By Deborah Haartz, Staff Writer
Until the second half of the fourth quarter, Super Bowl 51 wasn’t much of a nail-biter.
After a 0-0 first quarter, the Atlanta Falcons established a lead over the New England Patriots with a 7-yard touchdown by running back Devonta Freeman. Building momentum, they followed with another touchdown by tight end Austin Hooper.
The Patriots were choking. Right when it seemed like they might score, Atlanta cornerback Robert Alford intercepted the ball from Tom Brady and ran it back 82 yards for yet another touchdown, giving the Falcons a 21-0 lead.
By half-time, New England had only managed to score a 3-point field goal. Their chances were looking dismal; no team in Super Bowl history had ever managed to make up even a two-touchdown deficit.
The Falcons kept their lead going in the second half, scoring another touchdown just five minutes into the third quarter. They seemed unstoppable.
Finally, New England clocked their first touchdown with a 5-yard catch from running back James White, but placekicker Stephen Gotskowski failed to kick the extra point. By the end of the third quarter, the Patriots were trailing 9-28, and it seemed that all hope for a New England victory was lost.
Enter the greatest comeback in Super Bowl history.
The Patriots began the fourth quarter with another 3-point field goal. In order to tie the game, they would need to score two touchdowns and two two-point conversions—a tall order for under fifteen minutes of game time.
It started with Patriots linebacker Dont’a Hightower sacking quarterback Matt Ryan. Only a few plays later, Brady passed the ball to wide receiver Danny Amendola for a touchdown. White successfully completed the two-point conversion to make the score 28-20.
Atlanta made another impressive drive and entered field goal range. It seemed like The Falcons had a chance to crush the Patriots’ comeback attempt. Ryan, however, was sacked by Patriots defensive end Trey Flowers, and a holding call against Atlanta put New England in position to score another touchdown.
The ensuing 91-yard drive featured a stunning and seemingly impossible catch by Patriots wide receiver Julian Edelman. It was perhaps the most unbelievable play of an exceptional game.
White completed a 1-yard run for a touchdown, and Amendola caught a pass from Brady to score the second two-point conversion.
The game was tied, activating the first overtime game in Super Bowl history. In NFL overtime, the first team to score a touchdown wins. After successfully calling the coin toss, the Patriots chose to take the ball. They won with a 75-yard drive and two-yard run by White.
It was a mind-blowing and record-breaking game. Tom Brady became the first quarterback ever to win five Super Bowls, as well as the first to win four Super Bowl MVP awards. New England also set the record for the greatest deficit overcome by the winning team—25 points.
As a Patriots fan, I have to add that it also earned the record for most stressful game I’ve ever watched.