For the second in three years, the New England Patriots are Super Bowl Champions. That may come as a shock to anyone who may have tuned out early Sunday night. The Atlanta Falcons blew a 25-point lead, which will be remembered as one of the worst collapses in sports history. The Patriots capitalized on every opportunity, never giving up despite trailing for almost the entire game.
“We brought each other back,” said New England quarterback Tom Brady who finished with a record 466 yards. “We never felt out of it.”
After a scoreless first quarter in which Atlanta’s defense sacked Brady twice, the Falcons scored two quick touchdowns to jump ahead 14-0. The Pats then charged down the field and were deep in Atlanta territory when Brady’s pass intended for frequent target Danny Amendola was intercepted. Cornerback Robert Alford ran the pick back for a touchdown, extending Atlanta’s lead to 21.
New England was able to score a field goal before the half, avoiding a complete shutout.
After the break, which included a high-energy performance by Lady Gaga, Atlanta still controlled the game. Falcons QB Matt Ryan threw his second touchdown to extend their lead to 25. When the Pats finally scored their first touchdown on the next possession, the extra point was no good, seemingly cementing the fact that it was not their night.
But while the first three quarters were commanded by the Falcons, the fourth belonged to the Patriots.
They scored a field goal, and then strip sacked Ryan on Atlanta’s next possession to get the ball back. They converted the take away into a touchdown, followed by a successful two-point conversion. Suddenly, the team that had been struggling all night was running on all cylinders.
With just under six minutes left, the Falcons got the ball back. All newly crowned MVP Ryan had to do was get his team within field goal range. A score would have extended their lead to 11, making it a two-possession lead with just a few minutes left. They could have ran down the clock and made it very hard for the Patriots to come back.
Before it all fell apart, they had a shot. With 4:47 remaining Julio Jones made an unbelievable 27-yard sideline catch to put his team within field goal range. Instead, Falcons lost yardage run play, followed by a sack to put them out of field goal range.
The missed opportunity to put the game away gave New England momentum. Brady, who was named Super Bowl M.V.P for a record fourth time, led his team 91 yards for a 1-yard pass to James White to cut the deficit to two. A missed two point conversion could’ve been the end for New England but they made it–tying the game and forcing the first ever Super Bowl overtime.
The Patriots won the coin toss, earning first possession in OT. It was all they needed. They marched 75 yards down the field to score a touchdown in less than four minutes. Atlanta never got the ball back. But perhaps their chances at victory faded when they allowed the Patriots to tie the game.
There’s nothing you can really say,” said Ryan, who finished with 284 yards and two touchdowns. “That’s a tough loss. Obviously, very disappointed. The Falcons were very close to getting done what we wanted to get done, but it’s hard to find the words.”
With the victory, the Patriots won their fifth franchise championship. All of New England’s titles have come under Brady, who collected his record fifth ring.
“He was the same as he always is: cool, calm and collected,” Amendola said. “He’s the leader, the general, the best ever and that is the end of the story.”
It’s possible the Falcons, a young, exciting team with the league’s most explosive offense this season, may get back to the big game in the future. But for now, they will have to wait to capture their first franchise title. And the first step will be overcoming the devastating loss, which puts them in the record books for all the wrong reasons.
“There’s never going to be a way to get over the loss,” coach Dan Quinn said, “but what it does have is, some of that toughness that you have to go through, it does make you stronger.”