There are moments in sports you live for, moments that so captivate you that you understand the magnitude of what’s happening in real time. You realize you are watching something that forever will be a part of history.
This was one of those moments — even if it seemed as if it might never happen.
With the Patriots trailing by 25 points and with Matt Ryan seemingly ready to finish off his first Super Bowl run after his first MVP season, you didn’t think there was much of a chance that even Tom Brady — the greatest quarterback of all time, playing in his seventh Super Bowl — was capable of coming back this far. Of staging the biggest comeback in Super Bowl history.
But Brady and the Patriots pulled it off Sunday night, pulled off one of the most epic comebacks ever. In sports history, not just NFL history.
Brady became the first quarterback to win a fifth Super Bowl and the first to win four MVP awards, and he did it with such aplomb, with such resourcefulness, with such moxie, that it left you in amazement. No matter whom you wanted to win this game, you had to be in awe of what might have been Brady’s greatest moment in a 17-year career filled with so many of them.
Patriots 34, Falcons 28. First overtime game in Super Bowl history. Most astonishing comeback in Super Bowl history. Accomplished by one of the greatest athletes to have walked the planet.
“We all brought each other back,” Brady said. “We never felt out of it. We have a great team, and I give [the Falcons] a lot of credit. We just made a few more plays than them.”
No, Brady made a few more plays than the Falcons, even when this night seemed destined to be one of his least memorable Super Bowls ever.
Brady was a pedestrian 16-for-26 in the first half, throwing no touchdown passes except the one to Falcons cornerback Robert Alford, who returned a misplaced throw 82 yards for a 21-0 Atlanta lead with 2:21 to play in the second quarter.
But by the time the game was over, Brady had completed 43 of 62 passes for 466 yards and two second-half touchdowns, including a magnificent series on the first series of overtime. Brady drove the Patriots 75 yards in eight plays in OT, and seldom-used running back James White finished it off with a 2-yard run around right end.
The amazing rally was complete, with the Patriots scoring 31 unanswered points to enhance their place in NFL history with an unprecedented fifth title run for both Brady and coach Bill Belichick.
What a game. What a moment. You will never forget it.
Brady had to be nearly perfect in bringing the Patriots back, and he was just that, orchestrating five scoring drives in the second half and overtime. Not only that, but the Patriots’ final two touchdowns in regulation required two-point conversions in order to close the gap from 28-12.
This makes it 15 years between New England’s first and fifth Super Bowl victories, a remarkable run of consistency for Brady and Belichick, but particularly the 39-year-old quarterback.
He was accused by the NFL of being “generally aware” of the use of purposely underinflated footballs in the AFC Championship Game two years ago, and he served a four-game suspension this season after giving up on a protracted court battle.
Add to that the recent disclosure that his mother, Galynn, has been dealing with an illness for the last 18 months, a situation that factored into his decision to give up fighting the NFL and accept commissioner Roger Goodell’s month-long sanction.
But he came back with a splendid regular season and capped it with a transcendent performance in the postseason, further enhancing his stature as the greatest quarterback in NFL history. And now, perhaps, the greatest player ever.
There was no talk of vindication from Brady after his latest Super Bowl masterpiece.
“This is all positive,” he said. “This is unbelievable.”
The greatest win of his career?
“They’re all great,” he said. “Everyone rose to the occasion in the second half and overtime. This is unbelievable.”
With confetti still flying, Brady left the thousands of Patriots fans who trekked to Houston to be a part of history with words of triumph as he lifted the Vince Lombardi Trophy for the fifth time.
“You’ve been with us all year,” he said. “We’re bringing this sucker home!”
And with that, he exited the field a champion one more time. One more moment in history. Perhaps the greatest moment of them all.
Coaches with the best postseason winning percentages (10 or more wins):
Bill Belichick 26-10 (.722)
Bill Walsh 10-4 (.714)
Joe Gibbs 17-7 (.708)
Chuck Noll 16-8 (.667)
George Seifert 10-5 (.667)
John Harbaugh 10-5 (.667)
Tom Coughlin 12-7 (.632)