Analysis: Super Bowl 51 ends in a thriller
In one of the greatest Super Bowls of all time, the New England Patriots defeated the Atlanta Falcons 34-28 for the team’s fifth Super Bowl.
The game was expected to be a high scoring one as the Falcons and the Patriots ranked 1st and 3rd in scoring offense during the regular season. Despite that, the first quarter was uneventful as neither teams could get it going and ended 0-0.
After forcing a Legarrette Blount fumble to begin the second quarter, the Falcons scored a touchdown on back-to-back drives to take a 14-0 lead. Right after, Tom Brady threw an interception that was returned for a touchdown to give the Falcons a 21 point lead. After a Stephen Gostkowski field goal to end the half, the Falcons took a commanding lead into halftime.
Atlanta scored an early 3rd quarter touchdown going up 28-3, the game looked to be over and the Falcons were on their way to winning their first Super Bowl. The largest Super Bowl comeback of all time was 10 points and the Patriots were now down by 25. The Patriots narrowed the game to 28-12 with 9:44 left but still had a mountain to climb as they would have to score two touchdowns and convert on two two-point conversions while stopping Atlanta from scoring any more.
The most important play in the game happened three plays later when Patriots linebacker Dont’a Hightower forced a Matt Ryan fumble which gave the Patriots the ball at the Atlanta 25 yard line. Five plays and a successful two-point conversion later and the score was 28-20 and the Patriots were within one score.
With six minutes left the Falcons received the ball with another opportunity to put the game away. This looked to be the case when wide receiver Julio Jones made an incredible catch along the sideline to get to the New England 22 yard line and well within field goal range. But after calling two passing plays which resulted in a sack and a holding penalty, the Falcons were forced to punt and gave the Patriots a last chance to tie the game. And that’s exactly what they did.
The Patriots drove 91 yards in 10 plays which was highlighted by an insane and lucky catch to put them into Atlanta’s territory and capped off by a James White touchdown run and a successful two-point conversion which tied the game and sent it into overtime, the first in all of the 51 Super Bowls.
Everything came down to this, a period of sudden death to decide who would be the Super Bowl champion. The all-important coin flip to start overtime was won by the Patriots. Score a touchdown and the game is over—a field goal or a failure to score at all and the Falcons would get an opportunity to respond. But they didn’t get that opportunity. Tom Brady led the Patriots 75 yards, which was finished off by a James White touchdown, his third of the game, to make them Super Bowl LI champions.
It was a game that did a lot more than an ordinary Super Bowl. It consisted of the greatest comeback in NFL history, it saw the most passing yards in a single Super Bowl broken by Tom Brady with 466 yards and cemented him as one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time. The win put him into a category of players to ever win five Super Bowls that only has two players, him and Charles Haley who played with the San Francisco 49ers and the Dallas Cowboys from 1986-1999. It also put him into a league of his own as he is now the only player to ever win four Super Bowl MVPs.
But possibly more important than all of that, it ended “deflategate” as a whole. Brady, who was suspended by the NFL for four games at the start of the season as a result of him supposedly knowing about balls being somewhat deflated in a playoff game two seasons ago, proved everyone that called him a cheater wrong by winning in a way nobody had ever before.