This game looked over by half time. The Falcons were up 21-3 over the Patriots and cruising. They would continue their domination of the Patriots in the third quarter, extending the lead to 28-3.
Those scores all came in the second quarter.
It got started with a turnover when rookie linebacker Deion Jones ripped the ball out from Legarrette Blount at the New England 29-yard-line. The Falcons capitalized with a touchdown, capped by a 5-yard run by Devonta Freeman for the score.
After that it was a 19-yard touchdown pass to tight end Austin Hooper to make it 14-0. A long drive from the Patriots ended with Tom Brady being intercepted by Robert Alford who returned it 82 yards for the touchdown to make it 21-0. The Patriots would add a field goal late to avoid a first half shutout.
The Falcons would drive for another touchdown midway through the third quarter to bring it to a 25-point lead. They would hold that lead until the end of the third quarter when the Patriots would score their first touchdown of the day. The extra point bounced off the upright and the score was then 28-9 heading into the 4th quarter.
To begin the 4th quarter, the Patriots would go on a long drive, but a sack on Tom Brady by Grady Jarrett would hold them to a field goal to make it a 28-12 game.
That field goal made it a two-score game with 9:48 remaining in the game. The Falcons needed to hold onto the ball, as they had done the entire postseason up to this point, run clock, and maybe score once more. Even a field goal would make it a three score game.
None of that would happen.
First off, three plays later, DeVonta Freeman missed his block on Donta Hightower who got a free rush at Matt Ryan for the sack and forced fumble. The Patriots would recover and take over at the Atlanta 25-yard-line and drive for a touchdown.
Due to the missed extra point on their first touchdown, they had to go for two. They converted it on a James White rush up the middle to make it a one score game at 28-20.
Again, all the Falcons needed to do was hold onto the ball, take time off the clock, and score. And they absolutely should have.
Starting at their own 10-yard-line with 5:53 remaining, Matt Ryan got the Falcons moving down the field. A short pass to a wide open Devonta Freeman went for 39 yards to get it going. Then Ryan escaped pressure and delivered a perfect pass to a diving Julio Jones along the left sideline for one of the greatest catches you’ll ever see.
The catch by Jones went for 27 yards to the New England 22-yard-line. They were in range for a 39-yard field goal with 4:40 remaining.
That’s when Kyle Shanahan went from genius to colossally stupid in an instant.
All they had to do was run the clock down and kick the field goal to seal it. So, of course, Ryan dropped back to pass. He was sacked for a 12-yard loss.
That put the field goal attempt at 51 yards. Still in range, but not comfortable. Then the Falcons call for another pass. This time offensive lineman Jake Matthews was called for holding and the resulting lost yards backed them out of field goal range.
An incomplete pass on 3rd and 33 and the Falcons — who were just a few plays earlier in position to seal the win — were punting to the Patriots up by one score with 3:30 left to play.
We know how this one goes. Tom Brady orchestrated a long drive against a tired Falcons defense. The drive included a pass that was nearly intercepted by Robert Alford — who had a pick six on Brady in the first half -- but bounced off his leg on the way down, allowing Julian Edelman to secure it before it hit the turf, for a 23-yard catch to the Atlanta 41-yard-line.
Brady would then complete three consecutive passes to Danny Amendola for 20 yards and two to James White for another 20 yards. White then finished it off with a one-yard run around right guard for the score. Again, the Patriots needed a 2-point conversion in order to tie it up, and again they converted it; this time with a pass to Amendola who just got the ball over the goal line.
At 28-28, the game went into overtime — the first ever in Super Bowl history.
The Patriots won the toss and got the ball first, which was bad news for the Falcons who were already reeling from the end of the fourth quarter.
Again, Brady moved the Patriots methodically down the field. He completed 5 consecutive passes to put the Patriots in scoring range at the Atlanta 25-yard-line. A field goal would mean the Falcons would then get a chance to score. A touchdown would end it.
A ten-yard run by James White would give the Patriots a first down at 15. Brady went for tight end Martellus Bennett at the goal line. It looked to be well defended by linebacker De'Vondre Campbell, but he was called for pass interference. It was a spot foul, giving the Patriots the ball at the 2-yard-line. Two plays later, it was James White again on the ground around the right side for the touchdown to end it and give the Patriots the win.
It was a tremendous comeback by the Patriots, but mostly it was just a monumental choke job by the Falcons. All they had to do was run it when they were in field goal range. It would have run down the clock, forced the Patriots to take timeouts, and put them up by two scores without enough time to make a comeback. And they blew it.
Prior to this game, no team had come back from more than 10 points in a Super Bowl to win it. That stat should have held, if not for the 49ers next head coach outsmarting himself.