This Day In Sports: When ’28-3’ became part of sports vernacular

February 5, 2017: Where to begin when talking about Super Bowl LI? In the first Super Bowl ever to go to overtime, the New England Patriots complete the biggest comeback in the game’s history with a 34-28 victory over the Atlanta Falcons.Patriots quarterback Tom Brady won a record fifth Super Bowl with coach Bill Belichick, calmly guiding the Pats to 31 consecutive points after trailing 28-3 late in the third quarter. Brady won his fourth Super Bowl MVP trophy, throwing a record 62 passes and completing 43 for 466 yards, another record.

That “28-3” number has become part of the American sports vernacular. Fans still haven’t let the Falcons forget it. Ironically, it applied to Boise State that fall when the Broncos came back from a 28-3 deficit to win at Colorado State, 59-52 in overtime. New England’s 28-3 deficit was almost halfway through the third quarter, and even after a 75-yard Patriots touchdown drive, things still seemed to be going Atlanta’s way after a missed extra point and a failed onside kick attempt. But penalties, sacks and a Matt Ryan turnover kept the door open, and the 39-year-old Brady directed a 91-yard touchdown drive to tie the game with 2½ minutes left. The Pats scored on the first possession of overtime to end it.

Marsing High grad Shea McClellin, in his sixth season after being drafted in the first round by the Chicago Bears in 2012, started at linebacker for New England and became the sixth former Boise State Bronco to earn a Super Bowl championship ring. McClellin got most of his field time in the first half and didn’t record a tackle, although he did get a QB hit on Ryan. A cutaway showed McClellin getting some serious in-game coaching from Bill Belichick.

But McClellin did execute one of his patented kick-blocking hurdles in the second quarter to disrupt an Atlanta extra point—a move that was controversially penalized. McClellin was flagged for illegal formation—apparently he was “on the line of scrimmage at the snap.” It was confusing. “To me, it was not a foul,” said former NFL VP of Officiating Mike Pereira on the Fox telecast. McClellin blocked a PAT with the same acrobatic move in a December game against Baltimore. The “leaping kick block” was banned by the NFL less than two months later.

The Super Bowl ended up being the final game of McClellin’s career—he retired late that spring due to reported concussion issues. In 2022, he got into high school coaching, taking the top job at Marsing, his alma mater. The Huskies were a long-suffering program and went 1-8 in McClellin’s first season. But last year Marsing went 5-4 and made the 2A playoffs for the first time in 10 years, and that has turned into the head coaching job at Vallivue High.

(Tom Scott hosts the Scott Slant segment during the football season on KTVB’s Sunday Sports Extra. He also anchors four sports segments each weekday on 95.3 FM KTIK and one on News/Talk KBOI. His Scott Slant column runs every Wednesday.)

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