By Dustin Niles
Layout & Design Editor
The 2016 sports season should be called “The Year of the Comeback.”
To start, Denny Hamlin beat Martin Truex Jr. by one millisecond for the closest Daytona 500 finish in history. Then Kris Jenkins hit a basket at the buzzer to give Villanova an NCAA Championship over North Carolina. Leicester City won the English Premier League against 5000-1 odds, and following that the Cleveland Cavaliers came back from a 3-1 series deficit to win the NBA Finals. The Chicago Cubs came back from a 3-1 series deficit to end the most famous championship drought in sports, and Clemson beat Alabama for the championship with a touchdown at the last second.
To cap it all off, the New England Patriots made the biggest comeback in Super Bowl history and won the first Super Bowl in overtime on Feb. 5 in Houston, TX. The final score was 34-28. If you were wondering what we were paying for with all that 2016 misfortune, that was it.
The game started off slowly. By the end of the first quarter, there was no score. But with 8:36 left in the 3rd quarter, Matt Ryan hit Tevin Coleman for a six-yard touchdown. The extra point was good, and it was the last time the Falcons would touch the scoreboard. From then on, it was all Patriots, all the time.
The Patriots scored their first touchdown on a pass from Tom Brady to James White for five yards with 2:12 left in the 3rd quarter. At the top of the 4th quarter, following an incomplete pass and a sack, the Falcons punted. The Patriots took the ball and drove 72 yards in 12 plays including a 25 yard pass to Martellus Bennett to set up Stephen Gostkowski’s 33 yard field goal. Three plays later, they had the ball again.
For this drive the team only needed five plays to drive 25 yards for a Danny Amendola touchdown catch and a James White two point conversion. Suddenly, the team that was down 28-3 halfway through the 3rd quarter, only needed a touchdown and a two point conversion to tie the game and they had six minutes to work with. The possibility of a Super Bowl win for the Patriots was suddenly real.
But before the Patriot’s win became a reality, Julian Edelman made a catch that could only be described as unreal. With 2:28 left on the clock, Brady heaved the ball to the middle of the field where Edelman was being defended by Robert Alford and Keanu Neal of the Atlanta Falcons. Alford got a hand on the ball and tipped it up into the air. The ball floated through space before coming down in a pile of arms and legs. Through the legs of Alford, away from the hands of Neal and nearby defender Ricardo Allen, the ball found its way into the arms of Edelman.
The call was challenged, but there was no real question: it was a catch. Simply historic, it will go down with the likes of David Tyree’s famous helmet catch. Four plays later, White ran the ball in for the final touchdown, and Amendola topped it off with a two point conversion. Game tied, one minute to go.
After a fruitless possession by the Falcons, the Patriots won the coin toss and the game headed into overtime. The way overtime works in the NFL is complicated after recent changes to the overtime rules and procedures.
At the beginning of overtime, there is a coin toss to determine which teams gets possession of the ball first. If that team either turns the ball over, punts, or kicks a field goal, the ball goes back to the other team, and they get a possession and a chance to score. If that team turns the ball over, punts, or kicks a field goal to tie, then the ball goes back to the first team. After that, the next point wins the game. However, if either team scores a touchdown before that, that team wins the game.
The Patriots took the ball and drove 75 yards in eight plays to score a touchdown off of a two yard run by James White and sealed the greatest comeback in Super Bowl history.
Tom Brady, age 39, has now won five Super Bowls, the most of any quarterback in NFL history. He finished with 466 yards, two touchdown passes and an interception. James White was the most successful running back of the evening, picking up just 29 yards on the ground, but scoring two touchdowns and adding another one through the air. White was also the most prolific receiver, hauling in 14 receptions for 110 yards.
Matt Ryan passed for 284 yards and two touchdowns. He was precise, controlled, and earned himself a nearly-perfect quarterback rating of 144.1. Devonta Freeman was relatively contained by the New England defense, and he put up 75 yards and a touchdown. Julio Jones made four receptions for 87 yards, including an acrobatic catch that would have been the highlight of the game were it not for Julian Edelman.
The game broke a streak of relatively uncontested Super Bowls, and finished off the thrilling 2016 sports season fittingly. Next season starts with the NFL Draft beginning on April 27th, leading towards Super Bowl 52 in Minneapolis, MN.