Super Bowl LI is set to go down as one of the best postseason games in NFL history, if not the greatest Super Bowl of all time.
The game featured the largest comeback (25 points) as well as the first overtime game in Super Bowl history. Patriots quarterback Tom Brady all but cemented his status as the greatest quarterback ever by engineering that comeback and passing for a record 466 yards.
Super Bowl LI also gave us a number of memorable plays, and it even offered a little something for the postseason fantasy crowd.
Today, we're going to look back at some of the key turning points from Super Bowl LI as well as some of the top fantasy performers.
Super Bowl LI Scoring
|Scoring by Quarter|
Top Fantasy Stars
|Star Super Bowl LI Fantasy Lineup|
|QB||Tom Brady, NE||466 YDS, 2 TD, INT|
|RB||Devonta Freeman, ATL||75 YDS, 2 REC, 46 YDS, TD|
|RB||James White, NE||29 YDS, 14 REC, 110 YDS, 3 TD, 2PT|
|WR||Danny Amendola, NE||8 REC, 78 YDS, TD|
|WR||Julian Edelman, NE||5 REC, 87 YDS|
|WR||Julio Jones, ATL||4 REC, 87 YDS|
|TE||Austin Hooper, ATL||3 REC, 32 YDS, TD|
|FLEX||Malcolm Mitchell, WR, NE||6 REC, 70 YDS|
|D/ST||Atlanta||34 PA, INT, FF, TD|
|K||Stephen Gostkowski||2 FG|
The Falcons dominated in the first half and for the majority of the first three quarters. Therefore, the three key plays or series of plays that we're going to look at here all occurred in the fourth quarter.
New England mounted a scoring drive to open the fourth quarter but was forced to settle for a field goal. This meant that a two-score game hinged on two successful two-point conversions.
When the Falcons got the ball back with just under 10 minutes to play, it still seemed unlikely the Patriots would pull off a comeback.
On 3rd-and-1, however, quarterback Matt Ryan took a deep drop and was sacked by Patriots linebacker Dont'a Hightower. Ryan fumbled the ball, Hightower recovered it, and the Patriots scored a touchdown five plays later.
After James White rushed for a successful two-point conversion, the Patriots found themselves in a one-score game.
This series was critical because it shifted the momentum of the game. From here on out, it felt like New England was destined to make a game of what had been a blowout. Had the Falcons ran the ball here—even if they didn't convert—they could have drained a bit more clock and forced the Patriots to go the length of the field.
Instead, New England got the ball in scoring range and took advantage.
"I saw Matt Ryan with the ball in his hand, and I wanted it," Hightower said after the game, per Zack Cox of NESN.com. "So I took it from him."
Brady rightfully won Super Bowl MVP, but it's hard to imagine a victory would have been possible without Hightower's key play.
The Julio Jones Catch
Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones made one of the most spectacular catches we've seen in recent Super Bowl history late in the fourth quarter.
With less than five minutes remaining and Atlanta clinging to an eight-point lead, Ryan found Jones on the sideline with a beautiful pass. The catch by Jones was even better. He plucked the ball out of the air and tapped both toes down just before falling out of bounds.
Jones' reception came at the New England 22-yard line, which meant a couple of runs and a field goal would have given the Falcons an 11-point lead with little time remaining. However, the Falcons chose to go a different route.
This was another series of plays that flipped the game in New England's favor. Devonta Freeman ran one for a loss of a yard, and then the Falcons didn't run again. Ryan took a deep drop and was sacked for a 12-yard loss.
On the next play, a holding call put Atlanta back at the New England 45. Ryan threw incomplete on third down, and the Patriots got another shot with three-and-a-half minutes remaining.
Not only was this poor clock management by the Falcons, but it was some of the most questionable play-calling we've seen since New England's last Super Bowl appearance. Jones' catch set him up to be the hero of Super Bowl LI, but the Falcons blew it.
The Julian Edelman Catch
For as great as Jones' catch was, it barely holds a candle to the one made by Patriots wideout Julian Edelman a few plays later.
With just over two-and-a-half minutes left in the game, Brady uncorked a deep pass to Edelman, but an Atlanta defender batted the ball. Edelman, though, lunged forward through traffic and snatched the ball out of the air off a defender's leg and then an arm. He bobbled the ball a bit, but Edelman made the grab before the ball touched the ground.
The Falcons challenged the ruling of a catch, but the referees upheld the call.
"It's one of the greatest catches I've ever seen," Brady said after the game, per Dan Graziano of ESPN.com. "I don't know how he caught it. I don't think he does either."
Four plays later, White plunged into the end zone for a touchdown. Brady then found Danny Amendola for a two-point conversion, typing up the game. As we all now know, New England then went on to win in overtime, 34-28.
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Given the series of events that followed Edelman's insane reception, it's easy to put up his catch alongside the fabled David Tyree catch in Super Bowl lore. The Patriots might still have gone on to win the game had it fallen incomplete, but the Falcons could have just as easily picked it off.
When Edelman snatched the ball out of the air, the Patriots essentially snatched Super Bowl LI away from the Falcons.