The epic collapse by the Falcons defense allows Tom Brady and the Patriots to mount the largest comeback in Super Bowl History
HOUSTON– The matchups between the Atlanta Falcons and the New England Patriots were the most analyzed portion of Super Bowl LI heading into Sunday. Some analysts explored Dion Lewis’s impact on the Patriots offense or the Matt Ryan to Julio Jones passing connection for the Falcons. Yet the story that kept finding headlines was the young and inexperienced Falcons defense and how they would perform against a veteran Patriots offense led by 4x Super Bowl champion Tom Brady.
The Falcons rallying cry for the 2016-17 playoff run was #RiseUp, and for three quarters they did exactly that. The Falcons young secondary stifled Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels and quarterback Tom Brady, holding the Patriots offense to just nine points heading into the fourth quarter. The high powered Falcons offense put up 28 points in that same time mostly because of the turnovers committed by the Patriots.
LeGarrette Blount uncharacteristically fumbled on the third drive of the game which led to a touchdown for Atlanta. The play of the game on either side of the ball was made by Falcons cornerback Robert Alford, who intercepted a pass from Brady and took it 82 yards the other way for a touchdown. Everyone thought the Falcons were on their way to their first super bowl title.
Then like a shot out of a cannon, the Patriots began their historical comeback.
31 unanswered points for the Patriots, led to the greatest comeback in Super Bowl history. In NFL playoff history, teams with a 19-point lead heading into the fourth quarter were 93-0. Led by now four-time super bowl MVP Tom Brady, the Patriots ran 52 second half plays keeping Matt Ryan off the field.
In the midst of this historical comeback, an unsung hero emerged. Third year running back James White broke out for a total 20 touches (14 catches, 6 rushes),139 total yards, and three total touchdowns.
Brady slowly and methodically picked apart the Falcons defense which started 11 rookies throughout the season, the most since the 1981 Cincinnati Bengals. After the injury to defensive captain Desmond Trufant in week nine, the Falcons secondary was weakened further. Rookies C.J Goodwin and Brian Poole were forced to step up to attempt to fill the. massive void. All eyes were on this unknown defense, which shocked the nation with their performance in the first half.
Yet for the Falcons, it was a tale of two halves. The Patriots receivers took over going toe to toe with the Falcons secondary. Julian Edelman who ended the game with 5 catches fro 87 yards had perhaps the greatest catch in Super Bowl history when he caught a tipped pass by Robert Alford, and then beat safeties Keanu Neal and Ricardo Allen to the spot and caught the ball just inches off the ground. Patriots Rookie wide-out Malcolm Mitchell was typically covered by rookie CB Brian Poole, and beat him for six catches and 70 yards, all in the second half.
It was performances like Mitchell’s, White’s, and Tom Brady’s that helped the Patriots drive right past Dan Quinn’s inexperienced defense en route to their fifth Super Bowl title in 15 years.