By Noah Dale
At the end of the first half, it seemed like a foregone conclusion that the Atlanta Falcons, up 21-3, would win their first ever Super Bowl championship. When they added another score early in the third quarter, it only added to New England fans’ disgust at their team. Even the announcers Joe Buck and Troy Aikman were heard saying, “this is not the Patriots team we’re used to seeing.” Then something happened. Unbelievably and in spectacular fashion, the Patriots won their NFL record fifth Super Bowl championship.
The game started out as a true defensive struggle. The Falcons, who were playing in only their second Super Bowl in franchise history, won the toss and elected to defer to the second half, giving New England the ball first. They did nothing with their opportunity, going three and out.
The Falcons did not do much better on their first series. Recently named NFL MVP, Matt Ryan was sacked early by defensive end Trey Flowers, ending a drive that had started with a 37 yard run by Pro Bowler Devonta Freeman.
Sacks became the name of the game early and often. On the next possession, Brady was sacked first by backup defensive end Courtney Upshaw, and then by defensive tackle Grady Jarrett, the latter of whom would end the game tying the Super Bowl record with three sacks.
The first quarter ended scoreless. It wasn’t until early in the second quarter that the Falcons got an opportunity. It came when linebacker Deion Jones forced a fumble of Patriots running back LeGarrette Blount and it was recovered by Atlanta cornerback Robert Alford. This turnover led to a short touchdown run by Freeman.
The Falcons would score twice more before Lady Gaga took the stage for the Pepsi Super Bowl Halftime Show. These touchdowns would come by way of a 19 yard pass from Ryan to rookie tight end Austin Hooper, and an 82 yard interception return by Alford. Patriots kicker Stephen Gostkowski would add a 41 yard field goal in that time as well.
The Falcons scored again early in the third, with Ryan connecting on a short pass to running back Tevin Coleman. That would be the last time they found the end zone however.
The Patriots proceeded to go on a scoring streak, putting up 31 unanswered points. Tom Brady cemented himself as one of the greatest of all-time, setting a Super Bowl record by passing for 466 yards, and tossing touchdowns to running back James White, who would also score twice on runs including the game winner in overtime, and to wide receiver Danny Amendola.
Brady won the Super Bowl MVP award, just edging out White, who also set a Super Bowl record by recording 14 receptions for 110 yards.
In the first Super Bowl ever to go into overtime, the New England Patriots won their fifth title, giving Brady his fifth ring. This ties him with Hall of Fame defensive end Charles Haley for most Super Bowl wins, although Haley’s wins were split between time with the Dallas Cowboys and San Francisco 49ers.
As Patriots owner Robert Kraft definitively said while hoisting the Lombardi Trophy proudly over his head, this win was “unequivocally the sweetest.”