The New England Patriots entered the second half trailing 21-3 after a hideous first half performance. In the first half, QB Tom Brady missed easy throws, the offensive line allowed the most pressure in recent memory, the rushing game was nonexistent, QB Matt Ryan threw the ball with ease, and the run defense was gashed by the Atlanta Falcons.
The second half was better. A lot better.
The Patriots forced a three-and-out on the Falcons opening drive of the second half, the first three-and-out by the Patriots defense all game. The Patriots offense responded with a three-and-out of their own, picking up -2 yards on a screen play, to go with two other incomplete passes.
The Falcons took the next drive and drove down the field after a huge 35-yard catch by WR Taylor Gabriel, who made CB Malcolm Butler trip and fall over:
Taylor Gabriel just stole Malcolm Butler's cleats pic.twitter.com/3qmU5SRbpw— Gordon McGuinness (@PFF_Gordon) February 6, 2017
Falcons QB Matt Ryan found RB Tevin Coleman wide open on a swing pass as Patriots EDGE Rob Ninkovich lumbered his way into coverage. Coleman took the pass 6 yards for a score and a 28-3 lead. The game seemed to be over.
The Patriots responded with a surprisingly slow 6 minute, 19 second drive that resulted in a touchdown pass to RB James White. K Stephen Gostkowski missed the extra point, so the score remained 28-9. The Patriots showed their desperation by having WR Julian Edelman heave a pass to RB Dion Lewis on the other side of the field.
New England followed that up with an onside kick attempt, adding to the appearance of desperation, but Gostkowski touched the ball illegally and the Falcons recovered.
The Falcons offense went three-and-out on -15 yards, thanks to a holding call and a sack by LB Kyle Van Noy and the Patriots had some life. The Patriots drove 72 yards on 12 plays thanks to the emergence of rookie WR Malcolm Mitchell and a nice grab by TE Martellus Bennett. Falcons DT Grady Jarrett beat RT Marcus Cannon for a sack, and RG Shaq Mason for another and the Patriots were forced to kick a field goal to cut the score to 28-12; a two-score game.
The Falcons needed a drive to take back the momentum, but the Patriots defense had other ideas. LB Dont’a Hightower crushed Ryan on third down to force a fumble and DT Alan Branch recovered the ball on the Falcons 25-yard line. Five plays later and Brady found WR Danny Amendola for a 6-yard touchdown pass. RB James White ran in the two-point conversion to cut the Falcons lead to 28-20.
The Falcons responded with a huge drive that included a 39-yard catch by RB Devonta Freeman after the Patriots linebackers left him wide open, followed by an impossible catch by WR Julio Jones for 27-yards to bring the Falcons into field goal range at the Patriots at the 22-yard line with 4:40 left on the clock. All the Falcons needed to do was drain the clock and take a field goal to earn a two-score lead.
The Patriots defense put together another amazing stand, with FS Devin McCourty forcing a 1-yard loss, EDGE Trey Flowers sacking Ryan for -12 yards, and EDGE Chris Long forcing a holding penalty to knock the Falcons out of field goal range. The Patriots received the punt on their own 9-yard line with 3:30 left in the game.
Brady needed to lead an amazing drive and he received some help from Julian Edelman on one of the most magnificent receptions in NFL history.
This 23-yard catch by Edelman set up the Patriots on the Falcons 41-yard line, before Brady hit Danny Amendola for 20 yards, followed by 21 yards and a touchdown on three touches for RB James White. Brady hit Amendola for the 2-point conversion to tie the game at 28-28.
We’re on to overtime. Use this as the open thread for the first overtime game in Super Bowl history.