USA TODAY Sports' Lindsay Jones breaks down how the Patriots managed to pull off a comeback for the ages in Super Bowl LI.
HOUSTON — Only Tom Brady can outdo Tom Brady.
Brady cemented his legacy as the greatest to ever play the game Sunday night in spectacular fashion, staging the biggest comeback in Super Bowl history to win his record fifth ring. Batted around like a tackling dummy through the first three quarters, Brady led the New England Patriots on four consecutive scoring drives to erase a 25-point deficit and beat the Atlanta Falcons 34-28 in overtime.
Getting the ball first in the extra period, Brady executed with surgical precision as he led the Patriots on a 75-yard scoring drive that was capped by James White’s 2-yard touchdown. As the running back powered over the goal line, the rest of the Patriots ran onto the field in celebration.
The previous record for comebacks was 10 points, done by three different teams. Brady’s personal comeback record had been 24 points, in a regular-season game against the Denver Broncos in 2013.
By winning his fifth Super Bowl title since 2002, Brady also completes his Deflategate Revenge Tour. And what sweet revenge it is.
Not only did the Patriots win the NFL’s biggest prize, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell will have to make good on his promise to visit Foxborough next season. Goodell hasn’t been back to New England since the AFC Championship Game in 2015, an absence that has not been lost on the Patriots or their fans.
As time wound down in the AFC Championship Game two weeks ago, fans chanted, “Where is Roger? Where is Roger?” On Sunday night, he was on the podium, handing the Lombardi Trophy to owner Robert Kraft with a beaming Brady nearby.
Brady has had plenty of accomplishments in his 17-year career — two NFL MVP awards, countless records, a spot near the top of every all-time list that matters.
But nothing will compare to this game.
Atlanta had heard all week how great the Patriots’ D was and how it was the weak link for Matt Ryan and his high-flying offense. That’s kind of snub tends to stick with you, and the Falcons came out flying, the chips on their shoulders more like gouges.
Loading the box, flying in from the edges and showing no fear whatsoever, the Falcons managed to do what no one, not even Father Time, has managed: They made Brady look old. After forcing a three-and-out on the first possession and sacking him twice on the second, the Falcons seemed to have Brady rattled.
He flat-out missed receivers, repeatedly, and could ever get in sync with his go-to guy, Julian Edelman. But the biggest shock came late in the second quarter, when Robert Alford picked Brady off and returned the interception 82 yards for a score.
In seven Super Bowl appearances, Brady had never before had a pick-six.
But Brady has a way of making magic when the Patriots need it most, and this game was no different.
Follow USA TODAY Sports columnist Nancy Armour on Twitter @nrarmour.
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