Atlanta had dominated the first half, and it was the defense that struck first, with rookie linebacker Deion Jones stripping the football from Patriots running back LeGarrette Blount, forcing the fumble, and cornerback Robert Alford recovering.
Five plays later, Atlanta was on the scoreboard first with running back Devonta Freeman bouncing outside and rushing in from 5 yards for the touchdown.
Later, Falcons quarterback — and NFL MVP — Matt Ryan found tight end Austin Hooper for a 19-yard touchdown.
That made it 14-0 with 8:48 left in the second quarter, but Atlanta’s defense still wasn’t done.
On the next drive, in which the Patriots had been marching down the field, a Brady pass intended for Danny Amendola was picked off by Alford, returning it 82 yards for the touchdown. It was the first pick-six off Brady in any postseason game.
But the comeback was on for New England starting in the second half. When it was 28-12, it kicked into overdrive, when Ryan was sacked at Atlanta’s own 25 by Patriots linebacker Dont’a Hightower. Ryan lost the ball, and defensive tackle Alan Branch recovered.
It was the first time the Falcons had turned the ball over in this postseason.
Brady found Danny Amendola for a 6-yard touchdown pass with 5:56 left. The two-point conversion by White made it an eight-point game.
On the following drive, Atlanta was forced to punt, setting up the Patriots time for a final push to force overtime.
The drive included one of the best catches in Super Bowl history. It was 1st-and-10 from New England’s own 36, and Patriots wide receiver Julian Edelman, fighting off three Atlanta defenders — even going through the legs of one of them — somehow scooped up the ball before it hit the ground.
“I knew I got it,” Edelman, who had 87 yards receiving, said. “I felt like I had it.”
With 57 seconds left, White found the end zone for a 1-yard touchdown. The two-point conversion pass from Brady to Amendola tied it, setting up overtime.
“It’s hard tonight for the lessons,” Falcons head coach Dan Quinn said. “What I can tell you is you can’t truly be relentless until it’s right there, and you’ve got to take it away or you didn’t get it. A loss like tonight, although it’s difficult, I would like to think that this group, we’re putting our stamp and we’re just getting started to be what we can be.”(Jill Martin