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.

NFL Notes: Rams' All-Pro Aaron Donald skips OTAs amid contract talks

NFL Notes: Rams' All-Pro Aaron Donald skips OTAs amid contract talks

THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. -- All-Pro defensive lineman Aaron Donald has skipped the Los Angeles Rams' first day of organized team activities while he negotiates a long-term contract extension with the club.

Rams general manager Les Snead says the team knew Donald wouldn't be at their training complex Monday.

Snead acknowledged Donald's absence is because of their contract negotiations, which are reaching "the serious part." The GM is confident Donald will be a long-term fixture on the Rams' line.

The Rams exercised their fifth-year option for 2018 on Donald last month. He will make nearly $7 million next year. Snead has repeatedly said the Rams plan to sign Donald to a long-term deal.

Donald is a three-time Pro Bowler and a two-time All-Pro in his three-year career.

Vikings: Zimmer takes time off after latest eye surgery
MINNEAPOLIS -- Minnesota Vikings coach Mike Zimmer finally relented, taking some time away from the team to allow his right eye a proper recovery from his latest surgery.

Better in the spring than during the fall, he realized.

As Zimmer departed Monday for some rest and relaxation at his vacation ranch in rural Kentucky, general manager Rick Spielman said the organization anticipates a return by Zimmer "in a few weeks." Players will take the field Tuesday for the first of 13 scheduled offseason practices, including the three-day mandatory minicamp that runs June 13-15.

"We all agree Mike's health is the priority, and we believe rest and recovery are in his best interest for the long term," Spielman said.

Zimmer directed a free youth football camp Saturday at team headquarters. He revealed to reporters that he underwent an eighth procedure on the eye last week, a trying seven-month stretch that has included several unplanned operations (see full story).

Jets: Former 2nd-round pick Smith waived
FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- Wide receiver Devin Smith has been waived from the injury list by the New York Jets.

A second-round draft pick from Ohio State in 2015, Smith rarely saw the field for the Jets. He tore his ACL during the offseason workout program after he appeared in four games last season. He started that season on the physically unable to perform list while rehabbing from another ACL tear suffered in December 2015.

If Smith clears waivers, he would revert to the Jets' injured reserve list.

"It's bad luck and bad timing because the kid worked so hard to get back," coach Todd Bowles said last month during the NFL draft. "He has to persevere and adversity will help him get stronger. But unfortunately in this game, over my course of time playing and coaching, you see these types of things. Some of the best athletes get hurt and don't get a chance to get on the field, and it's just bad timing, bad luck."

The Jets also re-signed wide receiver WR Deshon Foxx on Monday. Foxx originally signed with the Jets in January and was waived May 9. The Connecticut product first signed with Seattle 2015 after going undrafted and was waived/injured with a hamstring injury that August.

Buccaneers: TE Howard signs rookie deal
TAMPA, Fla. -- Tight end O.J. Howard has signed his rookie contract with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Howard, who was the 19th overall pick in last month's NFL draft, signed a four-year deal on Monday that includes a team option for a fifth season. He is the first of Tampa Bay's six draft picks to sign.

Howard, who is 6-foot-6 and 251 pounds, was a third-team Associated Press All-America selection last season. He started 12 of Alabama's 14 games last season and had 45 receptions for 595 yards and three touchdowns.

The drafting of Howard and signing DeSean Jackson in free agency should give Jameis Winston more options in Tampa Bay's passing game.

The Buccaneers also announced that defensive end Jacquies Smith has signed his restricted free agent tender.

Doug Pederson: Dak Prescott knew he didn't have to win by himself

Doug Pederson: Dak Prescott knew he didn't have to win by himself

For the most part, Carson Wentz had a pretty successful rookie season. 

Sure, the Eagles finished with a 7-9 record, but Wentz did enough to continue the franchise's belief that he is indeed the quarterback of the future. 

Another guy in Dallas did the same thing with the Cowboys. Actually, Dak Prescott had an even more impressive rookie season, leading the Cowboys to 13 wins, while winning the Offensive Rookie of the Year award. 

Prescott, a fourth-round pick, had a great year but didn't try to do too much. And that's what impressed Eagles head coach Doug Pederson the most. 

"[Prescott] understood this right away, that he didn't have to win the game for them," Pederson said on The Doomsday Podcast, hosted by Matt Mosley and Ed Werder. (Pederson also talked about running the Rocky steps). "He knew that he had a good defense, a tremendous offensive line, a great runner, he had some veteran players that he could rely on and he learned that early. As soon as he had the opportunity to play and that was early, from Day 1. 

"That's something that a young quarterback, sometimes it takes them a while to figure out the game that way. That's the impressive thing, that he learned how to handle that business that well, utilize the people around him and understand that he didn't have to go win the game."

While Prescott had plenty of help during his rookie season, it was pretty evident Wentz was lacking in that area. 

Prescott had a great offensive line, Dez Bryant, Ezekiel Elliott and others. Wentz had an offensive line that was missing Lane Johnson, an often-injured Ryan Mathews and receivers like Nelson Agholor and Dorial Green-Beckham playing serious snaps. 

So it made sense when the team went out this offseason and signed Alshon Jeffery, Torrey Smith, and recently LeGarrette Blount, as free agents, finally getting Wentz some real help. 

"We had opportunities to get those two guys and it was obvious last year, we were young at the wide receiver position," Pederson said. "We needed some leadership, some veteran presence there and we went out and got that with Torrey and Alshon. We still want to build through the draft, we still want to acquire young talent. 

"LeGarrette Blount now is a guy that gives us that big back, running back, that can come in and compete and hopefully he does everything he did at New England the last couple of seasons. He had 18 rushing touchdowns for over 1,000 yards and we just expect that same level of performance here."

Maybe having weapons will allow Wentz to do what made Prescott so impressive to Pederson in 2016: not too much.