Jim Brown. Jerry Rice. Joe Montana. Walter Payton. Lawrence Taylor. Johnny Unitas.

These are just a few of the best players of all time. In Super Bowl LI, Tom Brady would have the opportunity to immortalize his legacy beside these players as one of the best to ever step on a football field.

It didn’t start the way many expected in Houston. Even the most biased Falcons fans could have never foreseen Atlanta shutting down Brady and Belichick the way they did. Matt Ryan and his offense battled through a scoreless first until their offense jumped out to a 21-0 lead in the second quarter. Gostkowski would hit a field goal with just seconds remaining in the half to make the score 21-3.

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The Patriots went to the locker room and some were already counting them down and out. LeGarrette Blount had a terrible fumble that led to easy field position for Atlanta. Tom Brady had thrown an uncharacteristic pick six. He also experienced periods of inaccuracy throughout early portions of the game.

The Falcons would start the second half of the game with the ball. It was time for the defense to step up and make a game changing play. Hightower and company forced the Falcons to punt but McDaniels’ offense was off the field again after a painful three and out. Matt Ryan took the ball and led his team on an 8 play, 85 yard drive that extended the lead 28-3.

The dream of five titles looked like it had just been turned into an absolute nightmare. Down 28-3 with 8:31 left the game was being declared a blowout. Boston fans were beginning to discuss the upcoming Red Sox season to ease their pain. Brady would soon make it apparent he had no thoughts of baseball on his mind.

Thirteen plays, and 75 yards later James White punched in the first touchdown of New England’s day. Gostkowski would head out onto the field and slam his extra point attempt off the right crossbar.

It started to feel like the game just wasn’t heading New England’s way. But Brady and his Patriots would continue to battle after the setback.

The Patriots defense made yet another crucial stop. The Falcons lost 15 yards on their next drive and sent a punt deep. Brady would get the ball back once again and push the ball downfield. 12 plays and 72 yards later, the Falcons would force a Patriots field goal. This time Gostkowski nailed it and made it 28-12 with only 9:44 left in the game.

A small window of hope had opened up for an improbable comeback to occur. An opportunity for greatness greeted one of the most legendary quarterbacks of all time. Could the man who proved everyone wrong along the way to this point seize his chance at immortality?

Of course he could. He’s Tom Brady. The baddest big game quarterback in NFL history. The New England defense recognized it was their turn to get the job done. 3rd and 1 with only 8:31 remaining it would make sense to throw the ball. Kyle Shanahan gambled and lost it all.

Matty Ice dropped back in the pocket and found Dont’a Hightower in his lap right as he went to release the football. The Patriots defensive leader knocked the ball out of Ryan’s control and a battle ensued for possession. Alan Branch emerged from the chaos with the rock and a sense of uncertainty started to creep into NRG Stadium.

Five offensive plays later Brady found Amendola to pull within 12. Gostkowski’s awful missed extra point meant they would have to go for two. How would the Patriots manage to reach the endzone again after struggling the way they had? In turns out that Belichick still had something in his old bag of tricks to fool Atlanta. The ball was snapped but not into Brady’s hands.

James White caught it and ran full steam ahead for the two point conversion. It was like watching Kevin Faulk against Carolina all over again.

The Patriots had mounted an impressive comeback but Matt Ryan and the Falcons still led 28-20. Time was not on New England’s side. Atlanta had the ball and there was 5:56 left in the fourth quarter. Ryan would drop back on 2nd and 8 and looked downfield to his incredible wideout Julio Jones.

Jones made an absolutely spectacular grab and gained 27 yards. The ball was up to the Patriots 22 yard line with 4:40 left. As long as the Falcons didn’t melt down the Lombardi Trophy would be theirs. Devonta Freeman was stuffed on the next play. The Falcons lost a yard and would need 11 for a new set of downs. They would look to throw on the next play and Trey Flowers motored his way into the backfield toward Matt Ryan.

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Atlanta would look to shorten Matt Bryant’s field goal attempt on the next play instead of gaining a first down. Sanu gained 9 yards and was pushed out of bounds. Not so fast. Offensive holding pushed the Falcons back another ten yards and all of a sudden it was 3rd and 33. Ryan would miss his next attempted pass and soon it was 4th and 33. With the ball at the New England 45 there was no chance for a field goal. Tom Brady would get the ball with 3:38 remaining and his own 9 yard line.

Facing an 8 point deficit late in the 4th quarter of the Super Bowl the Patriots would have a chance to execute one more improbable drive. It was only fitting that it was Brady and Belichick in position to pull off the impossible.

The first two throws of the drive fell incomplete. It quickly became 3rd and 10. Brady hit Hogan for a 16 yard gain on the next play earning a new set of downs. Two plays later Malcolm Mitchell hauled in a catch for another first down at their own 36. The next play would be spectacular and franchise altering.Edelman ran out over the middle of the Falcons defense and Brady threw the ball his way. For a moment it looked like it was all over but the ball slipped out of the Falcons hands and wobbled in the air. Three Falcons defenders dove to intercept the pass and Edelman went to the turf to battle for the ball. Incomplete.

Not so fast. It was ruled a catch. Impossible I thought from the live shot. In slow motion it was clear that Edelman had indeed somehow caught the football. It started to feel like the Patriots were destined to march down the field and tie the ballgame.

Review would confirm the Edelman catch, Brady would have the ball at Atlanta’s 41 with 2:02 remaining. 1st and 10 he stood in and delivered a ball to Amendola for a gain of an additional 20. All of a sudden the Patriots were knocking at the door.

New England would have the football at the Atlanta 21 with 1:57 remaining. It started to feel like just a matter of time before they pulled within two. James White would catch the next pass and bring the offense to Atlanta’s 8 yard line. Two plays later it was White again riding the Patriots wave of momentum into the endzone.

The giant comeback. A fifth ring. It was all in the balance due to Gostkowski’s extra point miss in the first half. The Patriots date with destiny would come down to a second two point attempt. Only :57 seconds remained in regulation.

Brady stepped under center. Surveyed the defense. The ball was snapped and he quickly looked left toward Danny Amendola. The ball hit him right in his hands and the largest comeback in Super Bowl history was complete.

But there was still more football left to play. After 50 years of Super Bowls, the NFL finally had its first overtime game. The Patriots won the toss and elected to receive. With one drive Tom Brady could win his fifth ring and complete what seemed to be an insurmountable victory.

New England started the drive at their own 25. Three completed passes later the Pats were already at the Atlanta 37. After a three yard loss on a pass to White, Edelman hauled in the football for a 15 yard gain to the Atlanta 25. James White carried the ball on first down and gained another first. The Patriots were now only 10 yards away from the Lombardi trophy. Brady attempted to connect with Bennett for the touchdown but the ball fell incomplete.

Flag again. Defensive pass interference. New England would have the ball at the Falcons 2 yard line. After a failed pass on first down James White lined up behind Brady. The ball was snapped and Brady tossed the rock to White.

It was one of the most incredible performances in Boston sports history. White’s drive to the end zone sent New England into a frenzy. Teams trailing by exactly 25 points with 20-25 minutes left in regulation had been 0-54 since 2001. Brady and the Patriots made that record 1-54.

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Against incredible odds and a tremendous deficit, Brady broke 8 individual records in the game. His performance effectively ended the GOAT conversation for good. Belichick and Brady both broke their individual records for Super Bowls won. The Patriots quarterback completed all of this at the ripe age of 39.

Brady turned around the putrid performance through three quarters and went 21-26 for 246 yards during the 4th quarter/overtime. The Patriots went on to break an incredible amount of records as a team due to their heroics: largest deficit overcome (25), most first downs (37), most first downs passing (26), most offensive plays (93), most passes (63), most completions (43), and most passing yards (442).

TB12 finished 43-62 with 2 TD’s on the day and led his team the entire way. Not only would they win the Lombardi, but Roger Goodell would have to hand over the title to Robert Kraft. Icing on an already beautiful cake.

The Patriots pulled off a miracle despite the massive hole they dug themselves early on. Through an absolutely absurd four game suspension and his mother being ill for 18 months, Brady still shined brighter than anyone on the field. He would be the Pats Super Bowl MVP yet again.

Brady and Belichick have now visited the playoffs 14 times in 16 seasons together. They’ve won the AFC East 14 times and reached the conference championship 10 times. They have advanced to the Super Bowl a record 7 times in those 16 seasons. In those 7 appearances Belichick and Brady have won it all a record 5 times.

Brady’s performances have smashed all quarterback records out of this world. He now has 12 300 yard games in 34 playoff appearances for a record of 25-9. White’s 14 receptions also became a Super Bowl record. Incredible considering he is their third string runningback.

As previously mentioned he threw 62 attempts, good for an NFL record. His record when throwing 50+ attempts is 18-9. No other quarterback in NFL history has been anywhere close to being as successful throwing that many passes. Drew Brees is second, throwing 50+ 19 times with a record of 4-15.

The scary thing for the rest of the NFL to consider is the Patriots reign is far from over. Reports are out that Brady intends to play another 3-5 years and he isn’t slowing down. He’s won the Super Bowl twice in the past three seasons.

Belichick isn’t going anywhere either. The Patriots have a variety of contract options to consider for their pending free agents but have their finances in great order. They have the second lowest salary and cash committed to their 2017 payroll, $65.8 million.

New England’s coach and quarterback duo are not done yet. They could very well make another appearance in next year’s Super Bowl. Another year of football ticks by but the Patriots are equipped to make a run at back to back NFL titles.

The 17th year of Belichick and Brady has already begun.

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Jay serves as a sports and news columnist for Dirty Water Media. Former D1 and D2 football player at Merrimack College and Towson University. Born and raised in God's Country (South Boston). Great passion for all things related to Boston.

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