How does Super Bowl comeback compare to the five greatest?

Patriots turned around a 25 point deficit, here’s five other great sporting comebacks

James White of the New England Patriots scores the game winning touchdown in overtime against the Atlanta Falcons during Super Bowl 51 at NRG Stadium. Photograph: Getty Images

The New England Patriots pulled off one of the greatest comebacks in sporting history last night - reversing a 25-point deficit to beat the Atlanta Falcons and claim their fifth NFL championship in the first Super Bowl overtime.

Trailing at one stage by 25 points the Tom Brady-inspired Patriots scored 31 points without reply. Nineteen of those points arrived in the final quarter, before James White‘s two yard touchdown run in overtime sealed victory.

But where does the win rate in terms of the greatest ever comebacks in sport?

Here’s a reminder of five of the most memorable...


Istanbul 2005

Liverpool came into the Champions League final as enormous underdogs, facing a star studded AC Milan team boasting the likes of Alessandro Nesta, Andrea Pirlo, Kaka and Andriy Shevchenko. The Italians surged into a three goal half-time lead, and despite the travelling Liverpool fans remaining in full voice their team looked like suffering a humiliating defeat.

Up stepped Steven Gerrard to head in an early second half goal, he ran back to the half way line urging on his team mates around him. Two more followed soon after and thanks to some incredible saves by 'keeper Jerzy Dudek the Reds forced extra-time and then penalties.

Dudek went on to cement his name at the heart of the English club’s decorated history, saving Shevchenko’s spot kick to complete the miracle of Istanbul and win Liverpool a fifth European Cup.

Other great soccer comebacks include Manchester United's 2-1 Champions League final smash and grab win over Bayern Munich, or Charlton's win over Huddersfield in 1957. Which mightn't be as fresh in the memory as United's treble heroics. Charlton trailed 5-1 with 30 minutes left, and with a man less, but they somehow went on to win 7-6.

Ryder Cup 2012

The US had enjoyed a great comeback of their own at Brookline in 1999, but the European’s snatching the Ryder Cup from the American’s grasp in their own back yard in 2012 was the one that sticks in the memory on this continent.

Jose Maria Olazabal's Europe side were 10-6 down before the 12 singles rubbers. Europe won eight of those and tied one, with Martin Kaymer holing the crucial putt to defeat Steve Stricker.

Meaning that remarkably the Europeans had retained the trophy with one match still in progress at Medinah.

Another great golfing comeback was Nick Faldo’s win at The Masters in 1996.

More of a collapse by Greg Norman (with a final round 78) than a comeback perhaps, but nevertheless Faldo trailed by six strokes into the final round and went on to win by five after a flawless round of 67.

Red Rum - 1973 Grand National

The first win of Red Rum’s Grand National treble came in 1973, in the most remarkable of circumstances.

Australian horse Crisp was leading by 30 lengths at one stage, but Red Rum who was carrying 23 pounds less, went on to win by three-quarters of a length and set a new record time of nine minutes, 1.9 seconds. The birth of a legend.

At the last fence Crisp was still 15 lengths clear, however Red Rum and jockey Brian Fletcher made it up on the final stretch to win one of the greatest ever Grand Nationals.

Dennis Taylor, The Crucible, 1985

Dennis Taylor wasn't given much chance against World number one Steve Davis ahead of their World Snooker Championship final in 1985.

The Tyrone native didn’t do much to rebut those predictions when he found himself trailing 8-0 after the first session.

Taylor showed true character though to win seven of the next eight frames, and then tie matters at 17 frames each. At its peak a TV audience of 18.5 million UK viewers watched as Taylor edged the final set after a memorable battle on the final black. That being the first time that the title was decided on the black.

Rugby World Cup semi-final 1999

You never know which France is going to show up. A bit of an overused cliché to say the least but the Rugby World Cup semi-final of 1999 was a perfect example of how quickly things can go from bad to brilliant for the French.

Trailing against the mighty All Blacks, by 14 points with little over 30 minutes left on the clock, things were looking ominous.

The French though responded with 26 points in just 13 minutes to go on and win an absolute classic 43-31.

Then there's Leinster's Heineken Cup triumph over Northampton in 2011.

The Saints led 22-6 at half-time at the Millennium Stadium, but with Johnny Sexton dictating matters in the second period the Irish province went on to score 27 unanswered points and win the game 33-22.

Eamon Donoghue

Eamon Donoghue

Eamon Donoghue is a former Irish Times journalist