President Donald Trump.
Atlanta were cruising at various points, having led 21-0 and 28-3, yet an incredible Julian Edelman catch and 19 fourth-quarter points took the contest to overtime where New England won the toss and James White’s rushing touchdown completed a quite astonishing comeback in a 34-28 victory.
No other team had ever come from more than 10 points down before in a Super Bowl, yet the Pats defied the odds before winning the all-important coin toss ahead of overtime and scoring a touchdown to ensure Atlanta would not receive possession again.
The Patriots therefore received the Lombardi Trophy again, on a podium also occupied by commissioner Roger Goodell, the man who upheld a four-game suspension against Brady for ‘deflategate’ at the season’s start and was roundly booed on stage.
A New England victory had been predicted before the game by President Trump, who said in his pre-game Fox interview “you have to stick up for your friends, right” in reference to Brady, Belichick and Pats owner Robert Kraft.
The game’s first coin toss, conducted by 92-year-old former President George Bush Senior, was won by Atlanta and they deferred, allowing Brady and New England’s offence the chance to put the first points on the board.
However, neither they or the Falcons were able to make an early statement as a forgettable first quarter ended without score.
Atlanta’s offence soon found their stride and after Devonta Freeman ran in the opening touchdown, Matt Ryan’s glorious throw dropped into rookie tight end Austin Hooper’s path for another score before Brady tossed his first pick-six in the play-offs as Robert Alford’s 82-yard touchdown put Atlanta 21-0 up.
With only a Stephen Gostkowski field goal at the break, New England trailed 21-3 as Lady Gaga took to the field for her half-time show.
The Falcons’ advantage only increased after the interval as Ryan, who posted a perfect passer rating during the first half, connected with Freeman’s running back colleague Tevin Coleman on a check down to make it 28-3.
New England were getting desperate - wide receiver Edelman attempted a pass on third down, and they went for it on fourth down in a series where White was able to score his team’s first touchdown late in the third quarter.
However, Gostkowski’s missed extra point summed up their struggling night at that point, and when his subsequent onside kick was recovered by Atlanta, the result looked all-but-certain before the fourth quarter had even started.
But a 25-point advantage was trimmed to only eight with just under six minutes remaining as another Gostkowski field goal was added to by Brady’s first touchdown pass to Danny Amendola, with the successful two-point conversion from a White rush bringing New England back within one score.
Brady then had 91 yards to make with three minutes, 30 seconds remaining on the clock and 23 of those came on a jaw-dropping play by Edelman, who someone managed to complete a pass that was tipped by Alford, despite the fact the Pats’ receivers hands were balancing on Ricardo Allen’s left arm and Alford’s foot, and he bobbled the ball before claiming it again.
Having been on the wrong end of circus catches in previous Super Bowls, notably David Tyree’s helmet catch and Jermaine Kearse’s multi-juggled attempt, it seemed fortune was for once favouring New England.
And White plunged home from one yard out before Amendola caught a two-point conversion from Brady to level things up at 28-28.
The all-important coin toss was won by New England and against a stunned Falcons team bereft of confidence and energy, with White’s two-yard touchdown capping the greatest comeback in Super Bowl history, in perhaps the best ever of the 51 NFL finales.