By: Carter Caldwell
On February 5, American football entered a new era with Super Bowl LI. For the New England Patriots, who were appearing for a record-setting ninth time, a win would have been another step towards becoming the team with the most Super Bowl wins, dethroning the Pittsburgh Steelers who have six wins. Meanwhile, the game was the Atlanta Falcon’s second appearance and a chance to win for the first time.
During the coin toss, performed by George H. W. Bush and his wife, the Falcons picked tails, and after their win chose to defer to the second half. The first quarter of the game proved to be a scoreless struggle between the two teams, with the most notable play being Atlanta’s Devonta Freeman’s 37-yard carry, which ended up being the longest run of the game.
The second quarter, on the other hand, was action-packed from the start, when New England’s Tom Brady threw a 27-yard pass to wide receiver Julian Edelman. However, a fumble on the following play led to a series of passes and carries that put the Falcons up 7-0. Soon after that, the Falcons scored yet another touchdown, marking the furthest behind Brady had ever been in all of his Super Bowl appearances, which was only elongated when Atlanta’s Robert Alford intercepted a pass and ran 82 yards to bring his team to a 21-0 lead. Desperate to answer their opponent’s undeniable momentum, Patriot kicker Stephen Gostkowski managed to kick a 20-yard field goal with two seconds left on the clock, bring the score at half to 21-3.
At halftime, pop singer Lady Gaga delivered what some reported was the most-viewed musical event in history. Accompanied by a fleet of 300 drones, the singer performed a total of seven tracks, starting the show with an undeniably political mashup of “God Bless America” and “This Land Is Your Land.” Viewed by some as a slight remark upon President Donald Trump’s controversial policies, the show still garnered appreciation from critics as well as the public, with many believing the show to be one of the best halftime shows ever.
At the beginning of the second half, the Patriots were unable to score, leading to Atlanta’s opportunity to score yet again and bringing the score up to 28-3. Despite things looking bleak for the Patriots, they managed to go 75 yards in 13 plays to score a touchdown, but kicker Gostkowski’s extra point attempt proved unsuccessful, leaving the score at the end of the fourth quarter 28-9. The Falcons were forced to punt to start the fourth quarter, and despite trailing for the first three quarters, the Patriots bounced back in the end to score an unanswered 19 points, tying the game and making the biggest comeback in Super Bowl history.
The Patriots then went on to win the overtime coin toss, greatly boosting their chances of winning the game. In a stunning overtime, Brady and his team pushed forward, and in the end running back James White scored the game-winning touchdown by reaching the football into the end zone before he was brought down by Atlanta’s defense. Along with being the first Super Bowl to go into overtime, upwards of 30 records were broken during the game, mostly by the Patriots. Quarterback Tom Brady became the only person to win four MVPs, and running back James White caught a record-setting 14 passes. Because of that performance, Brady stated after his MVP win that he felt White was more deserving of it. The Falcons also became the first team to intercept a pass in the Super Bowl and still fail to win the game.