Sunday, Feb. 5, 2017 | 11:15 p.m.
Through the first half of Super Bowl LI in Houston, the Atlanta Falcons were in prime position to win their first title in franchise history. In Las Vegas, sports books were looking for a big payday to end an NFL season that has been historically cruel to oddsmakers.
Tom Brady and the New England Patriots had other plans.
Brady threw for 466 yards and two touchdowns as the Patriots scored 31 unanswered points to beat Atlanta 34-28 in overtime. Despite Atlanta jumping out to a 25-point lead in the third quarter, bettors trusted the Patriots and loaded up on them on in-game wagers.
The Falcons entered the fourth quarter as 17.5-point favorites at Las Vegas sports books and the Patriots were as high as 16-to-1 to win the game at one point.
Sports books were packed with handicappers who watched Brady lead the biggest comeback in Super Bowl history and lined up to cash their tickets once again to end the season.
“It was pretty quiet in the office,” said Nick Bogdanovich, U.S. Director of Trading at William Hill. “We were just waiting for the collapse to happen and it did.”
Teams trailing by 17 points or more in a playoff game or the Super Bowl were 0-120 entering Sunday night, but the Patriots overcame the deficit for third-largest comeback in NFL postseason history.
In a game full of records, the one that hurt the sports books the most was the game reaching overtime for the first time ever. The prop bet for “Will there be overtime” paid plus-550 (risking $1 to win $5.50), and 87 percent of bettors at William Hill books wagered on “yes.”
Other rare occurrences in Super Bowl LI that bettors cashed in on at William Hill included-
•Will there be a special teams or defensive touchdown? Yes paid plus-130 (87 percent of wagers were on yes).
•Total players to attempt a pass: over/under 2.5 players. Over paid plus-175 (96 percent of wagers were on over).
•Will there be a missed extra point? Yes paid plus-250 (87 percent of wagers were on yes).
The total dollars wagered on Super Bowl 51 surpassed the previous best — last year's game — at William Hill, making it the most bet-on in history.
In-game wagering is where bettors made the most money, with the moneyline changing 269 times during the game.
But while Brady’s comeback ruined the day for most books, he somewhat made up for it by winning his fourth Most Valuable Player award.
Brady was the favorite to win MVP, opening up at plus-120 odds and receiving more than double the amount of the money wagered than any of the other player. But bettors would have cashed in huge if long shot James White would have won the award.
White finished the game with a Super Bowl record 14 catches, 139 total yards and three touchdowns – including the game-winning score in overtime. White’s odds to win MVP were as high as 100-to-1 at some books.
What was possibly the greatest Super Bowl of all-time ended with bettors cashing a lot of tickets, just as they did throughout most of this NFL season.
“The NFL was terrible all year for us,” Bogdanovich said. “It was a fitting end to the season.”