After a long and grueling 26 weeks of the pre-season, the regular season, and of course the post season there was one final game left to be played. Super Bowl 51, taking place at NRG Stadium in Houston, Texas brought together two teams, the Atlanta Falcons, and New England Patriots who both clawed their way to the top for the chance to play in the Super Bowl and ultimately take home the Lombardi Trophy. The Atlanta Falcons came into the matchup with a record of (11-5) and owner of the NFL’s best offense throughout the season. The Patriots come storming in with a record of (14-2) thanks in large part to the lowest scoring defense in the NFL this past season. Coming in the attention was in large part on Tom Brady going for Super Bowl victory number five while newly crowned MVP Matt Ryan is looking to deliver Atlanta its first title.
Prior to kick off the NFL delivered a moving pre-game presentation. The singing of the national anthem by well-known country singer Luke Bryan that brought the crowd to its feet was all that was needed to pump even more enthusiasm into an already electric atmosphere. An amazing performance only to be followed by the pre-game coin toss brought out by former President George H.W. Bush and First lady Barbra Bush, bringing the Houston crowd to their feet. Winning the coin toss, Atlanta elected to defer the ball to begin the game.
With the opening kickoff booted into the Patriots, end zone Super Bowl LI was officially underway. In search of his fifth ring, Brady and the rest of the Patriots offense took the field for their first offensive possession of the game. Brady completed his second attempt and the first completion of the Super Bowl on a completion to Julian Edelman for 9-yards. The Falcons defense would “rise up” to the challenge making the stop on third and one forcing a Patriots punt. The 2016 NFL MVP Matt Ryan and the NFL leading offense in the Falcons took over inside their twenty-yard line. The first play for the Falcons was a 37-yard run by running back Devonta Freeman, as he would run through the heart of the Patriots defense. Freeman would finish the first quarter with 42-yards rushing. The Falcons would, however, follow the Patriots lead and stall out after a sack of Ryan by Trey Flowers.
The First quarter was a defensive battle for both sides as either offense could find sustained success. The Patriots and Falcons each picked up two sacks apiece in the first quarter. Tom Brady would go into the second having been 7 of 9 for 95-yards. Notably, Brady had connected with favorite target Julian Edelman 3 times for 49-yards.
Changing of the tides would quickly occur in the second as a Patriots mistake was quickly turned into Falcons points. A LeGarrette Blount fumble, for the first turnover of the game gave the Falcons the ball at the Atlanta 29-yard line. The Falcons would go 71-yards in 5 plays and take advantage of the Blount miscue. Two key back to back throws from Matt Ryan to Julio Jones for a combined 42-yards would ultimately set up a Freeman touchdown run of 5-yards for the Falcons lead and the first score of the Super Bowl.
Following the Falcons score, the Patriots offense continued to remain stagnant as the Falcons defense was able to make another key stop. Getting the ball back in good field position following a knuckleball of a kick from Patriots punter Ryan Allan, Matt Ryan, and the offense continued to thrive. Connecting with speedster receiver Taylor Gabriel for 24-yards the Falcons offense continued to be able to do whatever they wanted with the league-leading defense. Escaping the pass rush Ryan showed off why he was chosen as MVP hitting Julio Jones once again for 18-yards on the sideline, This would set up what would be a perfect throw from Ryan to Austin Hooper for the 19-yard touchdown. The Falcons would push their lead to double digits with a 14-0 lead early in the second quarter.
Early signs of life from the Patriots offense were quickly erased due to another costly mistake. The Patriots took advantage of the Falcons defense, which was flagged for holding penalties on 3 straight third downs. As quickly as the Falcons defense gave it took away. In very un-Tom Brady-like fashion, the future hall of fame quarterback playing in his 7th Super Bowl threw a pick six to Falcons cornerback Robert Alford for 82-yards. The defensive touchdown would extend the Patriots deficit to 21-0.
The Patriots would one have more opportunity before the half to get on the board and claw their way back into this one. The Patriots were able to put 3 points up on the board on a 41-yard Stephen Gostkowski field goal in the closing seconds of the first half. In the first half although being down on the scoreboard the Patriots outgained the Falcons in total yards 210 to 189. Brady picked up 184-yards passing in the first half while spreading the ball around with receptions to 6 different receivers. The first half turnovers coming in the form of a Blount fumble and a Brady pick-six counted for 14 points in favor of the Falcons and put the Patriots in a whole early.
Following the Pepsi Halftime Show with a performance by Lady Gaga, the Patriots came out of the tunnel exhibiting much of the same play that derailed them in the first. The Falcons offense appeared simply too fast for the Patriots defense. Taylor Gabriel was able to torch the Patriots defense for two receptions for a combined 67-yards. The drive was capped off by a 6-yard touchdown reception from Matt Ryan to Tevin Coleman. The Falcons extended their lead to 28-3.
The Patriots were able to grab their first touchdown of the night midway through the third quarter. Putting together a lengthy six minute and twenty-five-second drive going 75-yards over 13-plays Brady was able to connect with running back James White for the 5-yard score. The missed extra point made the score 28-9. On the ensuing kickoff the Patriots attempted an onside kick, the Falcons recovered the ball on the attempt.
Inching their way back in the game however, Brady led another strong drive down into Falcons territory, the play of the Falcons defense and in particular Grady Jarret would cause problems. Jarret would pick up his third sack of the day on third down causing the Patriots to settle for another field goal, this time from 33-yards out. The Gostkowski kick would bring the Patriots closer with the score 28-12. The Patriots grit would not run out as they would come roaring back, a game that at one point looked over had a new begining. Receiving a Matt Ryan fumble from a Dont’a Hightower sack set the Patriots up in scoring position. Brady would connect with Amendola on a 6-yard score and a two point conversion to make it a 28-20 game.
The Patriots defense looking like a defense that was top in the league all season came to life late in the fourth quarter making defensive stop after stop as Trey Flowers picked up his second sack of the game in the process. The Patriots offense under Brady who has been in this situation numerous times had the offense rolling. A game saving reception by Julian Edelman in triple coverage only helping the Patriots cause with a little over two minutes left. A touchdown with 57 seconds left in the game by James White followed by a two point conversion to Danny Amendola tied the game up 28-28. The Patriots were able to come back from 25 points down and gained all the momentum back.
The Patriots miraculously forced overtime as Tom Brady and James White forced overtime against the Falcons as the clock ran out in the fourth with the score tied 28-28. At one point it was reported the Falcons had a 98% chance of coming out on top. Winning the coin toss going into overtime the Patriots elected to receive the ball first.
Tom Brady was simply playing like a future hall of famer in overtime completing pass after pass en route for a Patriots victory. A James White rush from 2-yard out would be the game winner. James White would finish with over 100-yards receiving and one of the key players in the win. The Patriots would go on to win by a score of 34-28.
The owner of the Patriots Robert Kraft stated,“Two years ago we won our fourth Super Bowl down in Arizona and I told our fans that was the sweetest one of all,” Kraft said. “But a lot has transpired over the last two years and I don’t think that needs any explanation. I want to say to our fans, brilliant coaching staff and players who are so spectacular, this is unequivocally the sweetest. I’m proud to say for the fifth time, we are all Patriots.”
MVP: Tom Brady 466 yards passing and 2 touchdowns.
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