By ETHAN TOBIN
Things did not go well for the New England Patriots early on in Super Bowl LI. Their first four drives included three punts, two Tom Brady sacks, and one fumble. The end of the first quarter marked the first time in 32 consecutive quarters that the Patriots had not scored.
Then late in the second quarter, with a promising drive and signs of Patriot life, Brady threw an interception that was returned 82 yards for the touchdown. Heading into halftime, the score stood 21-3 Atlanta Falcons.
Pacing around my apartment, I struggled to accept the reality of the situation. One friend, who was among the majority of Falcons supporters watching the game with me, turned my way and jokingly offered his sympathy in reassuring me that there was still time for a New England Patriots comeback. While understanding both his subtle sarcasm and the odds of an actual comeback, I thought to myself if any team can comeback in this situation, the Patriots could do it.
Heading into the third quarter, my mentality remained optimistic. There was plenty of time left on the clock yet the Patriots’ sense of urgency was seemingly absent. While the two teams traded touchdowns in the third quarter, the Patriot deficit remained unfavorable. At the end of the third quarter, the Falcons lead stood at 28-9.
After a Gostkowski field goal midway through the fourth quarter, that deficit only slightly decreased to 28-12 Falcons. But with nine minutes to go, everything changed.
With 8:31 remaining on the clock, the Patriots got a sack-fumble, a touchdown and a two-point conversion. The scoreboard showed 28-20 Falcons and suddenly a disappointing Super Bowl LI performance turned into a one-score game. With newfound hope that the Patriots could in fact comeback, which would be the largest in NFL Super Bowl comeback and the largest of Brady’s career, my patience was at last rewarded with 2:28 showing on the clock.
Julian Edelman’s catch before the two-minute warning was nothing short of a miracle. There was no denying that Edelman’s catch filled me with a sense of entitlement, that his catch, was the least Patriot fans deserved after experiencing David Tyree’s infamous ‘helmet catch’ in 2008. Now with the scoreboard showing 28-28, a Super Bowl victory was in sight.
Still in disbelieve, I sat quietly in my chair trying to make sense of what had transpired. The Patriots, now all tied up and receiving the ball at the start of OT, could defy all odds and win. 3:42 into OT and following a 73-yard drive, the Falcons are called for defensive pass interference. The line of scrimmage is now on the two yard-line. With a room full of Falcons fans still in disbelief, I remain quiet in my seat. With thoughts of Super Bowl XLIX in my mind, an ending in which Malcom Butler picked off Russell Wilson in a similar situation, Brady hands the ball off to James White.
With 11:02 remaining in overtime, a James White two-yard touchdown run solidified the New England Patriot Super Bowl victory. Dropping to the floor in disbelief, I couldn’t help myself but cry with joy. In my 22 years and having had experienced four previous Super Bowls, this Super Bowl victory was without a doubt the sweetest of them all.
Being a New England Patriots fan is not as easy as it looks. Having to constantly defend your team can be exhausting. But Sunday night’s Super Bowl LI victory proved once gain how rewarding it can be to don New England red, white and blue.
Several days later and still trying to process what I had witnessed, I recalled a Bill Belichick post-game comment that proved to resonate with me the most in the moments following the game. Belichick best summed up the New England Patriot mentality. He said “Because of the playoffs and the Super Bowl, we’re already five weeks behind every other team in preparation for the 2017 season.”