There was a long list of plays that allowed the Patriots to erase a 28-3 deficit and come back to win Super Bowl LI, but few were bigger than linebacker Dont’a Hightower’s sack and forced fumble in the fourth quarter.
The Falcons had a third-and-one on their own 36-yard-line while protecting a 28-16 lead when Matt Ryan dropped back to pass and Hightower came on what he said was not a “complicated” blitz. Running back Devonta Freeman didn’t pick him up and Hightower crashed into Ryan, jarring the ball loose so that defensive tackle Alan Branch could fall on it for a game-changing turnover.
“I saw Matt Ryan with the ball in his hands, I wanted it so I hit him and took it,” Hightower said.
Hightower said the defense came into the second half feeling like they had to make a play and/or force a turnover that would allow the team to dig itself out of a big hole. He did just that, the Patriots scored a few plays later and the biggest comeback in Super Bowl history continued.