HOUSTON — James White stood in the backfield knowing this was it.
The Patriots had the ball at the Falcons’ 2-yard line, the ball was coming to him, and he was going to have a chance to become the first player in history to win the Super Bowl with a touchdown on the final snap of the game.
“Everything kind of happened in slow motion,” he said. “It’s what you dream about as a kid.”
The dream came true. White took a toss to the right, met safety Ricardo Allen at the 1, and pushed his way into the end zone to give the Patriots an incredible 34-28 overtime win over the Falcons in Super Bowl LI on Sunday night.
“I found a little crease and had to run through those guys to get the ball in the end zone,” he said. “I was really excited, man. All the hard work you put in all season long, to try to get a victory for my teammates was really amazing.”
It wasn’t the only play in which White came up big. Tom Brady was named MVP of the game, and rightfully so, but it was White who wound up scoring most of the points. He accounted for a Super Bowl-record 20 of them, in fact, with three touchdowns and a two-point conversion. He also set a Super Bowl record with his 14 receptions and finished with 110 receiving yards.
The Patriots tied the score at the end of regulation and won the coin toss to receive the ball. White said the offense knew what it had to do to end the game. Under overtime rules, even a field goal would have given the Falcons a chance to get the ball and win the game. They needed a touchdown.
“We wanted to score on that first possession,” White said. “Tom did a great job moving guys down the field and got us to the 2.”
White took it from there.
He said he had an idea he would be a big part of the Patriots’ game plan.
“But at the same time, you never know how the game is gonna go,” he said. “I just wanted to be a viable option for my team. The ball came my way. I was blocking. I just wanted to do whatever it took to get a victory. It’s the Super Bowl. You have to lay it all on the line.”
That was the team’s thinking, too, even when the Patriots trailed by 25 points in the second half.
“It was still a game,” he said. “We were really excited to let it all loose. Just lay it on the line and keep fighting.”
White said what he had done still had not hit him. He was unaware that no one had ever won a Super Bowl on a last-play touchdown. The closest anyone had ever come was the Titans’ Kevin Dyson, who was tackled 1 yard shy of the end zone by the Rams in Super Bowl XXXIV.
That often had been considered the most dramatic ending in Super Bowl history. This one topped it.
“You could never write this script, you could never imagine it,” White said, “but we went out there and did it.”