Coming into Super Bowl LI Tom Brady had already cemented his place as the greatest quarterback in the history of the league.
On Sunday night, he essentially became immortal.
The best part about Sunday night’s game is that the world got to see one of the best performances of all time, as it was Brady’s incredible grit and determination that played a big role as the Patriots fought their way back from 25-points down to a historic 34-28 come-from-behind victory for the ages to win their fifth Super Bowl Championship.
Brady finished the game 43-of-62 for 466 yards and two touchdowns, one of which came with 8:24 left in the game to pull them to within eight points at 28-20 and gave them the confidence to pull off the win.
It certainly wasn’t easy and this one definitely could have gone the other way. After all, the Patriots found themselves trailing 28-3 after a first half where so much had gone wrong and things obviously looked pretty bleak. The worst moment was Brady’s interception with just over two minutes to go in the half, which came after he had fought to get his team down to the Atlanta 23-yard line. On the play he made a bad read while trying to force the ball to Danny Amendola, but it was picked off and run back 82-yards for a Falcons touchdown.
At that point, Atlanta seemed poised to run away with the game up 21-0, especially since the Patriots didn’t seem to have any answer for what the Falcons’ defense had been throwing at them. It’s a play that could have sealed the game for a lesser team or quarterback, and it’s one that might have also ignited the whispers about his future during the offseason if the Patriots had given up and crumbled at that point.
But that didn’t happen, and Brady went right back to work and lead them all the way back to Atlanta’s 23-yard line to help set up a 41-yard field goal by Stephen Gostkowski to close out the half. While Brady and his team headed to the locker room trailing by 18 at 21-3 coming into the second half, the game didn’t seem lost quite yet.
When they hit the field in the second half, the Patriots seemed like they finally had some confidence after their defense forced a 3-and-out to begin the 3rd quarter. While the Falcons did score a touchdown on their next possession, New England began to grab some momentum after reaching the end zone for the first time on a 5-yard pass from Brady to James White, cutting the lead to 19 at 28-9 after Gostkowski missed the extra point.
Credit the Patriots defense, who forced a three-and-out by the Falcons on their ensuing drive, and Brady marched them 72 yards on 12 plays as Gostkowski hit yet another field goal, pulling New England to within two touchdowns of getting back into the game at 28-12 with just under 10-minutes to go in the contest.
The defense came through yet again, with Dont’a Hightower coming free on a 3rd-and-1 for a sack of Matt Ryan where the veteran linebacker stripped the ball out and New England recovered at the Atlanta 25-yard line.
Five plays later, Brady hit Amendola for the touchdown and followed it up with a two-point conversion by James White. Suddenly, the deficit was just eight points at 28-20, and you could tell that the tide was beginning to turn with just under six minutes to go in the game.
But on the next drive, it seemed like the Patriots luck was running out after the Falcons marched from their own 10 down into New England territory after hitting on plays of 39 and 27 yards, which had them back in field goal range sitting at the Patriots’ 22 yard line. But a sack by Trey Flowers backed them up 12 yards and a holding penalty moved them back 10 more, forcing Atlanta to eventually have to punt the football.
That was all Brady needed. He went to work, marching New England from their own 9-yard line down to the Atlanta 1-yard line. White punched it in and Brady hit Amendola on the two-point attempt, and NRG Stadium exploded as all of the Patriots fans on hand erupted after witnessing their team battle back to overcome a 25-point deficit to knot the score at 28-28, erasing the Falcons’ lead for the biggest comeback ever in Super Bowl history.
New England’s defense held to close out regulation and thanks to Brady, the next time they hit the field was to celebrate. The Patriots won the toss and elected to receive and the veteran quarterback marched them methodically down the field from their own 25-yard line down to the Falcons’ 15-yard line as he hit on 5-of-6 passes. But the biggest play of the drive came after Martellus Bennett was interfered with, which put the ball at the Falcons 2-yard line.
Two plays later, James White battled his way into the end zone and just like that, the confetti fell from the rafters and history was made.
The win will go down as the greatest come back in Super Bowl history in the lone overtime ever played on the world’s biggest stage. But the best part is it was won by a quarterback who further cemented his legacy as the best ever, while doing it as a player in a league that spent the last two years doing him wrong.
Thankfully for Brady, he left no doubt Sunday night. It will go down as a performance for the ages, and anyone who still might have questions hopefully got all the answers they needed following this historic victory.
He’s the best ever. And for the fifth time, he’s now a Super Bowl Champion.