As Roger Goodell presented Robert Kraft with the Lombardi Trophy amid a deafening cacophony of boos, the Patriots’ all-time accolades started sinking in: five championships for Tom Brady, the most of any QB ever; five for Bill Belichick, the most of any coach. (Does that make them the GOATs of their respective roles? That’s a more complicated question.) The Patriots’ dynasty rolls on as the most impressive in NFL history.
And, of course, they did it in the most improbable comeback in Super Bowl history, scoring four touchdowns and a field goal in their final five drives to erase a 25-point third-quarter deficit.
With all of that history on the mind, we’re going to wrap things up for now. Thanks for joining us for a Super Bowl that we — and everyone else — will be talking about for a long, long time. We’ll be back to unpack things tomorrow, but for now, good night!
On that game-winning drive — the 49th of his career, and 10th in the postseason — Tom Brady was 5-for-6 for 50 yards. Four different receivers caught passes — James White (twice), Chris Hogan, Danny Amendola and Julian Edelman. Not only that, but Martellus Bennett was targeted on the lone incompletion, and on an incomplete pass that was whistled for pass interference. And on the game-tying drive at the end of regulation, Brady also completed passes to five different receivers (Hogan, Mitchell, Edelman, Amendola and White). The Pats were unstoppable because of Tom Brady, who made damn certain they just had too much to stop.
As a Patriots fan, this may be the greatest Super Bowl ever and not just because Goodell has to swallow his bile and hand the Lombardi to Tom Brady.
I’m no fan of the NFL’s overtime format, but to those complaining that Atlanta’s No. 1-ranked offense never got the chance to answer the Patriots’ opening overtime drive: Yes, it did.
The Patriots finished the game with 31 unanswered points, 25 of them in regulation. The Falcons had four possessions after Tevin Coleman scored the Falcons’ last points with 23:36 left in the game. Had they gotten even a field goal out of any of those four drives, they’d be swimming in confetti right now.
The Falcons defense was visibly gassed with 10 minutes left to play; inflicting another whole quarter of football on these men wouldn’t be fair to anybody. NFL overtime exists for two reasons: to decide a winner as quickly as possible and to get the players off the field. It did its job, and the Patriots did theirs.
The Patriots are champs, after what was statistically the greatest comeback in Super Bowl history. With a second-half low win probability of 0.4 percent, no team has ever overcome a deeper deficit than Tom Brady and the Pats did tonight:
Like most stats guys, I’m not usually big on “clutch.” But I’ll be damned if Brady isn’t it.
The Patriots have won Super Bowl LI 34-28 after an incredible comeback. More to come!
A quick impression, without having looked at the coaches’ film, of what the Pats did on that regulation-ending drive and what they did here in overtime: They’re spreading the Falcons out, with a lot of combo routes and crossing routes. Brady making quicker decisions. Made it tougher for the Falcons to clog the middle and to force Brady to hold the ball.
Super Bowls with Tom Brady have a higher average on ESPN’s excitement index than the non-Brady Super Bowls. The excitement index measures the total movement of the win probability chart for the game. Exciting, close games or big comebacks have charts that fluctuate far more than typical games. Brady Super Bowls average 5.7, while non-Brady Super Bowls average only 3.5. And that doesn’t even count tonight.
A close reading of what may soon be known as the greatest catch in Super Bowl history: Falcons cornerback Robert Alford lines up over Edelman in the inside slot with about a 5-yard cushion. Edelman releases up the hash marks to Alford’s outside; Alford flips his hips to run with him. Edelman turns inside to catch the seam pass from Brady; Alford reads it and makes a great play to bat the pass up in the air.
From there, the slow-motion replay: Alford’s momentum carries him backwards, away from the falling ball, Edelman breaks on the tipped ball and dives for it. Two other Falcons converge on Edelman and Alford as the ball bounces off the flailing Alford’s right shin; Edelman’s hands cut through a tangle of six arms and two legs to close on the ball.
Heartbreakingly for Falcons fans, that was almost as close as Edelman got to securing the ball. When Alford’s leg hits the ground, it bounces back up and kicks the ball mostly out of Edelman’s hands; as the ball slips toward the turf, it’s kept alive by Falcons safety Ricardo Allen. There is an instant when all hangs in the balance: The ball is a few inches off the ground and a few inches away from Edelman’s nose. Edelman’s hands look a little over a foot apart, and they quickly clamp down on the ball an instant before gravity remembers to pull it back to Earth.
Of Brady’s fourth-quarter go-ahead or game-tying drives in a Super Bowl, that one to knot this game up at 28 was the longest, and probably the best:
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this post included an incorrect table. It originally did not include Super Bowl XXXVI.
Putting together a scoring drive in 50 seconds is asking a lot, even with a timeout in pocket, but the Falcons had reason to be hopeful there. Since Ryan came to the Falcons in 2008, Atlanta has scored eight field goals and four touchdowns on drives starting with 2 minutes or less left in the fourth quarter and the score ranging from the Falcons trailing by 3 to it being tied. That’s most in the league over that span.
This Pro-Football-Reference.com search — overtime Super Bowls — has always returned zero results. Barring something crazy, that won’t be true anymore after tonight.
50+ seconds is an eternity if all you need is a FG attempt, even without a timeout. The Falcons still have control.
Win or lose, the Pats play exciting Super Bowls. Even before this game, they had the second-highest average excitement index of any franchise that had played three or more Super Bowls:
Tonight’s game will add to that, without question.
To follow up on what Neil wrote earlier, Brady has a total of 44 fourth-quarter comebacks in his career, including regular season and postseason. Only Peyton Manning (47) has more. It looks like Brady is about to add to his total.
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this post incorrectly stated the number of fourth-quarter comebacks Tom Brady has in his career. Before Super Bowl LI, it was 44, not 43.
Everyone in the press box reacted to that pass assuming that it was about to be intercepted, until the Pats started rallying around. Completely absurd, obviously, but as soon as the replay came up, it was obvious this was an Antonio Freeman catch.
Wow. That cleat catch > the helmet catch.
We’re holding our breath to see how this drive turns out as much as you are. This whole live-sports-anything-can-happen thing is a real drag on rigorous statistical analysis.
When the Pats lose Super Bowls, it usually comes on ridiculous catches. Was Julio Jones’s grab there this year’s version?
The Patriots just pinned Atlanta deep on that kickoff (though the Falcons, as I write, escaped easily). With kicks now coming out to the 25 this season, the kickers with the best average kickoff results (including Gostkowski) are now doing better than if they got a touchback every time:
We don’t have the exact number for this game, but the lowest average win probability for an eventual Super Bowl winner was 38 percent, for Baltimore against Dallas in Super Bowl V. If the Patriots complete their comeback tonight, I have a feeling that mark will be shattered:
(That win probability was before Freeman’s long catch and run.)