HOUSTON - The New England Patriots capped an historic comeback with a touchdown on the opening drive of overtime, defeating the Atlanta Falcons 34-28 in Super Bowl LI. Before this year, no team had come back from a deficit of more than 10 points to win a Super Bowl.
The Patriots scored 31 straight points to close the game, behind quarterback Tom Brady's 43 for 62 passing performance, good for 466 yards and two touchdowns. After the game, Brady said "We all brought each other back. We never felt out of it. It was a tough battle. They have a great team. I give them a lot of credit. We just made a few more plays than them."
Brady was named Super Bowl MVP for the fourth time in his career. Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan, who was named MVP of the regular season, said of the loss, "That's a tough loss, obviously very disappointing, very close to getting done what we wanted to get done."
The winning score came when the Patriots took the overtime kickoff, and marched 75 yards on 8 plays. The drive was capped by a 2 yard touchdown run from James White.
The game went into overtime after the Patriots scored three times in the 4th quarter, coming all the way back from a 28-3 deficit. The tying touchdown came on a 1 yard run by White, and was followed by a two point conversion pass to Danny Amendola.
It was second consecutive touchdown drive that ended with a two point conversion. The Patriots got within a touchdown on a 6-yard pass to Amendola. New England had a short field thanks to a sack of Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan, who fumbled. It was the first Falcons turnover in the postseason. The Amendola touchdown was followed by a two point conversion run on a direct snap to White.
The Patriots' huge comeback came after the Falcons pulled ahead 28-3 midway through the 3rd quarter.
Atlanta built that margin on their second possession of the second half, thanks to a 6 yard Matt Ryan to Tevin Coleman touchdown pass. That capped an 85 yard drive that took eight plays.
The Patriots rally began when they responded to the Falcons score with a long, time-consuming scoring drive of their own. That drive featured a 4th down conversion and strong running from LeGarrette Blount. James White scored on a 5 yard pass from Tom Brady. But New England kicker Stephen Gostkowski missed the PAT, bouncing it off the right upright, leaving Atlanta ahead by 19 points at 28-9.
New England tried an onside kick following the score, but the Falcons recovered. The New England defense held, and Brady led a long drive deep into Falcons territory. But two sacks by Grady Jarrett forced New England to kick a 33 yard field goal, leaving them down 16 points with less than 10 minutes to play. But the Falcons couldn't make that margin hold up.
Jarrett tied a Super Bowl record with three sacks on the night.
The Patriots' second half heroics came after the Falcons took a 21-3 lead into halftime, thanks to some big plays. Despite the halftime lead, the Falcons had fewer total yards in the first half, and the Patriots held almost a 2 to 1 edge in time of possession. Ot appeared that may have helped New England wear down the Falcons defense in the second half.
The key statistic from the first half was turnovers. The Patriots lost the ball twice, with the Falcons converting each turnover into a touchdown. Atlanta did not turn the ball over in the first half.
Both teams' powerful offenses were held in check early. Neither team scored in the first quarter, after the Falcons and Patriots both punted on each of their first two possessions.
Devonta Freeman opened the scoring with a 5 yard touchdown run to put the Falcons ahead early in the 2nd quarter.
Their next drive ended with a 19 yard scoring pass to tight end Austin Hooper. The Patriots then went on a long drive, but Tom Brady threw an interception that Robert Alford returned 82 yards for another Falcons touchdown. The Patriots got on the board with :02 remaining in the first half, thanks to a 41 yard field goal.
The Falcons' first score was set up after they forced and recovered a New England fumble. The Falcons scored quickly following two long pass completions to Julio Jones, then pounded the ball on the ground.
Brady's interception was the second Patriots turnover of the first half, and gave the Falcons a three touchdown lead.
The roof of NRG Stadium was closed for the first half of the Super Bowl because of weather concerns. The NFL had hoped to play with the roof open. The roof was opened for the halftime performance by Lady Gaga.