There have been bigger comebacks in sports history than what the New England Patriots pulled off in Super Bowl 51.
But such a comeback, on the ultimate stage, in a championship-deciding game — that simply doesn’t happen very often.
Before Sunday, no team in Super Bowl history had ever successfully rallied from more than 10 points down. The Patriots erased a 25-point deficit to win their fifth Super Bowl victory, somehow rallying from 28-3 down to beat the Atlanta Falcons 34-28 in overtime.
“Down 25 points, it’s hard to imagine us winning,” said Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, who took home his fifth championship and fourth Super Bowl MVP trophy. “It took a lot of great plays and that’s why you play to the end.”
What the Patriots did will go down in sports lore.
And here’s a look at some of the other great title-clinching comebacks that have been pulled off over the years.
2017 COLLEGE FOOTBALL PLAYOFF
Alabama never lost under coach Nick Saban when it entered a fourth quarter with a double-digit lead — 96-0 in such situations until last month in Tampa, Florida. The Crimson Tide led Clemson 24-14 with 15 minutes remaining in the national championship game. But a wild fourth quarter awaited, and Clemson got the winning touchdown on a Deshaun Watson pass to Hunter Renfrow in the final seconds as the Tigers (who trailed 14-0 early) won the title, 35-31.
2016 NBA FINALS
Cleveland was down by eight in the third quarter, on the road no less, against Golden State in Game 7 of the NBA Finals. But the Cavaliers outscored the hosts by 12 points the rest of the way, held the best team in NBA regular-season history scoreless in the final four-plus minutes — helped by LeBron James’ amazing chasedown block in the final moments — and pulled off a 93-89 win. It was a comeback game and comeback series for the Cavs, who trailed the finals 3-1 before rallying.
1997 WORLD SERIES
The Florida Marlins were four strikes away from elimination in Game 7 of the World Series, trailing 2-1 to the Cleveland Indians in the bottom of the ninth inning. But Craig Counsell’s sacrifice fly off Indians closer Jose Mesa tied the game, and the Marlins won it in the 11th when Edgar Renteria hit a series-ending single.
1992 NBA FINALS
Game 7 was awaiting the Portland Trail Blazers. They were up by 15, in Chicago, going into the fourth quarter. But Michael Jordan and the Bulls decided to end the season right then and there. They outscored Portland 33-14 in the fourth quarter, and wrapped up their second consecutive NBA title with a 97-93 win.
1988 NCAA WOMEN’S FINAL FOUR
Louisiana Tech had lost the NCAA championship game the year before, and the Lady Techsters looked like they would do so again. They were down 37-23 with 15 minutes left, but behind Erica Westbrooks’ 25 points and a stellar defensive effort by Teresa Weatherspoon a comeback was pulled off — Louisiana Tech winning 56-54. It remains the biggest deficit overcome in NCAA women’s title game history.
1978 PGA CHAMPIONSHIP
John Mahaffey trailed by seven shots going into the final round, but shot 66 at Oakmont to put himself in position for what became his only major championship. Mahaffey beat Tom Watson and Jerry Pate in a playoff, making birdie on the second extra hole.
1971 STANLEY CUP FINAL
Chicago was up 2-0 in Game 7, on home ice, midway through the second period and well on its way to beating the Montreal Canadiens for the Stanley Cup . But the Blackhawks let it slip away. Jacques Lemaire had a goal and an assist 4 minutes apart late in the second period to tie the game, and Henri Richard’s second goal of the night at 2:34 of the third period was enough to give Montreal a 3-2 Cup-clinching win.
1963 NCAA MEN’S FINAL FOUR
Loyola-Chicago was down by 15 points with 14 minutes remaining, before coming back and stunning top-ranked Cincinnati 60-58 in overtime. All five Loyola starters played the entire game, and the Ramblers made history by starting four black players in the championship game. Vic Rouse got the gamewinning basket at the buzzer.
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