Tom Brady looked old, the Patriots appeared finished and Falcons bettors started counting their winnings when their team went ahead 28-3 in the third quarter of Super Bowl LI on Sunday.
But not long after social media called for Brady to be replaced by backup Jimmy Garoppolo, Brady flipped a switch and carried New England to not only the greatest Super Bowl comeback ever but one of the greatest comebacks in sports history in a 34-28 victory in the first Super Bowl ever to go to overtime.
The result was a mixed bag for Las Vegas sports books, which lost on a plethora of popular props that cashed, namely the overtime, which paid 7-1. Overall, most books reported winning days but William Hill suffered a six-figure loss, most of it on in-game wagering.
“In-play was the killer. That was, by far, the worst thing that ever happened,” William Hill sports book director Nick Bogdanovich said. “Everybody was taking the big plus price on New England when they were down 28-3.
“Any time a real good team gets down in any sport, it’s always bad. And you magnify it on the Patriots in the Super Bowl. They had infinite opportunities to take them on the money line, to take a little to make a lot.”
When New England fell behind 28-3 with 8:31 left in the third quarter, it was posted as an 18-point underdog and 12-1 on the money line in in-play wagering at the Westgate.
“The Patriots and over was our worst-case scenario, but the game was still a winner for us,” Westgate sports book director Jay Kornegay said.
New England was favored by 3 and the total was 59 for most of the two weeks before the game before dropping as low as 56½ on Sunday afternoon. All the bookmakers were grateful that New England scored a touchdown in overtime instead of a field goal, as a 31-28 final would’ve pushed the side and total for countless bettors.
“A field goal would’ve been a disaster. It would’ve landed on 3 and 59 and there would’ve been a lot of refunds,” Golden Nugget sports book director Tony Miller said. “The New England touchdown made it a banner day for us.”
Miller, who took multiple $100,000 money-line bets on the Falcons, said the Golden Nugget won six figures on the game.
“It was one of the best Super Bowls we’ve had in my 11 years at the Nugget,” he said.
CG Technology, Caesars Palace/Harrah’s/Rio, Boyd Gaming and Station Casinos all reported winning days as well.
“We did OK but not as good as we would’ve had the Falcons won,” Caesars Palace sports book director Frank Kunovic said.
When Danny Amendola caught the 2-point conversion pass to tie it 28-28, Kunovic said it was a swing of almost $1 million for Caesars.
“We were rooting for them to get that touchdown but not make the 2-point conversion,” he said.
So was CG Technology sports book director Jason Simbal.
“If that two-point conversion missed, that would’ve been awesome,” he said. “It ended up not being bad. The absolute worst-case scenario was if it ended 31-28 in overtime, so we were rooting real hard for that touchdown.”
In a first for a Super Bowl, several books needed the over, which cashed on James White’s 2-yard run in overtime.
“That was our saving grace there,” Kunovic said. “We had a lot more money on the under.”
Boyd Gaming needed Atlanta and the under.
“We thought we had a lock in the first half, then the floodgates opened in the second half,” he said. “It wasn’t our best result but we turned out on the plus side still, largely as a result of the futures and prop wagers.”
Two key plays stood out to the bookmakers. The first one was when Matt Ryan fumbled following a sack on third-and-1 and the Patriots recovered and scored five plays later to make it 28-20. The second was when Julian Edelman made an amazing catch an inch off the ground to keep the tying touchdown drive alive in what was the equivalent of the David Tyree helmet catch.
“That freak catch,” Scucci said. “I can’t tell you how many times we’ve been on the wrong end of an amazing catch in the Super Bowl. And all three involve New England.”
Contact reporter Todd Dewey at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-0354. Follow @tdewey33 on Twitter.