Patriots erase deficit, defeat Falcons in Super Bowl LI
The greatest quarterback of all time capped off the biggest comeback in Super Bowl history, leading an eight-play, 75-yard touchdown drive on the opening possession of the first Super Bowl overtime ever played. Here’s what we learned in Super Bowl LI:
1. After throwing a second-quarter pick-six to put his team in a seemingly insurmountable 21-0 hole, Tom Brady bounced back in the most dramatic fashion possible, earning Super Bowl MVP honors for an unprecedented fourth time. En route to a Super Bowl-record 466 passing yards, Brady erased a 25-point second-half deficit by orchestrating four touchdown drives and a field goal in New England’s final five series. Thumbing his nose at Father Time in the last game of his thirties, Brady completed 27 of 34 passes (79.4 percent) for 302 yards (8.9 YPA), two touchdowns and a 123.3 passer rating on those five legacy-cementing possessions from the middle of the third quarter through James White’s game-ending touchdown run.
“There were a lot of plays,” Brady told Terry Bradshaw during the presentation of the Lombardi Trophy. “Coach talks about how you never know which play it’s going to be in the Super Bowl. There were probably 30 of them tonight. Any one of those would have been different, the outcome would have been different.”
2. If the quarterback position wasn’t the most uniquely important in all of professional sports, White would have been the runaway choice as MVP. The shifty scatback authored the most brilliant performance of his career on the game’s brightest stage, hauling in a Super Bowl-record 14 receptions for 110 yards while adding three touchdowns and a clutch two-point conversion. From Kevin Faulk to Danny Woodhead to Shane Vereen and, now, to White, no quarterback utilizes pass-catching “satellite” backs to greater effect than Brady.
3. If the prolate spheroid had bounced differently in the second half, the Falcons could have turned Super Bowl LI into a lopsided laugher. Reminiscent of the Seahawks’ lopsided Super Bowl XLVIII victory, when Dan Quinn’s Seattle defense dominated Denver’s record-breaking offense, the Falcons simply outclassed the Patriots in terms of speed and athleticism for the first 40 minutes of Sunday’s ultimate affair. Atlanta jumped out to a forbidding 28-3 lead, with fleet-footed middle linebacker Deion Jones setting the tone as a true sideline-to-sideline force on defense and big-play tailback Devonta Freeman shredding New England’s defense on the other side of the ball.
Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff cut his teeth in the Patriots front office, learning how to construct a successful organization from team-building master Bill Belichick. When Dimitroff was afforded the chance to run his own operation in Atlanta, he parted ways with his mentor in one key area: Whereas Belichick emphasized size and power, Dimitroff coined the phrase “urgent athleticism” to describe his own draft philosophy. That difference played out in stark terms for one half at NRG Stadium Sunday evening. Despite the heartbreaking loss, the talented young roster compiled by Dimitroff, Quinn and Scott Pioli is poised to remain an NFC powerhouse for the next few years.