by Rob Joyce
When Tevin Coleman took a strut into the end zone with 8:31 to go in the third quarter, the Lombardi Trophy was practically in Atlanta’s hands. They went up 28-3 on the Patriots, and in the first 50 big games no one had ever erased a deficit of more than 10 points. Alas, those other teams didn’t have Tom Brady. The legend then led a comeback for the ages, scoring 25 unanswered points to force overtime. He then led the march down the field in the first overtime in Super Bowl history, and when James White crossed the goal line on a two-yard run, New England completed the comeback, 34-28.
It’s certainly the greatest comeback in NFL history given the circumstances. But where does it rank among the greatest single-game comebacks in sports history?
5) 2005 Champions League Final:
AC Milan led 3-0 going into halftime against Liverpool, a seemingly insurmountable lead. Yet within six minutes that lead evaporated after Liverpool netted three goals to even things up. They’d then go on to win in penalties to clinch an epic comeback.
4) 2013 NHL Eastern Conference Quarterfinals:
The Bruins trailed the Maple Leafs 4-1 midway through the third period of Game 7, and it looked like Toronto was going to comeback from a 3-1 series deficit. Even when Nathan Horton scored to make it 4-2, the Leafs were still in good shape as they led by two with under two minutes left. Then, goals from Milan Lucic and Patrice Bergeron 31 seconds apart miraculously forced overtime. By that point, Boston completed the epic comeback on Bergeron’s second of the game for the series winner. Boston would go on to the Cup Final, losing to Chicago in six games.
3) 2012 Ryder Cup:
“The Miracle at Medinah,” Europe went into the final day of the Ryder Cup needing eight points to retain the cup and 8.5 points to win outright. It was a tall order – essentially they’d have to win at least eight matches against the United States, who featured the likes of Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, Dustin and Zach Johnson and Matt Kuchar, among others. But the Euros started the day winning the first four matches, and things snowballed from there. When Woods missed a putt on the final hole to force a halve against Francesco Molinari, it secured a 14.5-13.5 European win.
2) 1993 NFL Wild Card Game:
In college, Frank Reich’s Maryland team trailed 31-0 at Miami before he led the greatest comeback in college football history. Fast forward to the 1993 playoffs with the Bills, and Buffalo trailed the Oilers 35-3 early in the second half. This came just a week after Houston beat Buffalo 27-3 in the regular season finale. Then Reich, playing for an injured Jim Kelly, led the greatest (statistical) comeback in NFL history. The Bills outscored the Oilers 38-3 the rest of the way, winning 41-38 in overtime.
1) Super Bowl LI:
Sure, Reich’s comeback was statistically greater (32 points to the Patriots’ 25), but it wasn’t in the Super Bowl. When Coleman made it 28-3 Atlanta had an estimated 98.6 percent chance to win, according to multiple statistical formulas. But Tom Brady and Bill Belichick aren’t your typical variables in a mathematical formula. The defense tightened up, forcing a key strip sack of Matt Ryan and later knocking Atlanta out of field goal range. The offense got contributions from everyone, and it all ends with the unlikeliest comeback in a single-game in sports history.