Philadelphia Eagles

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.

Dolphins' Nate Allen "can only think of positives" of his time with Eagles

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Dolphins' Nate Allen "can only think of positives" of his time with Eagles

For the first time since he left the Eagles after the 2014 season, Nate Allen found himself practicing at the NovaCare Complex Monday afternoon.

Still wearing No. 29. Just a Dolphins' No. 29 these days.

"It was different," he said. "When I got here, it felt like I was still living down the street. So many memories. All of them good.

"It brought back a lot of memories even when I pulled into downtown, just remembering (the city), staying down there near some places you used to eat. It was good. When I look back, it was just was a great experience for me.”

While Byron Maxwell and Kiko Alonso held big press conferences at a podium for a battery of cameras and microphones (see story), Allen — who spent twice as long with the Eagles as Maxwell and Alonso combined — was 100 yards away quietly talking about his own tenure in Philly.

"Obviously went through ups and downs, but that's kind of the game of football," he said. "But when I look back I can only think of positives. 

"Being with Andy (Reid) and Chip (Kelly) and just the memories and the relationships I've built around here, it was a great experience."

Allen was always a divisive player here.

He was drafted with a second-round pick acquired from the Redskins in the Donovan McNabb deal, and he essentially was brought here in 2010 to replace Brian Dawkins, a year after he had signed with the Broncos. 

Allen became a steady starter with the Eagles but was never a crowd favorite, mainly because he wasn't Dawk. But from 2010 through 2014, he started 69 games, picked off 10 passes, survived the coaching change from Reid to Kelly, reached the playoffs twice.

During that five-year span, only two Eagles — Trent Cole and Brent Celek — played in more games than Allen.

In the last 25 years, only two safeties have played more games in an Eagles uniform than Allen — Dawk and Michael Zordich.

"It was huge being under Andy," Allen said. "You're not going to find a better coach than him, so the fact that I was able to come into that situation and I had some older guys—- like Asante (Samuel), Ellis Hobbs, Quintin Mikell — to take me under their wing and show me the ropes, it was big."

Allen spent the last two years with the Raiders before signing a one-year, $3.4 million deal with the Dolphins this past spring.

“He’s done exactly what we brought him here to do," Dolphins coach Adam Gase said Monday. "His job is to make sure nobody gets over the top and if somebody gets to you, get them down. He seems to be in the right place (at the) right time. He does a great job as far as knowing his assignment. He can help other guys. 

"It’s great having a veteran leader in that room, another one, and his special teams value is very high for us."

Allen, Brandon Graham and Clay Harbor are the only members of that 2010 Eagles draft class still in the NFL.

Anybody seen Daniel Te'o-Nesheim lately?

"I’ve got to give the good Lord thanks for keeping me healthy," Allen said after the Eagles-Dolphins joint practice Monday (see observations). "I’ve been blessed to play for … this is going on eight (years) so yes, it’s been a blessing."

The Dolphins have Allen penciled in as a starting safety opposite Rashad Jones in a back-seven that also includes Maxwell and Alonso.

Eight years after the Eagles drafted him out of South Florida, Allen is an example of what persistence, durability and intelligence can do.

Most players in the NFL are closer to Allen than Dawk. They're not stars, they're just smart and talented and able to play well into their 30s.

What's the difference between Nate Allen of 2010 and Nate Allen of 2017?

“I’m just wiser (and) more mentally in-tune to the game," Allen said. "I’ve just seen a lot now and I feel like I’ve been through different situations and just about every situation you probably can be in. So wisdom, probably.”

Celek, Graham, Jason Peters and Jon Dorenbos are the only players left from Allen's rookie year, but there are 18 players on the team that he played with at some point here and several coaches, including Doug Pederson.

"It's just good seeing those guys," he said. "You build relationships with those guys and obviously we're on different teams but you still have those relationships and it's just great to see them again."

Former teammate Jay Cutler thinks Alshon Jeffery will be just fine

Former teammate Jay Cutler thinks Alshon Jeffery will be just fine

For the last few weeks, there has been plenty of talk about Alshon Jeffery. He was hurt, then Doug Pederson kept him out and then his position coach said he was behind (see story).
 
Turns out, all everyone needed was just a little Jay Cutler perspective on the whole situation.
 
Cutler, in his typical Jay Cutler fashion, said on Monday that he wouldn't be worried at all about Jeffery.
 
"He'll be fine," said Cutler, who was teammates with Jeffery for five seasons in Chicago before joining the Dolphins this summer. "Obviously, I don't know what's going on here, I don't know where he is in the system, what his production's been like.
 
"As long as he's healthy, he's going to produce. He's going to go out there, he's a pro. He knows football, he's got a great feel, great instincts. If he's healthy, that wouldn't be a guy I'd worry about."
 
Cutler and the Dolphins are in town early for this Thursday's preseason game at the Linc and are having joint practices with the Eagles on Monday and Tuesday. Obviously, a big topic of conversation with Cutler was about his former teammate.
 
So a few questions later, Cutler was again asked about him.
 
"You guys are worried about Alshon," Cutler said jokingly. "He's going to be fine. What's going on? Is something going on that I don't know about?"
 
It was explained to Cutler that Jeffery missed some practice time during camp after hurting his shoulder. 
 
"Well, he had a shoulder injury," Cutler said. "What do you want him to do?"
 
Jeffery, who signed a one-year deal to join the Eagles this offseason, played in the Eagles' second preseason game after missing the first. And on Monday, he probably had his best practice since joining the team (see 10 observations).
 
Dolphins head coach and former Bears offensive coordinator Adam Gase has said Jeffery is the only player he's ever coached that had him feel comfortable enough to tell his quarterback to just throw it up even if he isn't open.
 
Carson Wentz is still building that type of chemistry with Jeffery, but Cutler remembers what it was like to have a target like that.
 
"You just throw it," Cutler said. "You just throw it out there and he'll make it right. You get a guy like that 1-on-1, you can back shoulder him, you can put him over the top. It's hard to cover a guy like that and I'm sure Carson and some of these quarterbacks have witnessed his ability to catch the back shoulder balls and get on top of guys as well."
 
Jeffery is two years removed from his last 1,000-yard season, but the Eagles are really hoping he can regain the form that led to back-to-back seasons with at least 85 catches and 1,100 yards in 2013 and 2014. Cutler, of course, was his quarterback then.
 
And he still thinks his former teammate has it.
 
"Obviously, he's had a shoulder injury," Cutler said. "He had some injuries for us (the Bears) that were speed bumps for him. But when he's healthy and he's rolling, he's one of the best out there."