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The Tufts Daily
Where you read it first | Monday, September 25, 2023

The greatest Super Bowl comeback of all time

Tom Brady’s departure from the New England Patriots leaves many fans reminiscing about better days — perhaps specifically Feb. 5, 2017, when the team executed what is widely considered to be the best Super Bowl comeback in NFL history. To the shock of the Atlanta Falcons, the Patriots overcame a 28–3 deficit, miraculously beating their opponents in overtime in Super Bowl LI. 

The game began shakily for New England. While neither team got on the board in the first quarter, the Patriot’s inability to score during a short opening drive foreshadowed a long game ahead. Multiple sacks of Brady, incomplete passes and excellent plays from the Falcons’ defense kept the Patriots scoreless in the first 15 minutes of the Super Bowl. 

The nightmare continued in the second quarter, beginning with the Patriots losing possession of the ball following a handoff to running back LeGarrette Blount. The Falcons took advantage, scoring a touchdown soon after. Next, in one of the many clutch plays of the game, Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones barely caught the ball heading out of bounds, solidifying a first down and ultimately leading to another touchdown. 

Two penalties on the Falcons during the final seven minutes of the first half gave New England opportunities to score, but a pass intercepted by cornerback Robert Alford resulted in another touchdown for Atlanta. After another failed touchdown attempt from New England in the final seconds of the half, the second quarter ended with a field goal, finally putting the Patriots on the board with three points. 

Any hope of New England recovering early in the second half was quickly dashed by another touchdown from the Falcons. The halfway point of the third quarter marked a 28–3 deficit, making a comeback seem more than unlikely, if not impossible. By this point, many New England fans went to bed, too devastated to deal with a Super Bowl loss after another excellent season with high expectations. 

However, luck for the Patriots started to turn beginning with a move generally saved as an absolute last resort — Brady running. While his talent as a quarterback is unquestionable, Brady’s awkward, wobbly run within his lanky stature is often laugh-inducing even among his most adoring fans. 

This time, though, the Brady run proved successful as it clinched a first down for the Patriots and eventually paved the way for New England’s first touchdown of the game.A sack at the end of the third quarter kept Atlanta from scoring, re-instilling a glimmer of hope in New England fans who remembered Brady as a man that could achieve the impossible. 

The Falcons defense came thundering back, robbing the Patriots of a touchdown at the beginning of the fourth quarter by sacking Brady twice within 10 yards of the end zone. A field goal gave New England three more points, but they still remained 16 points behind Atlanta. 

Braving more sacks, Brady pulled off another touchdown and two-point conversion with about six minutes left. Falcons receiver Jones caught another seemingly impossible pass, reminding the Patriots that the Falcons planned to fight to the bitter end. 

With three minutes left of the game, an eight-point deficit and another almost immediate sack of Brady, winning continued to seem impossible. However, in perhaps the most astonishing catch in Super Bowl history, Brady threw the ball to double coverage with receiver Julian Edelman over the middle, and with two defenders on him, the ball was tipped. Edelman made one of the most significant catches in Super Bowl history, keeping the Patriots in the game, and letting Brady get another shot at the Super Bowl LI title. 

In the final two minutes of the game, Brady and the Patriots, led by running back James White, drove down the field with a certain ease that developed into confidence the second White ran the game-tying touchdown into the end zone to force overtime. 

In overtime, the Patriots won the coin flip and decided to take the ball on offense. After taking the ball, the Patriots drove 75 yards down the field, thanks to another couple of awe-striking catches by the receiving corps, ending on a toss to White to end the game. The Patriots won their fifth Super Bowl in 15 years — all with Tom Brady at quarterback.

If there is any grand take away from the greatest comeback in Super Bowl history, it is that New England fans will miss the scrappiness and determination of Tom Brady. Brady embodied the spirit of New England, and his never-say-no attitude gave Patriots fans a sense of hope even in the darkest times.