Patriots crowned Super Bowl LI champs


Amanda Roth

Chris DiLullo, Sports Editor

The National Football League (NFL) ended its 2016 season on February 5 with the New England Patriots defeating the Atlanta Falcons in Super Bowl LI at NRG Stadium in Houston, Texas.

The Falcons struck first after a scoreless first quarter, with running back Devonta Freeman putting them on top by seven with a five-yard run early in the second quarter. Less than four minutes later, they scored again, this time a 19-yard pass from quarterback Matt Ryan to tight end Austin Hooper to put them up by 14 points.

Scoring continued for the Falcons with two minutes and 21 seconds left in the first half. The team took a 21-point lead after cornerback Robert Alford took an interception from New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady 82 yards to the end zone. However, the Patriots did not enter halftime without a score with kicker Stephen Gostkowski kicking a 41-yard field goal to make the score 21-3 at the half.

The Falcons opened the second half with another touchdown, this time a six-yard pass to running back Tevin Coleman. The Patriots answered shortly after with a five-yard pass from Brady to running back James White. After a missed extra point from Gostkowski, the Falcons had a 19-point advantage.

Gostkowski added another field goal with 9:48 to go in the second half and under four minutes later, the Patriots added a six-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Danny Amendola along with a two-point conversion run by White to decrease the lead to eight points. Finally, with 57 seconds left, White ran the ball one yard for a score, and Amendola caught a two-point conversion pass, tying the game at 28 and sending it into overtime.

After winning the coin toss, the Patriots went 75 yards into the end zone with White taking a pitch one yard for a touchdown, giving the Patriots the Super Bowl win 34-28. Brady threw for 466 yards, two touchdowns and one interception on 62 pass attempts while White caught 14 passes for 110 yards. On the Falcons, Ryan threw the ball for 284 yards and two touchdowns while Freeman had 75 yards and a touchdown on 11 carries.

The Patriots finished the regular season with 14 wins paired with two losses, four games taking place without their starting quarterback Tom Brady. In the playoffs, the Patriots first defeated the Houston Texans at home 34-16 and clinched their Super Bowl bid with a 36-17 win over the Pittsburgh Steelers. Brady threw for 671 yards in the two games along with five touchdowns and two interceptions.

The Falcons finished their regular season campaign with 11 wins and five losses. The team started the playoffs with a 36-20 win over the visiting Seattle Seahawks, quarterback Matt Ryan throwing for 338 yards and three touchdowns in the game. In the National Football Conference (NFC) Conference Championship, the Falcons defeated the Green Bay Packers 44-21 behind Ryan’s 392 yards and four touchdowns. Ryan did not throw an interception in either of the playoff games.

With the Super Bowl marking the end of the season, football fans will look towards the NFL Draft and the free agency period for more league activity without any games to watch.

Free agency for players will begin at 4:00 p.m.. Contracts for some players will expire and teams will be open to sign players without contracts. Among the players set to be free agents are Kansas City Chiefs safety Eric Berry, New York Giants defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul and New England Patriots cornerback Malcolm Butler.

The NFL Draft will take place later, beginning on April 27 and extending through April 29 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Teams will have the opportunity to draft players for their teams from a pool of individuals consisting mostly of collegiate players. Clemson University quarterback Deshaun Watson and Louisiana State University running back Leonard Fournette will be among the collegiate players teams will be able to draft.

NFL games may stop after the Super Bowl but activity in the league will continue through the start of games next season, leaving fans with more to watch and note until the season begins again in September.