New England Patriots’ Tom Brady reacts after winning Super Bowl 51. (Jae C. Hong/AP Photo)

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THE GAME | HIGHLIGHTS | COMMERCIALS
HALFTIME SHOW

THE GAME

New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady claimed his fifth Super Bowl championship Sunday night in a fashion beyond imagination, leading the Patriots’ historic comeback from a 25-point deficit and lifting New England to a 34-28 victory over the Atlanta Falcons in the first Super Bowl ever to reach overtime.

Having started the season on a four-game suspension levied by Commissioner Roger Goodell, Brady ended it by stamping himself the greatest quarterback of all time without any legitimate doubt. After James White’s one-yard touchdown run ended the game after the first overtime possession, Brady knelt on the NRG Stadium turf, his face in the ground, before Coach Bill Belichick embraced him.

“You the [expletive] greatest!” running back LeGarrette Blount told Brady, pounding his chest.

No team had ever overcome a deficit of more than 10 points to win a Super Bowl. No Super Bowl had ever gone to overtime. And no quarterback had ever experienced a season quite like Brady, who sat out the first four games of the season for a perceived offense related to the amount of air inside footballs in February 2015. The ensuing “Deflategate” controversy meandered through hearings and lawsuits, stopping one step shy of the Supreme Court.

The New England Patriots rallied back from a historic deficit against the Atlanta Falcons to win Super Bowl LI during overtime on Feb. 5, making the Patriots' Tom Brady the first quarterback to win five Super Bowls. (Reuters)

The saga provided a second backdrop as Brady took over on his own 9-yard line, late in the fourth quarter: The Patriots were not only playing to stun the Atlanta Falcons, but also to claim vengeance against the NFL.

Brady led the Patriots on a 91-yard touchdown drive, the cornerstone of which came when Julian Edelman made a miraculous catch by pinning the football off the leg of one of the three Falcons defenders surrounding him. After White plunged into the end zone for his second touchdown of the game, Brady swung a pass to Danny Amendola, who plowed behind two blockers for the game-tying two-point conversion.

The Patriots received the ball first in overtime after the winning coin toss. A touchdown would end the game. A field goal would give the Falcons and MVP Matt Ryan a chance at redemption. Brady led the Patriots on a drive that ended when White plunged into the end zone from the 1-yard line on a toss to the right. When he crossed the goal line, New England led for the first time all night.

The play capped White’s historic night. Serving as a safety valve as Brady stood in against Atlanta’s fierce pass rush, White recorded a Super Bowl-record 14 receptions while gaining 139 total yards and scoring three touchdowns and a two-point conversion.

Brady finished his seventh Super Bowl appearance with 466 passing yards, 43 completions — both title-game records — and two touchdown passes, erasing the pick-six he threw to Falcons cornerback Robert Alford in the second quarter that put the Patriots behind, 21-0.

Afterward, Brady stood on the same podium as Goodell, the man who fought him in court and suspended him. As the pro-Patriots crowd loudly booed Goodell, the commissioner handed the Lombardi Trophy to Owner Robert Kraft, who could place the trophy next to the four Brady and Belichick had won since 2001.

“A lot has transpired over the last two years,” Kraft said, “and I don’t think that needs any explanation.” Later, Kraft called the title “unequivocally the sweetest” the Patriots have won.


(Animation Eddie Alvarez/The Washington Post)

The Falcons, playing to win the first title in their franchise’s history, will have to live with one of the greatest disappointments in NFL history. They had the Super Bowl in their grasp after a dominating two-and-a-half quarters left them with a 28-3 lead and the staggered Patriots with no answers. Ryan had a perfect quarterback rating, and running back Devonta Freeman was gaining about 10 yards per carry.

The Patriots managed their first touchdown with 2 minutes, 6 seconds left in the third quarter, but the comeback did not begin in earnest until the middle of the fourth quarter. With the Falcons protecting a 28-12 lead and just more than eight minutes remaining, Ryan dropped back to pass on third down. Patriots linebacker Donta Hightower smashed Ryan from the blindside after the Falcons botched a blocking assignment. The ball shook loose, and defensive tackle Alan Branch fell on the ball at the Atlanta 25.

It was the game-changing play the Patriots desperately needed. Five plays later, Brady found Amendola for a touchdown, and after White scored on a two-point conversion, the Patriots suddenly were one possession away from tying the score.

The Falcons had another chance to seal the game. Ryan drove the Falcons to the Patriots’ 22-yard line, only 4 minutes, 44 seconds remaining after star wide receiver Julio Jones made an acrobatic, toe-touching catch on the sideline. A few runs to rob the Patriots of their timeouts, then a field goal, and the Falcons could make it nearly impossible for Brady to come back.

Brady had been suspended at the start of the season. He had evaded questions all year, heightened this week, about his relationship with President Donald Trump, who also boasted about friendships with Belichick and Kraft. Now, all he had in front of him was an entire football field, history far in the distance, attainable for him and him alone.

Liz Clarke contributed to this report from Houston.

HIGHLIGHTS

Tom Brady just played the best football game ever
Not only was it the best Super Bowl performance in NFL history, it may have been the best showing since the sport began. (Read More)

The Falcons just played the perfect Super Bowl, and then undid it all
The plan and execution were flawless through two quarters. But then the plan changed. Why? (Read More)

No handshake or hug, but Belichick and Goodell effectively bury Deflategate
So, can we stop talking about it now? (Read More)

The two Falcons plays that handed the Super Bowl to the Patriots
Atlanta probably wishes it could have these two calls back. (Read More)

The Falcons face a big challenge replacing Kyle Shanahan. How about Chip Kelly?
Atlanta’s ascent could stall out if the offseason goes awry. (Read More)

Vegas sports books stung by Pats comeback
They’re probably going to survive. (Read More)

Sean Spicer gets crushed by Super Bowl jokes after ‘SNL’ takedown
It’s been a rough few days for the new White House press secretary. (Read More)

Gisele Bundchen’s social media posts focus on immigration, family

On Sunday afternoon, hours before the New England Patriots and her husband, Tom Brady, played in the big game, she posted an Instagram photo of his rooting section wearing “Brady’s Ladies” T-shirts. (Read More)

Eight numbers that show how crazy Patriots’ comeback really was

Seriously, it was pretty bonkers. (Read More)

In a believed historic first, Pope Francis weighs in on Super Bowl
Pontiff says he hopes the game will be a “sign of peace, friendship and solidarity to the world.” (Read More)

The play-by-play path to Super Bowl LI
Want to see how the Falcons and Patriots got through the playoffs? Watch every play that led to Super Bowl Sunday with The Post’s animated graphic. (Watch Now)

We’re talking about Tom Brady now. Soon we’ll be talking more about his backup.
Patriots quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo is set to be a hot commodity in the offseason. (Read More)

Patriots owner indicates Deflategate revenge tour is very real
“The league messed up royally,” Robert Kraft told The Post. (Read More)

Bill Belichick will coach the Patriots ‘as long as he wants.’ But then what?
The Patriots’ owner unsurprisingly said the highly-regarded Belichick can keep his job indefinitely and won’t end his career after the Super Bowl. But what happens when he does finally decide to leave? (Read More)


(Animation by Eddie Alvarez/The Washington Post)

The NFL’s ongoing awkward dance with touchdown celebrations
The league knows players want to express themselves and that fans love those creative outbursts, but for more than 50 years the NFL has thrown fines and flags. (Read More)

The Super Bowl Excitement Index
How does every Super Bowl stack up in terms of watchability? We compared them all based on competitiveness and surprise endings, charting them out right here. (Read More)

COMMERCIALS

The five best commercials of Super Bowl LI

In a lackluster year, ads from Bai, Budweiser and T-Mobile stood out. (Read More)

The five worst commercials of Super Bowl LI

There’s always a down side. These five ads provided it this year. (Read More)

Budweiser ad prompts boycott

Adolphus Busch’s immigration story doesn’t resonate with everyone. (Read more.)

Lumber company re-tools Super Bowl ad
Fox rejected the original version, but you can still see it.

Cam Newton will be in the Super Bowl after all
In a cute Buick commercial. (Read more.)

Audi makes a pitch for women’s equality
Shockingly, not everyone likes it. (See it here.)

Watch Super Bowl 51 ads right here, right now
The Post has already obtained a number of commercials set to air Sunday. Check them out here, then pop back to review ads from the past as well. (Watch Now)

HALFTIME SHOW
Want to focus on something other than the game? Here are some off-the-field alternatives.

Review: Lady Gaga played it safe

The pop star stayed out of the political fray with her halftime performance. (Read More)


Every Super Bowl halftime show, animated!
Take a trip through time with The Post’s animated look at past halftime extravaganzas. (Read More)

Puppy Bowl XIII is here!
Puppies from shelters across the country go head to head in the now annual airing of cuteness. (Read More)