Super Bowl LI: Tom Brady leads largest ever SB comeback in Patriots' historic win over Falcons

Super Bowl LI: Tom Brady leads largest ever SB comeback in Patriots' historic win over Falcons

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HOUSTON -- They looked old and outmanned. Their star quarterback was frazzled, their stingy defense was a sieve.

So what? Tom Brady and the New England Patriots shrugged and did what they always seem to do: Win the Super Bowl.

Brady led one of the greatest comebacks in sports history highlighted by a Julian Edelman catch that was almost beyond belief. The Patriots pulled themselves out of a 25-point hole against the Atlanta Falcons to a 34-28 win for New England's fifth NFL championship. It was the first Super Bowl decided in overtime.

"There were a lot of plays that coach talks about, you never know which one is going to be the Super Bowl winner," said Brady, who earned a record fourth MVP award and a fifth Super Bowl ring, the most for a quarterback (see story). "There were probably 30 of those plays tonight and (if) any one of those were different, the outcome could have been different."

But down 28-3 in the third quarter, Tom?

"It's hard to imagine us winning," the 39-year-old Brady said. "It took a lot of great plays and that's why you play to the end."

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 after winning the coin toss. White scored three touchdowns and a 2-pointer.

"We knew we had a shot the whole game," White said. "It was an amazing comeback by our team. It's surreal right now. You couldn't write this script."

Brady 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 finished 43 for 62, the most attempts in Super Bowl history, for 466 yards, also a record, and two touchdowns.

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, they stumbled on offense and Brady tore them apart.

"There's nothing you can really say," Ryan said. "That's a tough loss, obviously very disappointing, very close to getting done what we wanted to get done."

It wasn't difficult for Patriots owner Robert Kraft as he accepted the Lombardi Trophy from Commissioner Roger 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."

Brady and coach Bill Belichick won their 25th postseason game, by far a record. The Falcons added to Atlanta's long history of pro sports frustration.

Belichick became the first coach with five Super Bowl crowns.

The Patriots won the coin toss for overtime, and by then it was no contest. Brady completed six passes against an overmatched Falcons secondary. 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.

The comeback included dozens of huge plays, including Ryan's fumble on a sack, Edelman's catch off of a defender's shoe and Brady's passing.

White had 14 receptions for 110 yards, but Brady hit seven different receivers.

Until the Patriots took charge with their late surge, league MVP Ryan was outplaying Brady and NRG stadium rocked with Falcons' fans chants of "A-T-L!"

In a game that started as a defensive struggle, the Falcons went sack-happy, getting two on the Patriots' second drive in what would be a scoreless opening quarter.

It sure looked as if the Patriots would get on the board immediately in the second period as Brady and Edelman connected twice for 40 yards. But LeGarrette Blount's fumble turned the momentum to the Falcons, who then took their biggest lead in a Super Bowl -- yeah, we know, they have been here only twice -- on Freeman's 5-yard run to cap a quick 71-yard drive on which Jones came alive.

Jones showed why he is an All-Pro receiver with a tough leaping catch over the middle for 19 yards, then got open on the sideline for 23. Freeman did the rest.

Before New England could catch its breath, Ryan had the Falcons up 14-0. Using the no-huddle attack to perfection, he threw for 51 yards on a 52-yard drive, hitting Hooper with a pinpoint pass in the left side of the end zone.

Then Brady was victimized by his own poor decision, a rarity on the big stage. Atlanta was called for defensive holding three times on third downs to keep the drive alive. From the Falcons 23, under pressure Brady tried to squeeze a throw to Danny Amendola. Alford stepped in and sprinted, then glided 82 yards for the second-longest pick-6 in a Super Bowl -- and Brady's first.

Shockingly, it was 21-0.

New England gathered its wits for a 52-yard drive to Stephen Gostkowski's 41-yard field goal. Still, it was 21-3 when Lady Gaga took the stage.

There was smoke hanging over the field when both teams had three-and-outs to open the third quarter. The Falcons looked in control when Ryan and Co., marched 85 yards to Coleman's 6-yard TD catch on a swing pass.

New England scored the next nine points on James White's 5-yard TD reception -- the extra point was missed by Gostkowski, who later made a 33-yard field goal.

The Patriots kept coming, the Falcons kept flopping, and soon Brady and his buddies somehow had No. 5.

"Just play every play," Edelman said. "We never quit."

For complete Super Bowl LI coverage, see CSNNE.com.

Eagles should stay away from running backs in first round

Eagles should stay away from running backs in first round

Ezekiel Elliott was the fourth overall pick by the Cowboys in the 2016 NFL draft.

He went on to have a historic rookie season, leading the NFL in rushing behind the best offensive line in football.

But do you know who finished second in the league in rushing? That would be the Bears' Jordan Howard, another rookie, drafted in the fifth round. 

If you keep going down the list of the league's top rushers last season, nine out of the top 10 on the list were drafted after the first round. Only three backs in the top 10 were drafted in the first two rounds (Elliott, LeSean McCoy, Le'Veon Bell). 

Whether it's LSU's Leonard Fournette, Florida State's Dalvin Cook or Stanford's Christian McCaffrey, the Eagles should stay away from running backs in the first round.

We'll start with Fournette, considered by most to be the best running back in the class. He was also mocked to the Eagles in a trade-up scenario by Sports Illustrated's Chris Burke with the No. 5 overall pick. Burke is an excellent evaluator, but in this case, he's off the mark. Fournette's talent is real. His combination of size and speed is unmatched by any running back in the class and perhaps any running back in the NFL. He'll correctly be the first back off the board and go in the top 10. 

But would the Eagles give up a second-round pick to obtain Fournette? It's just hard to see as realistic. This team has too many holes and not enough draft picks to make a move like Burke suggests. Fournette looks like he'll be a special player, just not for the Eagles.

Then there's Cook, who seems to be the belle of the ball with Eagles fans. Watching the tape, it's undeniable: Cook is an extremely talented player. But evaluations aren't black and white. Cook has issues with injuries (multiple shoulder surgeries) and has had a couple issues off the field. 

He also tested poorly at the combine. In the biggest audition of his life, Cook's numbers didn't match what you saw on tape. That has to make you wonder if he was fully prepared for the combine. If the Eagles take Cook, there's no doubt he'll make their offense better. The biggest concern has to be his long-term success and the value you get taking him at 14 over another player at a more valuable position.

Lastly, there's McCaffrey. It's easy to see the fit here. McCaffrey is an explosive back who runs routes and has the ball skills of a receiver. He's also incredibly dangerous in the return game. Unlike Cook, McCaffrey tested off the charts in Indy. His strength (10 reps at 225) is the only real concern.

From a scheme perspective, McCaffrey is perfectly suited for Doug Pederson's offense. Pederson can use McCaffrey much like Andy Reid used Brian Westbrook over a decade ago. McCaffrey's struggles running between the tackles are a little overblown, but it still has to be a concern for a team that doesn't have a proven, primary back. 

This is also a strong running back class. Toledo's Kareem Hunt would fit nicely in this offense and should be available in the third round. Clemson's Wayne Gallman is a tough, versatile back that could be available in the third or fourth. There's also BYU's Jamaal Williams, Pitt's James Conner and Wyoming's Brian Hill, all of whom should be there in the middle rounds.

When you look at who else could be there at 14, it just doesn't make sense to draft a running back. If you're looking to give Carson Wentz more weapons, either Clemson's Mike Williams, Western Michigan's Corey Davis or Washington's John Ross should be there. Any of them could give Wentz a long-term receiving threat. 

If you're looking to improve the defense, there are plenty of options. In case you've been living under a rock this offseason, this cornerback draft class is crazy deep. Ohio State's Marshon Lattimore is the best of the bunch and will likely be gone by 14. His teammate, Gareon Conley, should still be around at 14. So should LSU's TreDavious White, Alabama's Marlon Humphrey, Clemson's Cordrea Tankersely and Florida's Quincy Wilson. 

Don't count out Tennessee defensive end Derek Barnett as an option if he's on the board. With Vinny Curry's struggles and the Eagles' lack of depth, a pass rusher is a definite need. If Alabama linebacker Reuben Foster slips for a spat he had with a hospital worker during the combine, he's worth a long look. He's a game-changing 'backer.

Elliott was as close to a sure thing as you can get. There's a reason he was taken at No. 4 overall. If Cook and McCaffrey are there at 14, there's a reason for that, too. 

Eagles owner Jeff Lurie rails against political polarization in Washington

Eagles owner Jeff Lurie rails against political polarization in Washington

Eagles owner Jeff Lurie isn't often very outspoken on football or political matters. 

He has apparently made an exception. 

Just a few days before Lurie is tentatively scheduled to speak to Philadelphia reporters while in Phoenix for the league's annual meetings, the Eagles owner authored a story for Time Magazine railing against political polarization in Washington.

Lurie has not spoken to reporters publicly since last March in Boca Raton, Florida, at the 2016 owners meetings. 

The owner's essay was published just hours after House Republican leaders pulled legislation to repeal the Affordable Care Act on Friday afternoon. Lurie, for the record, donated money to Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign last year.

Lurie, the Eagles' 65-year-old billionaire owner, in the story, uses football as an example for which Washington should strive. 

Here's how Lurie begins the piece:

"What do football, political polarization and autism have in common? They all illuminate aspects of the human condition, explaining who we are, where we are headed and the hurdles along the way. As a sports team owner I rarely publicly discuss politics, but as a member of a family touched by autism, I often think about the unspoken millions of people who live with the daily challenges of this disorder."

Lurie then goes on to explain why football can act as a guide for Washington when it comes to united for the common good:

"What I have learned from football can be applied to society at large. Just as we intensely game-plan against an opponent in sports, we need to game plan for the reality and consequences of polarization. Extreme polarization is the opponent -- not each other. A football team is made up of players from a wide variety of backgrounds, experiences and political viewpoints. What unites them is grit, determination, and the desire to win. They join in a common goal and do what is necessary to transcend their differences for the greater good of their team.

"What unites Americans is far more negative. We are now in an age where communicating verifiable information becomes secondary to the goal of creating a common enemy that unifies people in fear, negativity and opposition. This masks our inability to solve serious domestic problems (poverty, violence and institutional racism to name three current examples) and diverts our attention from obvious suffering."

Lurie then writes that we, as Americans, have the "necessary resources" to tackle serious problems, like autism, but lack the leadership to put aside differences. 

The whole piece isn't very long and is worth reading in full to gain a better understanding of its context. 

Next week while in Phoenix, Lurie will surely be asked about what motivated him to write the piece.