In Super Bowl LI, The Atlanta Falcons flew circles around the New England Patriots for nearly three quarters. They ran the score up to 28-3 before the Patriots finally registered their first touchdown with 2:07 to go in the third. What happened over the course of the next 17 minutes was something never seen before in Super Bowl history. New England got the ball with under four minutes to go inside their own 10-yard-line. It was going to take a repeat of the final drive of his first Super Bowl against the Rams for Tom Brady to bring that Patriots team to within a two-point conversion to simply tie the game.
When All Seemed Lost, Edelman Performed a Miracle of His Own
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After first down completions to Chris Hogan and Mac Mitchell, Brady dropped back and forced the ball into traffic over mid-field. Julian Edelman was in double coverage. Robert Alford, who already had one interception to his name in the game, got a hand on it, popping the ball into the air. If any of the three Falcons players who converged on the ball were able to complete the pick, the game was likely over. But instead, seconds away from the two minute warning, Edelman got his hands on the ball. In real time, particularly as a Patriots fan, it looked like an incomplete pass. The ball definitely hit the ground, and New England breathed a deep sigh of relief.
However, upon close inspection, Ricardo Allen's arm prevented the ball from hitting the ground. And, despite his arm and Alford's leg creating a difficult situation, Edelman was able to get his hands on it, and even readjust to firmly get his hands under the ball and complete the catch. All while the impact of Allen's hit should have thrown him completely off balance.
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The Patriots had scored 17 unanswered points, and had the opportunity to carry that momentum to tie the game up before the clock ran out. If Alford had completed the pick, the game was likely over. Sure, New England had two timeouts, would still have the 2-point conversion in their favor, and their defense was playing lights out in the second half. But all signs would have pointed to that taking the wind out of their sails.
Edelman's heroics allowed the drive to continue, culminating in a James White touchdown followed by a Danny Amendola two-point conversion to tie the game and send it to overtime. At the coin flip for OT, the Patriots called heads and won the toss. The look on Devin McCourty and Matthew Slater's faces said it all. Utter disbelief. At the fact that they had managed a 25-point comeback over the course of about 20 minutes of the game. That they were able to get into overtime, win the toss, and have a chance to win it without the Falcons ever touching the ball again. That a ball that should have ultimately ended the game fell in their favor.
The scales could have tipped either way, but Julian Edelman's grit and determination outweighed an otherwise deflated Atlanta team. What is it you learn when you're playing almost any sport as a kid? Never take your eye off the ball. Julian went back to his backyard roots, saved the play, the drive, and willed the New England Patriots to their fifth Super Bowl victory.
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