By Kiley O’Donnell
Sports Assignment Editor
The New England Patriots defeated the Atlanta Falcons in overtime 34-28 after being down 25 points midway through the third quarter. Personally, it was the most exciting game I’ve ever watched. And yes, I’m a Pats fan, but we won’t get into that.
For most people, the first half of this game came as a shock. No one expected the Falcons to come out and absolutely tear apart the Patriots defense, unless you’re a diehard Atlanta fan and “think the Patriots are overrated.” At halftime, it was the first time I had ever felt depressed as a Patriots fan. That changed quickly.
Matt Ryan was consistent in the first half, taking arguably the best offense in the NFL down the field to create an 18-point advantage going into the break. He went 7 for 8 with 115 passing yards and a touchdown. Ryan would finish the night going 17 for 23, passing for 284 yards and two touchdowns. Julio Jones, one of the best wide receivers in the NFL and one of Ryan’s top targets, only had the opportunity to catch four passes for 87 yards.
While Tom Brady threw for 179 yards and completed 15 of his 25 passes in the first half, he never was able to break through the Falcons defense when it truly mattered. He looked shaky, nervous, and was missing some of his receivers, who were wide open down the field. From a fumble by LeGarrette Blount that led Ryan down the field to connect with Austin Hooper in the end zone, to Brady throwing a pick-six straight into the hands of Falcons’ cornerback Robert Alford, the Patriots never had the momentum on their side, even though there were many opportunities to seize it.
Coming back after halftime, nothing seemed to change. After an unsuccessful drive and a dropped pass by Patriots’ wide receiver Julian Edelman, Ryan and the Falcons stormed down the field, continuing their first half dominance. After connecting with running back Tevin Coleman, the Falcons would never see the end zone again. This is when the game changed.
Midway through the third quarter, Brady connected with running back James White to finally give the Pats their first touchdown of the night. The Falcons would be held back on their next possession, giving the ball to the Patriots and converting a 33 yard field goal by Stephen Gostkowski.
With the Falcons’ next possession, Pats linebacker Dont’a Hightower rushed past his opponent and sacked Ryan, causing him to fumble and turnover the ball on the Patriots 25-yard line. An easy drive, Brady connected to Amendola and was successful in converting two extra points with six minutes to go in the fourth.
Another unsuccessful drive by Ryan and the Falcons gave the Patriots the opportunity to tie the score with 3:15 left in the game. Receptions from Hogan, Amendola and Bennett were crucial during this drive. However, it was Julian Edelman’s miracle catch that will be remembered for years and years to come. Very similar to the David Tyree catch in Super Bowl XLII that ended the Patriots perfect season, Edelman’s catch was indescribable, beating out three Falcons’ defenders and somehow being able to concentrate on catching the ball and not letting it hit the ground. Another James White touchdown and two-point conversion tied the game with a minute left, and the greatest comeback in Super Bowl history was almost complete.
Winning the coin toss in overtime, the Patriots again stormed down the field, only needing a touchdown to win the entire thing. With one drive, James White, again, ran into the end zone, completing the comeback and winning Super Bowl LI.
It was quite the sight to see Roger Goodell hand over the Lombardi Trophy to Robert Kraft, owner of the Patriots. It was the moment that all Patriots fans had been waiting for. You couldn’t even hear Goodell speak as the booing from Pats fans across the stadium drowned out his voice. With the win, Brady adds his fifth ring to his resume, as does coach Bill Belichick and Kraft. Brady was named Super Bowl LI MVP.
The main question that was raised after the game was: did Atlanta choke or did the Patriots win?
I’m not trying to be biased, but I truly think that the Patriots won this one. Brady and the Pats didn’t show up in the first half. If they did, the outcome of the first half would have been very different. They played like the New England Patriots in the second half, and that’s what won their games all season long. They deserved it.