Super Bowl LI will forever live inside the minds of New England Patriots fans.
If it's on NFL Network or being replayed on any channel, there's a good chance fans across New England are going to stop what they're doing and watch it. It was the greatest comeback in Super Bowl history -- full of so many incredible moments impossible to forget.
This game also was the subject of the latest episode of "Man in the Arena", former Patriots quarterback Tom Brady's new documentary on ESPN+.
The Patriots went into halftime of Super Bowl LI trailing 21-3, but despite the lopsided score, Brady still thought the offense had potential if the execution inside Falcons' territory improved.
"If you look at the first half, it's not like we weren't moving the ball. We moved the ball, we just didn't do anything with it once we got into scoring range," Brady explained. "We crossed the 50-yard line and we had no production. I don't know how many times we crossed the 50-yard line -- maybe two, three or four times -- with zero points.
"We finally, right before half, kicked a field goal. But we went into halftime thinking, all the (expletive) we got is still good. You look at that call sheet, this is all still going to work."
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After failing to score any points on the opening drive of the second half, the Patriots punted to the Falcons, who went right down the field and scored another touchdown to go up 28-3.
“28-3, man. I was like, ‘We need a lot of (expletive) to go right now.’ 28-3, man. Coach (Bill Belichick) said 21 points ain’t going to be enough to beat us. Twenty-eight points might be enough to beat us today," Brady said.
At this point, the first goal is to at least make the game competitive and not go down as one of those teams that got blown out in the Super Bowl. The Patriots had lost two Super Bowls with Brady at that time, and those losses were by a combined seven points.
"You’re not thinking about winning the game at that point," Brady admitted. "You’re thinking about, ‘How do we not embarrass ourselves at this point?’ It’s a different mentality. We’ve got to score, man. We’ve got to be proud of the fight.”
Two years earlier, the Patriots became the first team ever to erase a deficit of 10-plus points in the fourth quarter and win a Super Bowl. So, there was reason to be confident. But a 25-point deficit? That's a different ballgame.
“We had been in situations where we’d been down,” Brady said. “Now, we had never been down that much. Usually, if you’re down 10 in the Super Bowl, it’s tough to overcome. We're down 25 with three minutes left in the third quarter. I just kept saying, and it’s easier said than done, we just got to get one score. Like, let’s maintain our poise, maintain our execution, do our (expletive) jobs and we’ll score.”
The Patriots felt if they could control time of possession and wear down the Falcons defense, they could really take advantage of some tired Atlanta players late in the game.
“Yeah, we were down 21-3 at half, but we had an advantage because we ran a lot of plays and we felt like they were going to be pretty gassed,” Brady explained. “It’s a long game from the beginning of warmup, it’s a long first half, and then there’s a long halftime. It’s a long day. Indoors, in a dome, you’re going to overheat. Let’s go make something. Let’s make it happen. The way we're going to do that is scoring once. That's what we needed.”
The Patriots trimmed the Falcons' lead to 28-12 with 9:44 remaining in the fourth quarter. Time was the enemy for New England. The defense needed a turnover, and they got one from Dont'a Hightower's strip sack on Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan.
“My man Hightower blasts Matt Ryan and knocks the ball. Alan Branch picks it up. And we’re like, ‘We’re in business,'" Brady said with a smile.
The rest, as they say, is history. The Patriots scored two more touchdowns (with a two-point conversion each time) before winning 34-28 in overtime on James White's touchdown run.
"We were going up against an opponent that played a great game. They didn't play bad," Brady said of the Falcons. "Matt Ryan might have had a perfect QB rating. If you say the league MVP is basically going to have a perfect QB rating, I'm going to throw a pick-6 and we're somehow going to find a way to win this game? No one would believe that, that's almost impossible."
What does this game mean to Brady?
"That's something for me to remember for the rest of my life. If there's one game that signifies what our team was always about, it's Super Bowl LI."