HOUSTON – If it's the New England Patriots in the Super Bowl, you can bet there will be plenty of drama.
After all, this was the team that last won the Lombardi Trophy two years ago, when Malcolm Butler intercepted a Russell Wilson pass at the goal line in the final seconds to beat Seattle.
On Sunday night, the Patriots came roaring back from a 28-3 deficit late in the third quarter to beat the Atlanta Falcons in Super Bowl LI, 34-28 in overtime, for their fifth NFL championship.
"That is what we are about," defensive back Devin McCourty said. "We knew it was going to be 60 minutes. We just had to keep playing, no matter what. It is unbelievable."
But the script changed. Dramatically.
Tom Brady, who gave the truck he won for being named MVP of that previous Super Bowl to Butler, can keep his MVP ride this time. He overcame a mostly poor performance through two and a half quarters to put together the game of a lifetime – even for him – in leading the Patriots on the greatest comeback in Super Bowl history.
Oh, and this also was a journey that began with Brady missing the first four games of the season because of his Deflategate suspension.
"It was just a lot of mental toughness by our team, and we're all going to remember this for the rest of our life," said Brady, who rewrote Super Bowl records by completing 43 of 62 passes for 466 yards and two touchdowns. "Down 25 points, it's hard to imagine us winning."
Nevertheless, he wouldn't call it the most satisfying of the five Super Bowls he has won.
"They're all sweet, they're all different," Brady said. "This has been an incredible team. Just happy to be a part of it. We overcame a lot of different things, and it's all worth it."
Coach Bill Belichick, who became the first coach to win five Super Bowls – all with the Patriots – steered clear of putting this one above the others.
"No, I don't care about that," he said. "Rank them where you want."
"They're like your kids," wide receiver Julian Edelman said. "You love them all the same."
The first half was so lopsided that, from an entertainment standpoint, the game was greatly overshadowed by Lady Gaga's halftime show, which ended with a fireworks display for which the roof of NRG Stadium was opened.
The Patriots – and especially Brady – looked uncharacteristically rattled through most of the first three quarters. They repeatedly made mistakes. And their defense, which allowed the fewest points in the NFL during the regular season, looked like no match for the league's top-scoring offense.
The Falcons managed to get to Brady using mostly a four-man pass rush. But they mixed up the directions from which their rushers came after him, as well as their coverages. Brady seemed more worried about getting hit than completing passes. He also was shockingly off the mark on many throws – that is, when his receivers weren't dropping passes.
The Falcons capitalized on two huge Patriot blunders – a LeGarrette Blount fumble that they cashed in for a touchdown and a pick-six by Brady – for a pair of first-half touchdowns.
What did the Patriots change at halftime?
"We didn't change anything," safety Patrick Chung said. "(The coaches) just told us to play better. We are a better team than that – offense, defense, special teams – and we had to buck up, man. We had to man up and play consistent football, play the game that we know how to play and we did that.
"Fought to the end, and it is all gravy."
Not for the Falcons.
In the final minutes of regulation, they were the ones that became mistake-prone. Offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan did a terrible job of managing the clock, throwing the ball rather than trying to take time off with the run. Then, the Falcons, with a 28-12 lead with 8:31 left in the fourth quarter, made a crushing turnover, with Matt Ryan losing a fumble on a sack by linebacker Dont'a Hightower.
"Man, I'm just doing what my teammates expect me to do," Hightower said. "(Defensive coordinator) Matty P (Patricia) put me in position to make the play. All I did was go out and execute, man."
The Patriots took over at the Atlanta 25, and four plays later, Brady found Danny Amendola for a 6-yard touchdown. James White took a direct snap to run for the two-point conversion to make it 28-20 with 3:30 left. The momentum had clearly shifted.
And the craziness was only beginning.
With a little more than two minutes left, Brady completed a 23-yard pass over the middle that Edelman somehow caught, grabbing a tipped ball as he was falling down between defenders and getting his hands on it just before it hit the ground – with the help of a defender's foot. The Falcons challenged the call, but it was upheld and the Patriots had the ball at the Atlanta 41.
"It's one of the greatest catches I've ever seen," Brady said. "I don't know how the hell he caught it. I don't think he does."
Brady drove the Pats to a 1-yard touchdown run by White. Incredibly, Brady converted another two-point conversion, on a pass to Amendola, to make it 28-28 with 57 seconds left.
The Falcons punted, and pushed the game into overtime, a Super Bowl first. The Patriots won the toss, and it was more Brady magic. He led them on an eight-play, 75-yard drive that ended with White's scoring run.
"We just kept believing, kept fighting," Patriots wide receiver Matthew Slater said. "We looked each other in the eyes, we knew that we had paid the price. We had showed the hard work through the season, and it was time to reap the hard work."
As long as Brady is at quarterback, it's much easier to do.
His teammates saw the familiar look in his eyes when he took the field in overtime.
"He was the same as he always is – cool, calm, and collected," Amendola said. "He's the leader, the general, the best ever. And that is the end of the story."