HOUSTON • Record-setting quarterback Tom Brady got the hardware as Most Valuable Player but there were many heroes in the New England Patriots' amazing 34-28 come-from-behind, overtime win over the Atlanta Falcons.
All-purpose running back James White scored a Super Bowl record-tying three touchdowns and ran in a two-point conversion in a sensational performance, setting a record with 14 catches. His 110 receiving yards were the most ever by a running back.
"It's really surreal," he said. "I was just living in the moment. I wasn't paying attention to how many catches I had, how many yards I had. I just wanted to keep moving the chains no matter what it took."
The Patriots trailed 3-21 at the intermission and looked to be hopelessly behind when the Falcons scored about seven minutes into the third quarter for an imposing 28-3 advantage.
White said the Pats never lost hope. "Once we came out in the second half we made adjustments and found the match-ups," he said. "Tom did a great job finding guys, the open guys. We just wanted the momentum for the rest of the game."
"We knew it was still a game," the running back said. "We were real excited to let it all loose. It is the last game of the year and you're playing for a championship, so give it all you have and lay it on the line."
A diving, juggling 23-yard circus catch by Julian Edelman amid two defenders, as they all tumbled to the ground sparked the game-tying drive that knotted it 28-28 in the last minute of regulation before White's two-yard touchdown run ended it in overtime.
"It was a big play in the game," White said of Edelman's extraordinary catch that will go down as one of the Super Bowl's all-time great grabs. "It seems like there is one of those catches every Super Bowl. I'm glad it went our way this time."
Brady cast it as a new contender after his 466-yard passing performance that only adds to a legacy that was already established. "One of the greatest catches I've ever seen," the five-time winner said. "I don't know how in the hell he caught it. He played lights out all game."
But even after trailing by 18 points at the half, the Patriots never doubted their ability to come back.
"Just do your job," Bill Belichick, now the first coach to win five Super Bowl rings, had told them. And they told one another, heading back out on the field, that they were about to write a hell of an ending to the game.
The anxiety, anger and exasperation that pervaded New England for months, after the scandal that cost the Patriots their sainted quarterback for a spell and dented their reputation - none of it mattered.
The Patriots reached the final game, just as they thought they would. And they won, just as they thought they would all along, even if they never could have imagined how it could possibly be done.
For Brady, the win makes him the unquestioned leader of the Super Bowl era among quarterbacks and ties him with Bart Starr of the Green Bay Packers for the most NFL titles.