Super Bowl LI: Six Plays That Almost Derailed Patriots’ Historic Comeback

Tom Brady

Photo via Feb 5, 2017; Houston, TX, USA; New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady (12) reacts after being sacked during the fourth quarter against the Atlanta Falcons during Super Bowl LI at NRG Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

This might sound obvious, but the New England Patriots’ 25-point comeback in Super Bowl LI wasn’t exactly easy nor seamless. The difficulty level already was set at a nearly impossible level as the Patriots took the ball from their own 25-yard line with 8:31 left in the third quarter down 28-3.

But it’s not as if the Patriots just drove down the field with ease on their ensuing five scoring drives. They hit speed bumps of varying heights along the way that almost thwarted their historic comeback.

Here are biggest ones.

1. Missed extra point
The Patriots marched 75 yards down the field in six minutes and 25 seconds to score their first touchdown of the game, and Stephen Gostkowski’s extra point clanged off the right upright. Any glimmer of hope the drive provided seemingly was dashed by the time taken off the clock combined with the added difficulty of making up for a lost point.

2. Failed onside kick
On the very next play, Gostkowski was flagged for illegal touching after the ball hit his leg before it progressed 10 yards on the Patriots’ onside kick attempt. That gave the Falcons the ball at the Patriots’ 41-yard line with an extremely short field in front of them.

3. Two sacks leading to a field goal
The Patriots pushed the Falcons backward and forced a punt then began to drive down the field again. They were in good shape at first-and-goal from the Falcons’ 7-yard line when Brady was sacked by Grady Jarrett for a 5-yard loss. Brady hit James White on a 2-yard completion on the next play then was sacked by Jarrett for another 5-yard loss.

The Patriots had to settle for a field goal, meaning they would need two touchdowns and two two-point conversions while preventing the Falcons from scoring just to get into overtime.

4. Brady sacked by Dwight Freeney
The Patriots started their next drive from the Falcons’ 25-yard line after Dont’a Hightower strip-sacked quarterback Matt Ryan. Immediately following the big defensive play, Brady was sacked for another 5-yard loss by Dwight Freeney. Four plays later, the Patriots were in the end zone again. They then converted on their first of two needed two-point conversions.

5. Devonta Freeman’s 39-yard catch
Gostkowski pinned the Falcons back at their own 10-yard line with an extraordinary kickoff, but Atlanta immediately surged down the field when Ryan found a wide open Freeman for a 39-yard catch and run.

6. Julio Jones’ 27-yard toe-tapped catch
Two plays later, Ryan found Jones in what appeared to be the catch of the Super Bowl. The receiver snagged the ball out of the air, leaned in and tapped his toes before falling out of bounds to put the Falcons in field-goal range.

A one-yard loss, a sack and a holding penalty pushed the Falcons back out of field-goal range, which allowed the Patriots the opportunity to mount a 91-yard game-tying drive.

Spoiler alert: The Patriots did, and it included the true best catch of the Super Bowl. And then they won the overtime coin toss and marched another 75 yards down the field to win 34-28.

Thumbnail photo via Matthew Emmons/USA TODAY Sports Images

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