HOUSTON -- Tom Brady led one of the greatest comebacks in sports history, lifting New England from a 25-point hole to the Patriots’ fifth NFL championship in the first Super Bowl overtime.
Many records fell during the game, which left many observers wondering whether the quarterback and his coach, Bill Belichick, are the best the NFL has ever seen at their respective crafts.
The Patriots scored 19 points in the final quarter, including a pair of 2-point conversions, then marched relentlessly to James White’s 2-yard touchdown run in overtime to beat the Atlanta Falcons 34-28 Sunday night.
Brady, the first quarterback with five Super Bowl rings, guided the Patriots (17-2) through a tiring Atlanta defense for fourth-quarter touchdowns on a 6-yard pass to Danny Amendola and a 1-yard run by White, which came with 57 seconds remaining in regulation. White ran for the first 2-pointer and Amendola did the deed with a reception on the second.
Brady, winning Super Bowl MVP for a record fourth time, finished 43 for 62, the most attempts in Super Bowl history, for 466 yards, also a record, and two touchdowns.
“You know, we all brought each other back,” Brady said. “We never felt out of it. It was a tough battle. They have a great team. I give them a lot of credit. We just made a few more plays than them.”
CBSSports.com’s Jason La Canfora took it even farther, writing, “There is nothing to consider any longer. Brady is the best ever. And so is his coach (Bill Belichick).”
It was a triumphant end to a difficult season for Brady, who missed the first four games because of his “Deflategate” suspension by Commissioner Roger Goodell and dealt with his mother Galynn Brady suffering through an undisclosed illness. The Super Bowl was the first game she’s attended all season.
“They’re all happy,” he said fighting back tears. “It’s nice to have everybody here and it’s going to be a great celebration tonight.”
He shared a quick moment with her right after the game, but was looking forward to more time with her in the upcoming days.
“It’s kind of madness after the game so I didn’t get much quality time with her but we’ll get it this week,” he said.
Before the stunning rally -- New England already held the biggest comeback in the final period when it turned around a 10-point deficit to beat Seattle two years ago -- the Falcons (13-6) appeared poised to take their first NFL championship in 51 seasons. Having never been in such a pressurized environment, their previously staunch pass rush disappeared, and Brady tore them apart.
Brady and Belichick won their 25th postseason game, by far a record. It’s hard to imagine a tenser victory. The Falcons added to Atlanta’s long history of pro sports frustration.
Belichick became the first coach with five Super Bowl crowns.
It wasn’t difficult for Patriots owner Robert Kraft as he accepted the Lombardi Trophy from Goodell, who naturally drew a flood of boos from New England fans on hand. Yes, “Deflategate” might be far behind Kraft and Brady, but it’s not forgotten.
“Two years ago, we won our fourth Super Bowl down in Arizona and I told our fans that was the sweetest one of all,” owner Robert Kraft said. “But a lot has transpired over the last two years and I don’t think that needs any explanation.
“I want to say to our fans, our brilliant coaching staff, our amazing players who were so spectacular, this is unequivocally the sweetest.”
Goodell was seen approaching Brady immediately after the game, extending his hand and apparently saying, “That was awesome” as the two shook hands, reports USA Today’s The Big Lead, which captured the moments on video.
The Patriots won the coin toss for overtime, and then it was no contest. Brady completed six passes. A pass interference call took the ball to the 2, and White scooted to his right and barely over the goal line.
His teammates streamed off the sideline to engulf White as confetti streamed down from the NRG Stadium rafters.
It was almost an impossible dream for the Patriots a bit earlier. But helped by Matt Ryan’s fumble on a sack, a spectacular catch by Julian Edelman , and Brady’s passing, they never stopped coming.
White had 14 receptions for 110 yards as the key weapon, but Brady hit seven different receivers.
Until the Patriots took charge with their late surge, league MVP Ryan was outplaying Brady. It didn’t last.
If you were looking for one play to sum up the game before overtime was announced, you had plenty of options, CBS Sports’ Sean Wagner-McGough reported.
You could pick Devonta Freeman’s touchdown run, which opened up the scoring for the Falcons. There was also Brady’s failed tackle attempt on his pick-six is likely to be a popular choice, and LeGarrette Blount’s fumble, because it started the Patriots’ downward spiral before they made a comeback. Or you could pick Taylor Gabriel breaking Malcolm Butler’s ankles in the third quarter on a 35-yard reception, which led to the Falcons taking a 28-3 lead.
As for commercials, messages about America, inclusiveness -- and, yes, even “four years of awful hair” -- kept bubbling up in Super Bowl 51 ads from Airbnb, the NFL and a line of personal care products. But there was still plenty of escapism and light humor for those who weren’t into the politics.
After a first-half that was met largely with a collective shrug, things picked up on the advertising side after halftime, with a collection of buzzworthy spots that included a live Snickers ad, a pro-immigration Budweiser ad, a plea for equal pay for women from Audi and more, CBS Sports’ R.J. White reported.
The biggest buzz of the first half came from 84 Lumber, the construction company that had their initial ad rejected by Fox for using a border wall at the end of their commercial. The company showed a different version of the ad during their Super Bowl spot and pointed people to their website to see the full ad, but their server apparently couldn’t handle the traffic, as many were greeted with an error message.
Lady Gaga opened the Super Bowl LI halftime show from the roof of NRG stadium in Houston, singing “God Bless America” and “This Land is Your Land” in a glittering silver suit before diving into the stadium. She landed on a platform and began her set with “Poker Face,” then later launched into “Born This Way.”
Luke Bryan and the Schuyler sisters of “Hamilton” -- Renee Elise Goldsberry, Phillipa Soo and Jasmine Cephas Jones -- started the game off on a high note with performances of the national anthem and “America the Beautiful,” respectively.