With a furious and historic comeback, the New England Patriots ripped off 31 unanswered points to beat the Atlanta Falcons in Super Bowl LI, 34-28 in overtime, and Tom Brady’s incredible second half made him the no-questions-asked game MVP.
And for the Patriots, their fans and Brady, it was a double victory. After completing the thrilling comeback, the scene that we didn’t think would happen after the Falcons got up big unfolded — NFL commissioner Roger Goodell handing the Lombardi Trophy to Patriots owner Robert Kraft.
Oh, sure, Goodell said during his state-of-the-league address on Wednesday that there would be no awkwardness if the Patriots won following a two-year battle between Goodell and the Patriots over deflate-gate. “It’s not awkward at all for me,” Goodell said earlier in the week. “We have a job to do. We did our job.”
Brady made sure to find out by doing his job better than anyone could have imagined. In addition to the Super Bowl record comeback of 25 points, Brady surpassed Kurt Warner’s prior record of 414 pass yards and finished the game 43-of-62 passing for 466 yards with two touchdowns and an interception that the Falcons ran back for a pick-6.
After that slow start, Brady willed his team back from a 21-0 first-half deficit, a 28-3 third-quarter deficit and a 19-point deficit in the fourth quarter, and the Patriots finished off the biggest comeback in Super Bowl history — by a mile. No team has come back from more than 10 points down to win in the previous 50 Super Bowls.
As confetti rained down on the field prior to the trophy presentation, Goodell tapped Brady from behind and stuck out his hand. They shook — and you bet it was as awkward as anticipated. It was the only time the two were seen interacting during the postgame ceremonies.
As he took the stage, Patriots fans let Goodell have it. They rained down boos that made it tough to hear what the commish said while presenting Kraft his fifth Lombardi Trophy. “What a tremendous game,” Goodell said. “That’s what NFL football is all about.”
Goodell then turned to Kraft and said, “Robert, you know how hard these are to get. And this is your fifth, under your leadership, Coach [Bill] Belichick, and Tom Brady. What an unbelievable achievement for your organization and congratulations to Patriots Nation, to your fans and the community. I am so proud of you.”
Goodell handed Kraft the trophy, shook his hand and just like that, the nasty boos turned to wild cheers.
“Two years ago, when we won our fourth Super Bowl down in Arizona, I told our fans that was the sweetest one of all,” Kraft said. “But a lot has transpired during the last two years. I don’t think that needs any explanation.
“But I want to say to our fans, our brilliant coaching staff, our amazing players who are so spectacular … this is unequivocally the sweetest.”
While Kraft spoke to the now frenzied, pro-Patriots crowd, Goodell and Belichick huddled up to speak, and there appeared to be no animosity. They looked each other in the eye and exchanged an embrace. The commissioner then walked off the stage before Brady spoke and got his hands on Lombardi.
Considering everything Brady endured this season — from a four-game suspension for deflate-gate and his mother’s health problems — winning Super Bowl No. 5 might be his most special game. But he passed on the chance during the on-field interview with sideline reporter Chris Myers to take a shot at Goodell or the league. Given the chance to go low, Brady went high and said he was happy for his team and the fans. (His subtle stab, like a thief in the night, came on this hilarious postgame commercial with a not-so-veiled name drop of His Highness.)
Any why shouldn’t he be? But Brady also should be pleased with his own performance Sunday and his career achievements. No quarterback has won more rings. No Super Bowl team has faced longer odds to win. No player has more than his four Super Bowl MVPs. And no QB has thrown for more yards in a Super Bowl. What an incredible season and NFL career.
“Thank you to all our fans … we love you!” Brady said. “We’re bringing this sucker home!”
Brady broke Warner’s record with a 7-yard pass to James White to the Atlanta 1-yard line that set up the game tying score — White’s TD run and a two-point conversion to Danny Amendola. The Falcons and Patriots headed to the first overtime game in Super Bowl history. Brady threw for 50 yards in OT and led a 10-play, 91-yard drive that White finished with the walk-off TD run — the first time in the game that the Patriots led. Brady’s completions and attempts also were Super Bowl records. White also set a Super Bowl record with his 14th reception in OT, breaking the record of Demaryius Thomas with 13 against the Seattle Seahawks in XLVIII.
Brady’s previous postseason high for passing yards was 384 yards in the AFC title game win over the Pittsburgh Steelers. His regular-season best was 517 in the season opener in 2011 against the Miami Dolphins. Warner set his record in Super Bowl XXXIV against the Tennessee Titans following the 1999 season. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame on Saturday.
With five Super Bowl titles in seven appearances, 11 conference title-game appearances and 14 division titles, no quarterback has the team-success résumé that Brady does. He has a few individual accolades, too. And now Brady also has the pleasure of having finished off his revenge tour this season after coming up short last season in the AFC title game.
Oh, and on Monday? Goodell gets to hand Brady keys to a car for winning MVP. That should be fun.
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