Super Bowl LI: The Greatest Game Ever Played

by Thomas Russo and Jason Li

At 9:00 PM Eastern, the globe was in a state of shock.  The supposedly favored New England Patriots, the team that seemed to be virtually unstoppable over the last decade and a half, were down.  And down big.  With 8:31 to play in the Third Quarter of Super Bowl LI, Tevin Coleman had just taken a 6 yard pass from Matt Ryan to the end zone for the fourth Falcons touchdown, putting Atlanta up 28-3.  After a first half that was absolute domination by the Falcons, to the point they had taken a Tom Brady interception 82 yards for a touchdown.  You can count the number of times Tom Brady has been intercepted in the playoffs on one hand, and they got a pick-six.  It seemed a forgone conclusion that the Falcons would win their first Super Bowl in franchise history.  

Or at least that was the conclusion of everyone who was not familiar with the work of Tom Brady.  Even knowing no team had come back from more than 10 points in Super Bowl history, I was sitting on my coach saying, this game’s not over.

Sure enough, it wasn’t.  On the next drive, Brady picked himself off the mat and led a six minute drive to the Pats first touchdown.  But then, a missed extra-point seemed to deflate any momentum the Patriots had.  But of course, on a later Falcons drive an untimely Matt Ryan fumble set Brady up with a short field, and he cashed in, finding Danny Amendola for a TD.  Then, James White ran like a man possessed for a two point conversion to make it a one score game with just under 6 minutes to play.  

But it was still Atlanta’s game to lose.  The Falcons started working their way downfield, and a spectacular catch by Julio Jones had them just outside the New England 20 yard line.  And then they blew it.  Matt Ryan held the ball too long, doing the one thing he couldn’t, take a sack.  However, the Falcons were still in field goal range.  Until an untimely hold yanked the Falcons right out of field goal range, forcing them to punt it back to Brady with over 2 minutes to play.  By then, everyone knew what was coming.

Brady took the ball, and started moving, but suddenly there was a snag.  An errant pass over the middle was tipped up into the air, and it seemed the drive would stall, but Martellus Bennett appeared out of nowhere to snatch the ball and take it for a first down.  But that wasn’t the real magic.  That came a few plays later, when a Brady pass looked to be headed the other way when Falcons corner Robert Alford, the man who had the Pick Six earlier watched the ball bounce off his hands.  A diving Julian Edelman reached out, juggled it, bounced it off a Falcon defender’s leg, and somehow prevented it from hitting the ground.  

The miracle catch survived a Dan Quinn challenge, and James White would punch in the ball from a yard out.  Then, Brady found Danny Amendola in the back of the end zone for the game tying two point conversion with less than a minute to play.  Then, Atlanta failed to get the ball moving on their final drive, and we got out first Overtime game in Super Bowl history.

By now, everyone knew the winner of the coin toss would win the game.  Sure enough, the Patriots won the coin toss, and, with the help of multiple, 3 to be exact, Defensive holdings on 3RD DOWN, the Pats found the self on the Atlanta 2 yard line.  The ball was snapped, Brady dropped back, and threw up a fade for Martellus Bennett.  But it never got there.  Vic Beasley got one hand on it, tipped it up, and there was a collective gasp around the world.  A repeat of Super Bowl XLIX?  An interception on the one yard line?  No.  Beasley failed to corral it, and the ball fell incomplete.  On the next play, James White ran right, and with three Falcons riding on his back, he broke the plane.  The 25 point comeback was complete.  The Patriots won Super Bowl LI, and Tom Brady cemented his legacy as the Greatest Quarterback of All Time.


Jason’s Footnote


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