How the Falcons took a 28-3 lead over the Patriots in Super Bowl 51

The Falcons appeared poised to win Super Bowl 51 in a breather after they scored their fourth encounter in the middle of the third quarter. They led 28-3 and made the Patriots have to give up in front of the defense.

Meanwhile, Tom Brady and the Patriots’ attack struggled to move the ball. And a few times like that, they are fired or fouled with a turn that takes away their chances of scoring.

All the Falcons had to do was keep the Patriots at arm’s length. If they do, they will have a great chance to win the first Super Bowl in franchise history.

Instead, Atlanta faltered. The team’s attack and defense made serious mistakes late in the game, and the coaching staff made some questionable play calls late in the game.

How did it all go down? Here are some key plays from the end of the Patriots-Falcons game that ultimately turned the game in favor of the Patriots.

THAN: Why did Tom Brady leave the Patriots?

How did the Falcons lead 28-3?

It’s basically like a perfect storm of problems. The Patriots attack became a reality late, and the Falcons completely plunged down the ramp.

Coach Dan Quinn had a simple reason for the Falcons to lose late in the game.

“I think for sure we’re out of gas,” Quinn said, according to “They did a great job. It’s one of the things that we don’t talk about a lot with them, is how they can do it.

“When they get hot, it’s hard for us to deal with.”

Which means the Falcons are tired. They ran just 46 offensive runs in the Super Bowl while the Patriots ran a whopping 93. New England had a fresher defence, and the Falcons’ foul couldn’t continue on the field in the second half.

The Falcons probably played a little too aggressively in the second half, too. Atlanta averaged 5.8 yards per dash during the game, but they barely ran the ball. Despite this and their 25-point lead, the Falcons ran less often in the second half than in the first.

Situation Total number of plays Run turn Running percentage
First half 19 9 47.4
The second half 27 9 33.3

That allows the Patriots’ pass to tee off on Ryan and do some big plays, like Hightower snooping.

Quinn supported offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan’s plan to stay aggressive and keep passing.

“At that point, we wanted to be fierce to win the game,” Quinn explained to Pro Football Talk a month after the Super Bowl.

But Quinn also admits that he can manage the game – and the clock – a bit better late in the game.

“Definitely there are lessons in game management,” he said. “Those are painful lessons to go through but you have to learn from them.”

THAN: Tom Brady’s Super Bowl History, Game Stats

Super Bowl 51 highlights, played a key role in Falcons’ 28-3 lead

Danny Amendola, Tom Brady Switch On Patriots First TD Run

The last time the fateful 28-3 appeared on the board for the Falcons was when the game was 2:06 in the third round. The Patriots were finally able to install an induction drive after going through a couple of late turns in the first half.

There are two important plays on the track for the Patriots. The first came in fourth and third in midfield. Bill Belichick decided to do it – the Patriots are finally trailing 25 years old – and Tom Brady was able to find Danny Amendola on a pass that went out of reach to keep the drive alive.

However, Amendola turned it into a bit more when he turned the win into a 17-yard reception. That puts the Patriots in the least scoring range.

Then Brady converted a play of his own. On the 3rd and 8th, Brady saw no one open the yard down. What he saw was an open running lane. He took off and produced a 15-yard shot to keep the Patriots’ TD hopes alive.

That run marks the longest run of Brady’s post-season career. James White rewarded his effort by catching a short TD just a few shots later. Stephen Gostkowski’s side point was missed, and the Patriots led 28-9.

Dont’a Hightower strip-sack Matt Ryan

The Patriots were able to force the Falcons to punt and score a goal in their next possession to reduce their deficit to 16. The clock was ticking under 10 minutes, though, so they were running out of time.

New England needed a big game, and Dont’a Hightower had it.

Despite being just 16, the Falcons still called out in the third and first games with 8:31 left in the game. Matt Ryan stepped back to get past and he was caught by Dont’a Hightower, who had just been checked in the back on his way to quarterback. Hightower arrived home, forced to grope, and the Patriots recovered. That puts the Patriots in great field positions.

From there, the Patriots went through a five-time, 25-yard touchdown. They also get a two point conversion to officially make it a one point game.

Hightower’s game turned out to be a force for change. It puts pressure on the Falcons to score or stop the Patriots. They can’t do it either.

Matt Ryan took a sack from Trey Flowers

The Falcons had a chance to score a game-winning score. A couple of big plays – a swoop against the wide Devonta Freeman and an unbelievable catch from Julio Jones – brought them to the Patriots’ 22-yard line.

Atlanta is leading 28-20 at the time of this race. All the team had to do was run the ball three times and shoot on goal to turn the game into an 11-point match. The Patriots, likely, will timeout and face a big uphill battle to win.

The Falcons chose to pass instead. Disaster struck when Trey Flowers dashed across the line and dealt Matt Ryan to a loss at 12 yards.

That plays the Falcons at the 35-yard line at the top of goal range. A penalty held in the next play knocked them out of it. In the end, they were forced to hit the ball and that caused the Patriots to serve one more time with 3:30 clock and twice timeout.

THAN: How the Patriots Made Mac Jones the Best QB from the 2021 NFL Draft

Julian Edelman catches the ball inches off the ground

The Patriots need to drive 91 yards for a touchdown and convert 2 points to tie things up late with the Falcons. It doesn’t look good soon. Brady completed only two of his first five passes in the driveway while under heavy pressure, and he was only able to get the Patriots to their own 36-yard line in the first minute of the race.

Brady decided that the Patriots needed to take advantage of the opportunity to go deeper and he threw the ball to Julian Edelman. He was double-protected in play and full-back Robert Alford, who intercepted a touch earlier in the game, had a tackle. He couldn’t bring it in.

But Edelman can.

Somehow, Edelman was able to get his hands on the ball just inches off the ground. He was sandwiched between three falcons on the play and while the ball was briefly loose, he was able to regain his grip.

Edelman’s catch was arguably the most important game of the game for the Patriots. It took them past midfield and put them in position to complete the second half of their two-minute drill.

The Patriots then scored after a hasty touch from James White to make it 28-26. Danny Amendola ended the game after he went into the final area in a two-point pass. It was a draw with 57 seconds remaining and the Patriots defense stopped the Falcons to send the game into extra time.

James White scored TD won the game in extra time

The Patriots received the ball first in extra time. They made sure the Falcons wouldn’t see it again.

New England was able to walk 75 meters into the final to win. It took them less than four minutes to score and they have never faced a third on the track.

How did it end? James White throws Brady out and punches it in the end zone. This is White’s second rushed encounter, and third overall, of the game.

That completes the Patriots’ miraculous 28-3 win and puts Tom Brady in the record books as the first quarterback to win five Super Bowl games.

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