Super Bowl LI
Super Bowl LI was an American football game played at NRG Stadium in Houston, Texas, on February 5, 2017, to determine the champion of the National Football League (NFL) for the 2016 season. The American Football Conference (AFC) champion New England Patriots defeated the National Football Conference (NFC) champion Atlanta Falcons, 34–28. Super Bowl LI featured the largest comeback in Super Bowl history, with the Patriots overcoming a 28–3 deficit to emerge victorious. Due to the comeback, the Falcons' blown 28–3 lead would enter NFL lore. The game was also the first and currently only Super Bowl to be decided in overtime.
|Date||February 5, 2017|
|Stadium||NRG Stadium, Houston, Texas|
|MVP||Tom Brady, quarterback|
|Favorite||Patriots by 3|
|National anthem||Luke Bryan|
|Coin toss||Former U.S. President George H. W. Bush,|
Former U.S. First Lady Barbara Bush
|Halftime show||Lady Gaga|
|TV in the United States|
|Announcers||Joe Buck (play-by-play)|
Troy Aikman (analyst)
Erin Andrews and Chris Myers (sideline reporters)
Mike Pereira (rules analyst)
|Nielsen ratings||48.8 (national)|
U.S. viewership: 111.3 million est. avg.
|Cost of 30-second commercial||$5.02 million|
|Radio in the United States|
|Announcers||Kevin Harlan (play-by-play)|
Boomer Esiason (analyst)
James Lofton and Tony Boselli (sideline reporters)
The Patriots' victory was their fifth, moving them into a three-way tie with the Dallas Cowboys and the San Francisco 49ers for the second most Super Bowl wins. After finishing the regular season with a league-best 14–2 record, New England advanced to their record-setting ninth Super Bowl appearance, their second in three years, and their seventh under the leadership of head coach Bill Belichick and quarterback Tom Brady. The Falcons, led by the league's top offense and MVP quarterback Matt Ryan, completed an 11–5 regular season record and were seeking their first Super Bowl title in their second appearance.
Atlanta led the first half 21–3 through scoring three consecutive touchdowns, a lead which increased to 28–3 midway through the third quarter. However, the Patriots scored 25 unanswered points and tied the game in the final seconds of regulation. In overtime, New England received the kickoff after winning the coin toss and scored a touchdown to claim the franchise's fifth Super Bowl title. More than 30 team and individual Super Bowl records were broken or matched, including Patriots running back James White's 14 receptions and 20 points scored and Brady's 43 completed passes, 62 pass attempts, and 466 passing yards. Brady was named Super Bowl MVP for a record fourth time and was the then-oldest player to receive the honor at 39; he would surpass both records in Super Bowl LV.
Fox's broadcast of the game averaged around 111.3 million viewers, slightly down from the 111.9 million viewers of the previous year's Super Bowl, while the total number of viewers for all or part of the game hit a record number of 172 million. Average television viewership for the halftime show, headlined by Lady Gaga, was higher at 117.5 million. The game is regarded by many media outlets as the greatest Super Bowl of all time.
The NFL selected the sites for Super Bowl 50 and Super Bowl LI at the owners' spring meetings in Boston on May 21, 2013. On October 16, 2012, the NFL announced that Reliant Stadium in Houston, which was renamed NRG Stadium in 2014, was a finalist to host Super Bowl LI. Houston then competed against the runner-up for the site of Super Bowl 50: Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, Florida. The South Florida bid for either Super Bowl partially depended on whether the stadium underwent renovations. However, on May 3, the Florida Legislature refused to approve the funding plan to pay for the renovations, dealing a blow to South Florida's chances. The NFL ultimately selected Houston as the host city of Super Bowl LI.
This was the second Super Bowl to be held at NRG Stadium, the other being Super Bowl XXXVIII in 2004, which also featured the New England Patriots against that season's NFC South champion Carolina Panthers. It was also the third time the Super Bowl has been played in Houston, with Super Bowl VIII in 1974 having been held at Rice Stadium. With the Astros baseball team reaching the World Series eight months later, Houston would become just the fourth city to host both the Super Bowl and Fall Classic in the same calendar year, following San Diego (1998), Detroit (2006) and Arlington, Texas (2011), and the first among the four to win the Major League Baseball championship.
Proposition 1 controversy
Proposition 1, an ordinance which would have prohibited discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity in Houston's housing, employment, public accommodations, and city contracting, was rejected by voters (60.97% opposing) during the November 3, 2015 elections. Subsequently, the NFL announced it would not alter plans to have the city host Super Bowl LI. Houston Texans owner Bob McNair donated $10,000 to Campaign for Houston, an organization that opposes the ordinance, which he later rescinded.
New England Patriots
In 2016, New England tied an NFL record, earning 12+ wins for the seventh consecutive season. Even though starting quarterback Tom Brady was suspended for the first four games, and All-Pro tight end Rob Gronkowski was lost to injury in midseason, the Patriots still recorded an NFL-best 14–2 record; their only losses were a shutout loss to the Buffalo Bills in Week 4 and a loss to the Seattle Seahawks in Week 10. They scored 441 points (third in the NFL) while allowing the fewest in the league (250).
Brady missed the first four games of the year on suspension due to a 2014-2015 postseason incident known as Deflategate. Jimmy Garoppolo and Jacoby Brissett each started two games in Brady's place. After his suspension ended, Brady took back command of the offense and went on to earn his 12th Pro Bowl selection, passing for 3,554 yards and 28 touchdowns, with only two interceptions, while his 112.2 passer rating ranked second in the NFL. The team's leading receiver was Julian Edelman, who caught 98 passes for 1,106 yards and added 135 more returning punts. Wide receivers Chris Hogan (38 receptions for 680 yards) and Malcolm Mitchell (32 receptions for 401 yards) were also significant receiving threats. Gronkowski caught 25 passes for 540 yards before suffering a season-ending back injury in week 13. Tight end Martellus Bennett stepped up in his absence, hauling in 55 receptions for 701 yards and a team-leading seven touchdown catches. Running back LeGarrette Blount was the team's top rusher with 1,168 yards and a league-leading 18 touchdowns. In passing situations, the team relied heavily on running back James White, who caught 60 passes for 551 yards and added another 166 on the ground. Running back Dion Lewis was also a valuable asset to the offense, rushing for 283 yards on offense and catching 17 passes for 94 yards.
Despite trading All-Pro outside linebacker Jamie Collins to the Cleveland Browns in the middle of the season, the Patriots defensive line was led by tackle Trey Flowers, who ranked first on the team with seven quarterback sacks, and Jabaal Sheard, who recorded five sacks of his own. Linebacker Dont'a Hightower earned his first Pro Bowl selection and made the second All-Pro team, compiling 65 tackles and 2+1⁄2 sacks. Linebacker Rob Ninkovich also made a big impact, recording 34 tackles, two forced fumbles, and four sacks. In the secondary, cornerback Malcolm Butler led the team with four interceptions, while Logan Ryan led the team in tackles and intercepted two passes. Safety Devin McCourty ranked second on the team with 83 tackles and notched one interception while earning his third career Pro Bowl selection. The team also had a defensive expert on special teams, Matthew Slater, who made the Pro Bowl for the sixth consecutive year.
By advancing to play in Super Bowl LI, the Patriots earned their NFL-record ninth Super Bowl appearance, as well as their seventh in the past 16 years under Brady and head coach Bill Belichick. The Patriots have also participated in the only other Super Bowl to be held at NRG Stadium; they won Super Bowl XXXVIII over the Carolina Panthers by a 32–29 score 13 years earlier. The Patriots entered Super Bowl LI with an overall record of 4–4 in their previous eight Super Bowl appearances, with all four of their wins and two of their four losses coming under the leadership of Belichick and Brady.
With his appearance in Super Bowl LI, Belichick broke the tie of six Super Bowls as a head coach that he had shared with Don Shula. It was also his record tenth participation in a Super Bowl in any capacity, which overtook the mark of nine that he had shared with Dan Reeves. This was also Brady's seventh Super Bowl appearance, the most appearances by a player in Super Bowl history.
The Atlanta Falcons, under second-year head coach Dan Quinn, finished the 2016 season with an 11–5 record, earning them the No. 2 seed in the NFC playoffs. It was a big reversal of declining fortunes for the team, who had failed to qualify to play in the playoffs in each of the last three seasons.
The Falcons were loaded with offensive firepower, leading all NFL teams in scoring with 540 points. Nine-year veteran quarterback Matt Ryan earned the NFL MVP and the AP NFL Offensive Player of the Year Award, as well as his fourth career Pro Bowl selection, leading the league in passer rating (117.1). While he ranked only ninth in completions (373), his passing yards (4,944) and touchdowns (38) both ranked second in the NFL. His favorite target was receiver Julio Jones, who caught 83 passes for 1,409 yards (second in the NFL) and six touchdowns. But Ryan had plenty of other options, such as newly acquired wide receivers Mohamed Sanu (59 receptions for 653 yards) and Taylor Gabriel (35 receptions for 579 yards and six touchdowns). Pro Bowl running back Devonta Freeman was the team's leading rusher, with 1,078 yards, 11 touchdowns, and 4.8 yards per rush. He was also a superb receiver out of the backfield, catching 54 passes for 462 yards and two more scores. Running back Tevin Coleman was also a major asset on the ground and through the air, with 520 rushing yards, 31 receptions for 421 yards, and 11 total touchdowns. The Falcons also had an excellent special teams unit led by veteran kick returner Eric Weems. His 24 punt returns for 273 yards gave him the sixth highest return average in the NFL (11.4), and he added another 391 yards returning kickoffs. Pro Bowl kicker Matt Bryant led the league in scoring with 158 points, while also ranking third in field goal percentage (91.8%). Atlanta's offensive line featured center Alex Mack, who earned his fourth Pro Bowl selection.
The Falcons defensive line was led by defensive ends Adrian Clayborn, who recorded five sacks and a fumble recovery, and long-time veteran Dwight Freeney, who ranks as the NFL's 18th all-time leader in sacks (122+1⁄2). Behind them, linebacker Vic Beasley was the team's only Pro Bowl selection on defense, leading the NFL in sacks with 15+1⁄2; he also forced six fumbles. Rookie linebacker Deion Jones was also an impact player, leading the team in combined tackles (108) and interceptions (three). The Falcons secondary featured hard-hitting safety Keanu Neal, who had 106 tackles and forced five fumbles. Safety Ricardo Allen added 90 tackles and two interceptions. But overall, the defense ranked just 27th in the league in points allowed (406).
This game marked the Falcons' second Super Bowl appearance in franchise history, after having lost Super Bowl XXXIII in January 1999 to the Denver Broncos.
The Patriots, with the AFC's #1 seed, began their postseason run by defeating the fourth-seeded Houston Texans in the Divisional Round, 34–16. The next week, in the AFC Championship Game, the Patriots defeated the third-seeded Pittsburgh Steelers 36–17.
The Falcons, with the NFC's #2 seed, began their postseason run by defeating the third-seeded Seattle Seahawks in the Divisional Round, 36–20, racking up 422 yards. The next week, in the last NFL game ever played at the Georgia Dome, the Falcons racked up 493 total yards as they defeated the fourth-seeded Green Bay Packers 44–21 to win the NFC Championship.
As the designated home team in the annual rotation between AFC and NFC teams, the Falcons elected to wear their red home jerseys with white pants, which meant that the Patriots wore their white road jerseys. The game featured Atlanta's #1 scoring offense versus New England's #1 scoring defense. This was the sixth Super Bowl since the AFL–NFL merger in 1970 to feature a #1 scoring offense against a #1 scoring defense, with the team with the #1 scoring defense winning four of the previous five matchups.
Super Bowl week events
Fan-oriented activities during the lead-up to Super Bowl LI were centered around the George R. Brown Convention Center and Discovery Green park. Discovery Green hosted Super Bowl Live, a 10-day festival which featured live concerts and other attractions, including projection shows, fireworks shows, and a virtual reality attraction, Future Flight, in conjunction with NASA. The neighboring George R. Brown Convention Center hosted the annual NFL Experience event, which featured interactive activities and appearances by players. Super Bowl Opening Night, the second edition of the game's revamped media day, was held on January 30, 2017 at nearby Minute Maid Park.
Super Bowl Live was organized by the Houston Super Bowl Host Committee, which was led by Honorary Chairman James A. Baker, III, Chairman Ric Campo, and President and CEO Sallie Sargent.
According to Bloomberg story two most anticipated pre-Super Bowl parties were invite-only 13th annual ESPN party and the Rolling Stone party. ESPN party was hosted by Fergie and DJ Khaled and took place in a 65,000-square-foot warehouse in the Houston Arts District. The Rolling Stone party celebrated the magazine 50th anniversary. It took place at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston and featured the performance of Big Sean, DJ Cassidy, Nas, Diplo and Busta Rhymes.
In the beginning of February 2017 the NFL and law enforcement announced that tickets to Super Bowl LI would feature heat-sensitive logos to deter counterfeit tickets. On the front of each ticket was a full polymer graphic that was raised and the back featured a true color security label with Houston's skyline and the Super Bowl logo. The final security feature was a graphic on the lower portion of the back of each ticket printed with thermochromic ink. The HTX logo and the NRG Stadium image faded when heat was applied and returned when the heat source was removed.
In late 2016, Uber had threatened to leave Houston ahead of the Super Bowl LI festivities, insisting various city regulations, including fingerprint background checks of drivers, were too burdensome and prevented drivers from working. Houston officials and Uber reached a compromise in December, which determined that Houston would continue to require a fingerprint check for drivers but eliminate requirements for driver drug testing and physicals through at least February 5.
In the United States, Super Bowl LI was televised by Fox, as part of a cycle between the three main broadcast television partners of the NFL. The game was carried in Spanish by sister cable network Fox Deportes. Online streams of the game were provided via Fox Sports Go; although normally requiring a television subscription to use, Fox made the service available as a free preview for the Super Bowl. Due to Verizon Communications exclusivity, streaming on smartphones was exclusive to Verizon Wireless subscribers via the NFL Mobile app.
As with Super Bowl 50, the stadium was equipped for Intel freeD instant replay technology, using an array of 36 5K resolution cameras positioned around the stadium to enable 360-degree views of plays. Fox introduced a new feature utilizing the system known as Be the Player, which composited the various camera angles into a single view of a play from the point-of-view of a player on the field. Fox constructed a temporary, two-floor studio in Discovery Green, which originated pre-game coverage, and broadcasts of Fox Sports 1 studio programs during the week leading up to the game, such as Fox Sports Live with Jay and Dan, The Herd with Colin Cowherd, Skip and Shannon: Undisputed, NASCAR Race Hub, and UFC Tonight.
An average of 111.3 million viewers watched Super Bowl LI, marking Super Bowl's second consecutive year of average viewership drop since its all-time average high in 2015. However, viewership steadily increased since the end of halftime when it later on tallied the first overtime in Super Bowl history. Fox stated that 1.72 million viewers utilized its online streams, and by the conclusion of overtime, the broadcast gained 172 million viewers (more than half of the U.S. population of 340 million people that same year). As of 2021, this still stands as the largest overall audience ever tallied by any broadcast in U.S. television history.
Fox set the base rate for a 30-second commercial at $5 million, the same rate CBS charged for Super Bowl 50, leading to advertising revenue of $534 million for the single day event. Snickers announced that it would present a live commercial during the game. Nintendo broadcast an ad showcasing its upcoming Nintendo Switch video game console. Fiat Chrysler Automobiles broadcast three spots for Alfa Romeo, as part of an effort to re-launch the Italian brand in the U.S.
A spot from longtime advertiser Budweiser garnered controversy before the game for depicting Anheuser-Busch co-founder Adolphus Busch's emigration to the United States from Germany, its broadcast coming on the heels of U.S. President Donald Trump signing an executive order that bans travelers from several Muslim nations. Meanwhile, 84 Lumber aired a commercial depicting a mother and daughter journeying from Mexico to the United States, which had been edited following Fox's objection to its depiction of a border wall for sensitivity reasons.
Many films were advertised with Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, Logan, Transformers: The Last Knight, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales, The Fate of the Furious and Ghost in the Shell. AMC and Netflix advertised their shows, The Walking Dead and Stranger Things, respectively, while Fox-owned National Geographic Channel teased its new historical anthology drama series Genius with an ad featuring Albert Einstein and a nod to Lady Gaga's halftime performance.
Fox was able to earn an estimated $20 million by airing four extra commercials due to the additional overtime period. Even without historical precedent, Fox negotiated deals with a handful of advertisers in case overtime were to occur.
|Australia||Seven Network, 7mate, ESPN|
|Brazil||ESPN Brasil, Esporte Interativo|
|Canada||CTV, CTV Two, TSN (English), RDS (French)|
|Hungary||Sport1 (Eastern Europe) (Hungary)|
|Italy||Italia 1, Premium Sport|
|Middle East and North Africa||OSN Sports|
|Netherlands||Fox, Fox Sports|
|New Zealand||Television New Zealand, ESPN|
|Sri Lanka||Sony ESPN|
|United Kingdom||BBC (via world feed), Sky Sports (via Fox)|
Canadian broadcast rights to Super Bowl LI were subject to a still-ongoing legal dispute; although U.S. network affiliates are carried by pay TV providers in the country, Canadian law grants domestic broadcast stations the right to require that these signals be substituted with their own if they are carrying the same program in simulcast with a U.S. station ("simsub"). This policy is intended to help protect Canadian advertising revenue from being lost to viewers watching via U.S. feeds of a program. In 2016, as part of a larger series of regulatory reforms, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) banned the Super Bowl from being substituted under these circumstances, meaning that the telecast on CTV—a simulcast of the U.S. telecast with Canadian advertising inserted, would co-exist with feeds of the game from U.S. network affiliates. The CRTC cited dissatisfaction surrounding the practice from Canadian viewers—particularly the unavailability of the U.S. commercials, which the CRTC cited as being an "integral part" of the game based on this reception, but also other technical problems caused by poorly implemented simsubs (such as reduced quality and missing content due to mistimed transitions back into the U.S. program feed).
The NFL's Canadian rights holder Bell Media, as well as the league itself, have displayed objections to the policy; Bell felt that the decision devalued its exclusive Canadian rights to the game, and violated Canada's Broadcasting Act, which forbids the "making of regulations singling out a particular program or licensee." On November 2, 2016, Bell was granted the right to challenge the ruling in the Federal Court of Appeal. Bell, the NFL, and government representatives from both Canada and the U.S., have lobbied the CRTC for the rule to be retracted. However, court action on the ruling was not taken in time for the game, meaning that it was in effect for the first time during Super Bowl LI. Bell Media cited the decision, among other factors, as justification for a planned series of layoffs it announced on January 31, 2017.
The simsub prohibition only applied to the game itself, and not pre-game or post-game programming (which was simulcast with Fox and subject to simsub). In an attempt to mitigate the loss of de facto exclusivity to the clean U.S. feeds, Bell simulcast the game across CTV Two and TSN in addition to CTV, and organized a sponsored sweepstakes in which viewers could earn entries to win cash and automobile prizes by texting keywords displayed during the Canadian telecast. Montreal Gazette media analyst Steve Faguy felt that these promotions were an attempt to offset the loss of viewership by carrying the game across as many of its channels as possible, and providing incentives for viewers to watch the game on CTV instead of Fox. He further noted that Bell still had exclusive rights to stream the game in Canada via CTV's TV Everywhere services, as the CRTC does not regulate web content, and Fox's online stream is only available to U.S. users. Consequently, some Canadian companies (such as Leon's and Pizza Pizza) took advantage of the CRTC decision by buying local advertising time during the game from Fox affiliates distributed in Canada in order to target these viewers, such as KAYU-TV in Spokane (which is widely carried by television providers in the significantly larger markets of Calgary and Edmonton, Alberta).
Viewership of Super Bowl LI across the three English-language Bell Media properties broadcasting it was down by 39% in comparison to Super Bowl 50, with only 4.47 million viewers. Viewership on the French-language telecast presented by TSN's sister network RDS was in line with that of Super Bowl 50. It is not known how many Canadian viewers watched the game via Fox, as neither Nielsen or Canadian ratings provider Numeris calculate Canadian viewership of American broadcasters.
In the United States, Westwood One carried the broadcast nationwide, with Kevin Harlan on play-by-play, Boomer Esiason and Mike Holmgren on color commentary, and sideline reports from Tony Boselli and James Lofton. The Westwood One broadcast was simulcast in Canada on TSN Radio. Each team's network flagship station carried the local feed: WBZ-FM for the Patriots (with Bob Socci and Scott Zolak announcing), and WZGC for the Falcons (with Wes Durham and Dave Archer announcing); under the league's contract with Westwood One, no other stations in the teams' usual radio networks were allowed to carry the local broadcast, and unlike in recent years when at least one of the two flagships was a clear-channel station, both the Patriots and Falcons use FM radio stations as their local flagships, limiting listenership to those within the local metropolitan areas or with access to those feeds via Sirius XM satellite radio or TuneIn Premium.
–Pope Francis indicated that by participating in sports events, people show an ability to go beyond self-interests and build friendship and solidarity with one another.
During pre-game festivities, the NFL honored members of the Pro Football Hall of Fame that had played college football at historically black colleges and universities. Of the 303 members of the Hall of Fame, 29 were from HBCUs.
The Patriots took the field first as the designated away team to Ozzy Osbourne's "Crazy Train". The Falcons took the field second as the designated home team to Trick Daddy's "Let's Go". Both teams' season recaps were presented by Ving Rhames.
Before the game, American country music singer and songwriter Luke Bryan sang the US national anthem. Bryan was the first male performer to sing the national anthem at a Super Bowl since Billy Joel at Super Bowl XLI. Immediately before Bryan sang the national anthem, Phillipa Soo, Renée Elise Goldsberry and Jasmine Cephas Jones, who originated the roles of the Schuyler sisters in the Broadway musical Hamilton, performed "America the Beautiful".
After the national anthem, former President George H. W. Bush performed the coin toss alongside his wife, Barbara. The Patriots called heads, but the Falcons won the coin toss with tails. The Falcons chose to defer to the second half.
On September 29, 2016, Lady Gaga, who had performed the national anthem the previous year at Super Bowl 50, confirmed that she would be performing at the Super Bowl LI halftime show on her Instagram account with the message: "It's not an illusion. The rumors are true. This year the SUPER BOWL goes GAGA!" Fox Sports president and executive producer of the show, John Entz, confirmed Gaga's involvement adding "[She] is one of the most electric performers of our generation, and we couldn't be happier with the choice to have her headline the Super Bowl LI Halftime Show... It is going to be an incredible night."
Lady Gaga opened the halftime show with a combination of "God Bless America" and "This Land Is Your Land". Her performance also included some of her biggest hit songs, such as "Poker Face", "Born This Way", "Million Reasons", and "Bad Romance" and was accompanied by a swarm of 300 LED-equipped Intel drones forming an American flag in the sky in a pre-recorded segment.
Mohamed Sanu stated the long length of the halftime show played a part in Atlanta ultimately losing the game. Teams on average are off the field for fifteen minutes during halftime, but Super Bowl halftimes are considerably longer. Unlike the Falcons it appears Bill Belichick actually incorporated the length of the show into the team's practices. Sanu's argument was discounted by the fact that Atlanta marched the ball downfield and scored a touchdown right out of halftime.
The first quarter of Super Bowl LI was a scoreless defensive match with each team punting twice. The longest play from scrimmage was a 37-yard carry by Falcons running back Devonta Freeman, which did not lead to any points, though it would be the longest run of the game for either team.
On the first play of the second quarter, New England's quarterback Tom Brady completed a 27-yard pass to wide receiver Julian Edelman on the Falcons 33-yard line. But on the next play, linebacker Deion Jones stripped the ball from running back LeGarrette Blount; the fumble was recovered by defensive back Robert Alford on the 29-yard line. On the next two plays, Matt Ryan completed passes to Julio Jones for gains of 19 and 23 yards. Freeman ran the ball on the next three plays, covering the remaining 29 yards to the end zone, with the last carry being a 5-yard touchdown run that put Atlanta on the board with a 7–0 lead.
New England failed to get a first down on the series following the Freeman score, and the Falcons moved the ball 62 yards in five plays. Ryan started the drive with a 24-yard completion to Taylor Gabriel, then completed a pass to Jones for an 18-yard gain. On 3rd-and-9, he threw a 19-yard touchdown pass to tight end Austin Hooper, giving the Falcons a 14–0 lead. It was the largest deficit Brady had ever faced in his seven Super Bowl appearances, and it would soon grow larger. New England responded with a drive to the Falcons 23, aided by three defensive holding penalties against the Atlanta defense, each one giving them a first down on a third down play. However, on 3rd-and-6, Brady threw a pass that was intercepted by Alford and returned 82 yards for a touchdown, increasing Atlanta's lead to 21–0. It was the first time in his career that Brady had thrown a pick-six (interception returned for a touchdown) in his 33 postseason games, and Alford's 82-yard return was the second longest interception return in Super Bowl history. Getting the ball back with 2:20 left in the second quarter, Brady completed a 15-yard pass to Martellus Bennett, and then a short pass to running back James White, who took off for a 28-yard gain. The drive stalled at the Falcons 20-yard line, but Stephen Gostkowski successfully made a field goal with two seconds left on the clock to send the teams into their locker rooms with the score 21–3.
New England had an early third quarter scoring opportunity when Edelman returned a punt 26 yards to the Patriots' 47-yard line, but they could not gain a first down on the drive. Following the Patriots' punt, the Falcons started their drive on their own 15-yard line; Ryan completed two long passes to wide receiver Taylor Gabriel for gains of 17 and 35 yards to bring the ball to the New England 28-yard line. Four plays later, Ryan finished the 85-yard drive with a 6-yard touchdown pass to running back Tevin Coleman, giving the Falcons a 28–3 lead with 8:31 left in the quarter. On the next series, Brady led the Patriots 75 yards in 13 plays for a responding touchdown, completing five of seven passes for 43 yards, the biggest a 17-yard completion to Danny Amendola on 4th-and-3 from the New England 46-yard line. Brady also made a big play by helping his own cause, rushing for a 15-yard gain (which would be the longest rushing play by the Patriots on the day) on 3rd-and-8 from the Atlanta 35-yard line. Three subsequent carries by Blount moved the ball 15 yards to the 5-yard line, and then Brady threw the ball to White for a touchdown, but Gostkowski missed an extra point as the attempt struck the goalpost, thereby sending the score to 28–9.
New England then attempted an onside kick, but the ball was recovered by Falcons linebacker LaRoy Reynolds, and a penalty against Gostkowski for touching the ball before it went ten yards, gave Atlanta even better field position. Ryan completed a 9-yard pass to Hooper to the Patriots 32-yard-line, but on the next play, a holding penalty on Atlanta offensive lineman Jake Matthews pushed the team back ten yards. Then, after an incompletion, Trey Flowers and Kyle Van Noy shared a sack on Ryan that effectively forced the Falcons to punt on the first play of the fourth quarter.
Matt Bosher's 42-yard punt pinned the Patriots back on their own 13-yard line. Brady led the next drive down the field, completing three passes to wide receiver Malcolm Mitchell for 40 yards and one to Bennett for 25 to bring the ball to the Falcons 7-yard line. However, Brady was sacked twice by defensive tackle Grady Jarrett over the next three plays. The Patriots had to settle for a field goal, where Gostkowski attempted a 33-yard field goal, which was good, and it cut their deficit to two scores, 28–12, with less than 10 minutes left in the game. Atlanta had burned two of their three time outs on defense and equipment malfunction.
On the third play of Atlanta's ensuing drive, Freeman missed his blocking assignment on a New England blitz that allowed linebacker Dont'a Hightower to sack Ryan as he was winding up for a pass, resulting in a fumble that was recovered by defensive tackle Alan Branch on the Falcons 25-yard line. It was Ryan's first turnover in two months. New England soon cashed in their scoring opportunity, with Brady throwing a 6-yard touchdown pass to Amendola. Then White took a direct snap in for a two-point conversion to make the score 28–20 in favor of Atlanta with 5:56 left on the clock. The Patriots had run the same play for a two-point conversion with Kevin Faulk in their Super Bowl XXXVIII victory.
On the first play of Atlanta's next possession, Freeman caught a short pass from Ryan and ran it for a 39-yard gain, the longest play of the game for either team. Then on 2nd-and-9 from the Patriots 49-yard line, Ryan threw a deep pass to Jones, who made an acrobatic catch at the right sideline for a 27-yard gain, giving the Falcons a first down on the Patriots 22-yard line with 4:40 left on the clock and a chance for a late-game two-score lead that would have clinched the game. On the next play, Freeman ran for a 1-yard loss on a tackle by Devin McCourty. Atlanta tried to pass the ball on second down, but Flowers sacked Ryan for a 12-yard loss on the Patriots 35-yard line. Ryan then completed a 9-yard pass to Mohamed Sanu on 3rd-and-23 to get back into field goal range, but this was nullified due to an offensive holding penalty on Matthews. Now out of field goal range and faced with 3rd-and-33 from the New England 45-yard line, Ryan threw an incomplete pass, and the team was left with no good choice but to punt the ball to New England.
Bosher's 36-yard kick gave the Patriots the ball on their own 9-yard line with 3:30 left on the clock and two of their timeouts left. After two incompletions, Brady picked up a first down with a 16-yard pass to Chris Hogan. After an 11-yard pass to Mitchell, Brady threw a pass that was nearly intercepted by Alford. Instead, he batted the ball in the air, and it fell into the arms of Edelman, who made a diving catch as it bounced off Alford's shoe. Edelman just barely managed to get his hands under the ball before it hit the ground, securing the football for what would be ruled as a 23-yard pass completion. Atlanta challenged the on-field ruling, but referee Carl Cheffers announced that the call stood, and Atlanta was charged with their final timeout. Brady's next pass to Amendola gained 20 yards to the Falcons' 21-yard line as the clock ran down below the two-minute warning. Two more passes to White gained 20 yards and gave New England a first down at the 1-yard line. With 58 seconds left, White scored on a 1-yard touchdown run, and Brady completed a two-point conversion pass to Amendola, tying the score at 28 points apiece, thereby coming back from a 25-point deficit.
With the hopes of winning their first championship on the line, Atlanta started their drive deep in their own end with just under a minute and no time outs. The Falcons failed to get in range to score a possible game-winning field goal and punted, with the Patriots fair catching the ball at their own 35-yard line. The Patriots considered, but ultimately declined, ending regulation on what would have been the first fair catch kick ever attempted in a Super Bowl. Instead, New England attempted a fake quarterback kneel running play for Dion Lewis, who gained several yards but failed to score, ending the fourth quarter and forcing the game into overtime, the first time this had happened in the Super Bowl era, and the first in the NFL title game since the 1958 meeting between the Baltimore Colts and the New York Giants.
The Patriots won the coin toss to start overtime, and elected to receive the ball. Starting at their 25-yard line after a touchback, Brady completed passes to White, Amendola, and Hogan for gains of 6, 14, and 18 yards, respectively. Then, after White was dropped for a 3-yard loss, Brady completed a 15-yard pass to Edelman to the Falcons 25-yard line. White then took a lateral throw from Brady to the 15-yard line. Brady's pass to Bennett in the end zone fell incomplete, but Falcons linebacker De'Vondre Campbell was called for pass interference, giving the Patriots first-and-goal from the Falcons' 2-yard line. On first down, Brady threw another incomplete pass to Bennett that was deflected and nearly intercepted by Vic Beasley. On second down, White took a pitch and ran the ball right. He was hit by Falcons defenders at the 1-yard line, but managed to stretch forward and get the ball across the goal line before his knee hit the ground, scoring the winning touchdown. The Patriots won the game 34–28 for their fifth Super Bowl title after trailing by 25 points. It also marked the first time in NFL postseason history that a team leading by 17 points or more at the start of the fourth quarter went on to lose the game. Previously, dating back to 1940, teams leading by 17 or more points after three quarters in playoff games were 133–0 in such situations.
Statistics and records
Super Bowl LI had more than 30 records either broken or tied by the time it was done. Brady completed 43 of 62 passes for 466 yards and two touchdowns, with one interception, while also rushing for 15 yards. His completions, attempts, and passing yards were all single-game Super Bowl records. Brady ultimately became the first quarterback to win a Super Bowl in which he threw a ball that was intercepted for a touchdown. He also set the career Super Bowl records for games played (7), completions (207), attempts (309), yards (2,071), and touchdown passes (15). James White caught a Super Bowl record 14 passes for 110 yards, rushed for 29 yards, and tied a Super Bowl record with three touchdowns. He also set the record for most points scored with 20. After the game, Brady said he felt White deserved the MVP award more than he did. Brady planned to give White the vehicle that has traditionally been awarded to Super Bowl MVPs (he'd given the truck he received after Super Bowl XLIX to Malcolm Butler) but found out after the game that there was no vehicle to give to White because the sponsor had decided to end its practice of donating one. Edelman caught five passes for 87 yards and returned three punts for 39 yards. Amendola recorded eight receptions for 78 yards and one touchdown. Flowers recorded six tackles and 2.5 sacks. The Patriots overall gained an NFL postseason record 37 first downs in the game.
For Atlanta, Ryan completed 17 of 23 passes for 284 yards and two touchdowns. Freeman was the top rusher of the game with 11 carries for 75 yards and a touchdown, while also catching two passes for 46 yards. Jones was Atlanta's leading receiver with four receptions for 87 yards. Robert Alford had 11 tackles (9 solo), an interception returned for a touchdown, and a fumble recovery. Grady Jarrett had five tackles and tied a Super Bowl record with three sacks.
Atlanta became the first team in Super Bowl history to return an interception for a touchdown and lose the game. Prior to Super Bowl LI, teams returning an interception for a touchdown in the Super Bowl had been a perfect 12–0. New England had two turnovers for the game, while Atlanta only turned the ball over once. This made New England the fifth team to win a Super Bowl despite losing the turnover battle, joining the Baltimore Colts in Super Bowl V, the Pittsburgh Steelers in Super Bowls XIV and XL, and the Patriots in Super Bowl XLIX.
The game set the record for the largest deficit overcome to win the Super Bowl (the previous record was ten points, set by the Washington Redskins in Super Bowl XXII and matched by the New Orleans Saints in Super Bowl XLIV and by the Patriots in Super Bowl XLIX); it is the third-largest comeback win in NFL playoff history, behind The Comeback (32-point deficit; Buffalo Bills trailed 35–3 and won 41–38) and the wild card game between the Indianapolis Colts and the Kansas City Chiefs during the 2013–14 NFL playoffs (28-point deficit; Colts trailed 38–10 and won, 45–44). In addition to being the largest Super Bowl comeback, the game set the record for the largest fourth-quarter comeback in NFL playoff history, as no team had previously won a playoff game after trailing by 17 or more points entering the final quarter; the Patriots were trailing by 19 points at the start of the fourth quarter by a score of 28–9. The Patriots won their fifth franchise championship, all under the leadership of starting quarterback Tom Brady, the most by a single quarterback. Brady won his fourth Super Bowl MVP, the most such awards by a single player in history. This game represented the largest comeback in the history of the New England Patriots' regular season or post-season games, and Tom Brady's NFL career.
Super Bowl LI became the first Super Bowl in history in which the winning team had never held the lead at any point during regulation time, and it also became the first Super Bowl in history in which the winning team did not score on a PAT kick, as the Patriots missed their only PAT attempt during the game, which occurred following their first touchdown, opted for two-point conversions after each of their next two touchdowns, and did not have to attempt the extra point after their game-winning touchdown in overtime.
|Statistic||New England Patriots||Atlanta Falcons|
|First downs rushing||7||3|
|First downs passing||26||13|
|First downs penalty||4||1|
|Third down efficiency||7/14||1/8|
|Fourth down efficiency||1/1||0/0|
|Total net yards||546||344|
|Net yards rushing||104||104|
|Yards per rush||4.2||5.8|
|Net yards passing||442||240|
|Passing – completions/attempts||43/63||17/23|
|Times sacked-total yards||5–24||5–44|
|Punt returns-total yards||4–39||1–0|
|Kickoff returns-total yards||1–20||5–42|
|Interceptions-total return yards||0–0||1–82|
|Time of possession||40:31||23:27|
|Most Super Bowl appearances, as team||9||New England Patriots|
|Most pass attempts, team (game)||63|
|Most pass completions, team (game)||43|
|Most passing yards, team (game)||442|
|Most first downs, team (game)||37|
|Most first downs via pass, team (game)||26|
|Most offensive plays, team (game)||93|
|Most points in overtime, team (game)||6|
|Largest deficit overcome, winning team||25 points|
|Largest deficit overcome after third quarter, winning team||19 points|
|Largest deficit overcome after second quarter, winning team||18 points|
|Least playing time in lead, winning team||0:00|
|Most Super Bowl appearances, as player||7||Tom Brady |
|Most Super Bowl appearances, as starting player||7|
|Most Super Bowl championships won, as quarterback||5|
|Most Super Bowl MVP awards||4|
|Most pass attempts, player (career)||309|
|Most pass attempts, player (game)||62|
|Most pass completions, player (career)||207|
|Most pass completions, player (game)||43|
|Most passing yards, player (career)||2,071|
|Most passing yards, player (game)||466|
|Most touchdown passes, player (career)||15|
|Oldest starting quarterback||39 years, 186 days|
|Most Super Bowl appearances, as head coach||7||Bill Belichick |
|Most Super Bowl appearances, as coach||10|
|Most Super Bowl appearances, in any capacity||10|
|Most Super Bowls won, as head coach||5|
|Most pass receptions, player (game)||14||James White |
|Most points scored, player (game)||20|
|Most net passing yards, total (both teams, game)||682||New England Patriots 442, Atlanta Falcons 240|
|Most gross passing yards, total (both teams, game)||750||New England 466, Atlanta 284|
|Most first downs, total (both teams, game)||54||New England 37, Atlanta 17|
|Most first downs via pass, total (both teams, game)||39||New England 26, Atlanta 13|
|Most points in overtime, total (game)||6||New England 6, Atlanta 0|
|Longest playing time (game)||63:58||first overtime game in Super Bowl history|
|Most playing time in lead, losing team||41:18||Atlanta Falcons|
|Most games won, as player||5||Tom Brady |
|Most touchdowns scored, player (game)||3||James White |
|Most sacks, player (game)||3||Grady Jarrett (Atlanta)|
|Most touchdowns scored, losing team (game)||4||Atlanta|
|Most two-point conversions scored, player (game)||1||James White (New England)|
Danny Amendola (New England)
|Most two-point conversions scored, player (career)||1|
|Most two-point conversions scored, team (game)||2||New England|
|Most two-point conversions scored, total (both teams, game)||2||New England 2, Atlanta 0|
|Most first downs via penalty, team (game)||4||New England|
Sources: The Football Database Super Bowl LI
|Chris Hogan||WR||Julio Jones|
|Nate Solder||LT||Jake Matthews|
|Joe Thuney||LG||Andy Levitre|
|David Andrews||C||Alex Mack|
|Shaq Mason||RG||Chris Chester|
|Marcus Cannon||RT||Ryan Schraeder|
|Martellus Bennett||TE||Levine Toilolo|
|Julian Edelman||WR||Mohamed Sanu|
|Tom Brady||QB||Matt Ryan|
|Malcolm Mitchell||WR||RB||Devonta Freeman|
|Dion Lewis||RB||FB||Patrick DiMarco|
|Duron Harmon||DB||DE||Dwight Freeney|
|Alan Branch||DT||Ra'Shede Hageman|
|Malcom Brown||DT||DB||Brian Poole|
|Trey Flowers||RE||DE||Grady Jarrett|
|Shea McClellin||LB||Vic Beasley|
|Dont'a Hightower||LB||Deion Jones|
|Rob Ninkovich||LB||De'Vondre Campbell|
|Logan Ryan||RCB||CB||Robert Alford|
|Malcolm Butler||LCB||CB||Jalen Collins|
|Patrick Chung||S||Ricardo Allen|
|Devin McCourty||S||Keanu Neal|
- Referee: Carl Cheffers (51)
- Umpire: Dan Ferrell (64)
- Head linesman: Kent Payne (79)
- Line judge: Jeff Seeman (45)
- Field judge: Doug Rosenbaum (67)
- Side judge: Dyrol Prioleau (109)
- Back judge: Todd Prukop (30)
- Replay official: Tom Sifferman
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