Ryan Vespi and Murphy Foss
On Sunday, Feb. 5, it looked as if the previously dominant New England Patriots were about to be embarrassed. After the Atlanta Falcons put up 28 points in the first three quarters of play and held the Patriots to only a field goal, almost everyone counted the Pats out. As Falcons fans began to celebrate, Patriots fans began to mourn the possibility of the end of a dynasty. In what has turned into a year full of last-minute comebacks, Tom Brady and Bill Belichick showed people yet again why you should never count them out.
As the game clock struck 6:12 in the second quarter, the Falcons took a 21-0 lead in a game that they had been dominating. Cornerback Robert Alford intercepted Brady’s pass intended for wide receiver Danny Amendola and returned the ball 82 yards into the endzone. “I thought the game was over after he returned that pick,” said freshman Josh Duby; “all momentum that the Patriots had was diminished.”
Falcons running back Devonta Freeman and tight end Austin Hooper had already each scored a touchdown after two impressive drives by Falcons quarterback and season MVP winner Matt Ryan. “I thought they were going to win after they went up by 21 so close to the half,” said sophomore Jakob Ellithorpe.
The next drive, Brady drove the Patriots down the field slowly and methodically, showing some sign of life by the offense, before Patriots kicker Stephen Gostkowski was forced to kick a 41-yard field goal going into the half, making the score 21-3. “I thought the Pats were done and it was over, so I actually stopped watching for a little after halftime,” said freshman Logan Wing.
The Falcons took the ball to start out the second half and struck quick, making the score 28-3 after running back Tevin Coleman beat out Patriots linebacker Rob Ninkovich to the pylon. “I started to get a little nervous there,” said sophomore Nick Brotzki; “no one’s ever come back from being down 25… especially in the third quarter.”
As the clock ticked down to it’s final minutes in the third quarter Brady steadily marched his team downfield and threw a touchdown pass to Amendola to make the score 28-9 after a missed extra point. When the Falcons got the ball back it looked like the game was all but over after Ryan’s deep pass to Devonta Freeman that moved them up to mid-field.
The next play Julio Jones had a spectacular toe-tap catch that put the Falcons at the Patriot’s 30-yard line, setting them up for an easy field goal attempt. “Julio is the best receiver in the league, no question,” said Ellithorpe. Had they gotten at least a field goal, the game would’ve been put out of reach. Patriots defensive end, Trey Flowers, got into the backfield and sacked Ryan for a loss of nearly 10 yards. The next play Falcons lineman Jake Matthews was called for a hold, resulting in a loss of another 10 yards, putting them out of field goal range on fourth down.
The Patriots got the ball back on a Falcons punt. Brady took over at the 25 yard line and yet again marched his team down the field leading to another field goal by Gostkowski. When the Falcons got the ball back, it appeared that they would need another touchdown to put the game out of Brady’s reach. As Ryan dropped back to pass, linebacker Donta Hightower ran right by his blocker and strip-sacked Ryan to give the Patriots the ball in Falcons territory, “The strip-sack was definitely the turning point of that game,” said sophomore Zach Goodson. Brady quickly took the Patriots in for a touchdown on a pass to Amendola. New England then was successful on the 2-point conversion, making the score 28-20.
The Patriots forced another punt on the next falcons drive. Brady drove the Patriots 75 yards, however they were almost stopped. Brady’s pass to Julian Edelman was deflected, Edelman dove back towards the ball and snagged it just as it bounced off of cornerback Robert Alford’s leg, just before it was about to hit the ground. “I thought he dropped it,” said freshman Riley LaTray, “When I saw the replay I was shocked, it was incredible.”
Brady handed the ball off to running back James White at the goal line for a touchdown. He then pulled off the impossible, throwing a pass to Amendola for a successful 2-point conversion to cap off a 25-point comeback, the largest comeback ever in Super Bowl history, sending the game to overtime. This would be the first overtime in Super Bowl history.
The Patriots won the coin toss in the sudden-death overtime. They received the ball off the kickoff, Brady quickly took them all the way down the field. The veteran quarterback turned right a tossed the ball White, who drove through three Falcons defenders and dove across the goal line. Patriots players stormed the field to congratulate White, who finished the game with 139 yards and 3 touchdowns, tying the record for Super Bowl touchdowns and receptions.
However the spotlight was still on Brady, who had just set a Super Bowl passing record with 466 yards, “It was one of the greatest performances in NFL history,” said sophomore Eric Benaroch, “He was already the greatest ever after Super Bowl XLIX, but now he’s seperated himself even more.”
After the win Brady has five Super Bowl rings, the most ever by a quarterback in NFL history. Belichick also has five now, the most ever by a coach. This win, the greatest comeback in Super Bowl history, makes Brady the greatest quarterback of all time and solidifies Belichick as the greatest coach ever. “They’re both the greatest ever, no question,” said freshman Kenny Hildreth.
Even the NFL commissioner called the game one of the greatest games in league history, because of this, the game really seemed to outshine the halftime show.. “The halftime show is supposed to be a time for people to relax and forget everything going on in the world,” said freshman Luke Hobika, “Lady Gaga brought up things like politics that just stressed people out.” Some fans think the NFL should just scrap the whole idea of the show, “They should just get rid of it all together,” said Goodson. “I’d much rather see analysis of the game and tendencies that each team had in the first half as well as stats,” said physical education teacher Jeff Ike. The commercials also seemed to be lacking in quality according to football fans who tuned in for the game, “They weren’t funny at all except for the one where Cam Newton went around decking little kids,” said sophomore Nolan Giblin, “Most of them were way too political.”
Even though people did not seem to enjoy the commercials or the halftime show, anyone who tuned into the game witnessed history. The largest comeback ever, by the greatest quarterback ever, with the help of the greatest coach ever. In what looked to be a franchise-tarnishing blowout at first, the Patriots somehow were able to make their legacy look a whole lot better after just 60 minutes. The possiblity of this matchup drew excitment throughout the postseason, and it certainly lived up to the hype.