The entire 2016 sports season has been one of dramatic comebacks and heart pounding finishes. It started with the Men’s NCAA Championship game. Villanova’s Kris Jenkins hits a three-pointer at the buzzer to give them a 77-74 victory over North Carolina. The Golden State Warriors had the champagne on ice until they blew a 3-1 lead to the Cleveland Cavaliers. It took a three-pointer by Kyrie Irving in Game 7 to put the Cavs on top. The Coastal Carolina Chanticleers (say that fast 5 times) were a virtual nobody in college baseball. They beat powerhouse Arizona in a winner-take-all Game 3, by a score of 4-3. In the bottom of the 9th with runners on second and third with two outs, and the pitch count at 3-2, Alex Cunningham struck out Ryan Haug. WNBA League MVP Nneka Ogwumike scored with with 3.1 seconds left in the Final Game 5 to give the Los Angeles Sparks a 77-76 victory over the Minnesota Lynx. It only took the Chicago Cubs 108 years to win a World Series title. They had to come back from 3-1 to the Cleveland Indians, winning the last two games on the road. Game 7 went into the 10th inning with the Cubs pulling out an 8-7 victory. Jimmie Johnson won his seventh (tied for most all-time) NASCAR Sprint Cup Championship by winning the last race in Homestead, Florida. He started dead last to begin the race because of a pre-race inspection fault. With two minutes left in the game, DeShaun Watson completed six of his eight passes for 50 yards, culminating in a 2-yard touchdown pass to Hunter Renfrow with one second left. The Clemson Tigers came back to beat the Alabama Crimson Tide 35-31. Super Bowl 51 between the New England Patriots and the Atlanta Falcons added to the sports season legacy.
The stage was set in Houston, Texas for a great game. The Patriots were three point favorites before the game started. The Falcons boasted the NFL’s best, high powered offense. The Patriots had a top ranked defense and arguably the best Coach and Quarterback duo. Only one could leave NRG Stadium with the trophy and a parade two days later. Both teams seemed to be playing chess in the first quarter. The Falcons defense was the biggest surprise in the first quarter. They put a lot of pressure on Tom Brady, even sacking him twice. The quarter ended 0-0. This was definitely not going to be a shootout.
The second quarter is when the Falcons capitalized on turnovers. Less than a minute into the quarter and a fumble was recovered by Robert Alford on the Falcons own 29-yard line. Five plays later, Devonta Freeman was running around the left end for a 5-yard touchdown. Patriots would go three and out on the next possession, giving the momentum back to the Falcons. Matt Ryan again took only five plays to score another touchdown. The Falcons’ offense was clicking on all cylinders. The Patriots began putting together a great drive only to have it intercepted by Alford for a touchdown going the other way. The Falcons were up 21-0. Who would have thought? The Patriots closed out the first half with a field goal, avoiding the shut out.
The Falcons and Patriots were both affected by the extended halftime. They both went three and out on their first possessions. The Falcons started their second drive on their own 15-yard line. This time it took them eight plays before Ryan found running back Tevin Coleman for a touchdown. The Falcons were now up 28-3. A 25 point lead, that no one in Super Bowl history has come back from. I can hear Atlanta’s Mayor Kasim Reed planning the parade route on the phone. Georgia’s Governor Nathan Deal was having his assistant draw up the budget to pay for everything. The fans of Atlanta were looking for their keys to head to the Georgia Dome to celebrate and party one last time. Then the Patriots decided to play football. Brady led them on a 13-play drive, throwing a 5-yard touchdown pass to running back James White. The extra point was no good, giving the Falcons even more reason to think they were definitely on the verge of their first championship.
Fifteen minutes away. One quarter left in Super Bowl 51. The Patriots first possession in the quarter was another long drive of 12 plays taking over five minutes off the clock. The Falcons defense again, stepped up by sacking Brady twice to force a field goal. With under ten minutes left in the game, all the Falcons had to do was run the ball and protect the ball. Welp! The very next possession Ryan fumbles the ball while being sacked. The Patriots score a touchdown in five plays and get the two-point conversion. It is now a one possession game. Mayor Reed and Governor Deal have things on hold. Less than six minutes left in the game and the Falcons have the ball at their own 10-yard line. They manage to get down to the Patriots 22-yard line, thanks to one of the best catches by Julio Jones. It is 4:40 left in the game and they run Freeman for minus one yard. If they run the ball two more times, it will force the Patriots to use their timeouts. The Falcons will kick a field goal and go on to win the game. Not so fast. They drop back to pass and Ryan is sacked. The next play they try to pass again and there is a holding call. Now they are beyond field goal range and have to punt. The Patriots get the ball back with 3:30 on the clock at their 9-yard line. Brady calmly leads the team down, giving the ball to White for a 1-yard rushing touchdown. They get the two-point conversion again. It’s a tie game! Mayor Reed and Governor Deal have hung up the phone and torn up the papers.
In overtime, the Patriots win the toss and take the ball down the field 75 yards for a game winning touchdown. White scores his third touchdown of the game and should have been MVP. The Patriots were down 25 points and came back to win 34-28 in the first ever overtime in Super Bowl history. Yes, the greatest comeback ever. It marked Tom Brady’s fifth ring, tying him with Charles Haley of the Cowboys as the most ever. Despite the gloom surrounding Atlanta, it’s only fitting that the Super Bowl would be the best ever. Never has a sports season been like this.