BOSTON (CBS) — You’re probably still trying find the words to explain exactly what happened on Sunday night.
Don’t worry, you’re not alone. Even Tom Brady had a tough time discussing the Patriots’ spectacularly improbable comeback win over the Atlanta Falcons in Super Bowl LI.
“It was a hell of a football game,” the MVP said at the podium after a brief pause.
Look no further than Brady’s reaction on the field shortly after the Patriots pulled off the incredible 34-28 win. The quarterback fell to a knee to gather himself before sharing a moment with Bill Belichick and LeGarrette Blount:
It’s going to take everyone some time to digest that one, players and fans alike.
“Honestly it’s all very surreal right now,” said running back James White, whose touchdown run in overtime won it for New England. “It is just a great team victory. You couldn’t even write this script. You could never imagine it. We just went out there and got a great team victory.”
Here’s what the Patriots had to say about the franchise’s fifth Super Bowl Championship:
No team had ever pulled off a comeback of more than 10 points. The Patriots erased a 25-point deficit on Sunday, scoring 31 unanswered points en route to the victory.
“Tonight we earned the championship,” said Belichick. “These guys played like champions when it counted the most in the fourth quarter and overtime. It is about this team and what this team accomplished. It isn’t about anything else. They deserve it. They earned it and they got it.”
“We were just worrying about beating them by one point,” receiver Danny Amendola said. “We knew we had to come out in the second half and play no matter what. They were coming at us with a lot of things. We just wanted to be resilient, we wanted to be tough mentally, and we got it done.”
“When you have the greatest player ever on your team, you know anything is possible. We knew it, we just had to get the ball back to him,” safety Duron Harmon said of Brady.
“It definitely didn’t shake us. We kind of expected that, too, knowing that people were going to write us off,” said defensive lineman Alan Branch. “Going into the game, there were a couple like that anyway. We knew we were playing for each other, for our families, and for our friends. We went out there and played as hard as we could.”
“If you don’t turn the ball over, you’re going to have a better chance of to have opportunities to win the game. That’s what we were thinking. Hey, let’s play one play at a time,” said receiver Julian Edelman. “We did that and it just tells you how mentally tough this team is. We were down 25 points. It’s a microcosm of this season. We go through some adversity and we stick together. We were mentally tough, keep on pulling and keep on moving. We were able to finish on top at the end.”
“I think it’s one of those feelings, it feels amazing right now but it’s going to feel better as a memory all time. That memory is never going to leave me,” said Chris Long, who played in his first postseason in nine NFL seasons. “You feel like you’re kind of immortal. You can’t kill that memory. The biggest comeback in Super Bowl history, right? It was.”
What Was Said At Halftime?
The Patriots trailed 21-3 at halftime after a frustrating first half of football. Some words were said in the locker room.
“What did I tell the guys at halftime? Same thing we told them in the first quarter and the second quarter,” said Belichick. “Just kept coaching and just kept trying to get better. Find ways to do things that were a little bit more productive.”
“It was nothing crazy. There was no great speech. There were no guys arguing, throwing helmets or anything,” said tight end Martellus Bennett. “We came in and made adjustments. Everyone was focused on doing what we had to do and that was it. We just made adjustments and changed up our game plan and how we were going to attack and that is what we went with.”
“We came in at halftime and understood if we played like we did in the first half in the second half, we were going to lose the game. It was going to be an embarrassing loss. It’s about looking yourself in the mirror, having pride and fighting for the guy next to you,” said linebacker Rob Ninkovich. “I’m just so happy for everyone to have come together. We broke down in the locker room at halftime, and we never break down. We said we’re going to come together and play one heck of a second half. We came together, ‘Pats on three,’ and we came out swinging. Hats off to everyone in every phase. We fought through it.”
Rob Ninkovich On Patriots 5th Quarter:
“We just made adjustments. We knew that we weren’t playing Patriot football,” said White. “Find matchups, find plays that work. Like I said, if the defense made stops and we kept scoring points and keep narrowing the lead and force overtime, we could get the victory.”
“I think once everybody looked around in our locker room and realized we weren’t giving up, that kind of changed the whole mind-set of everybody,” said defensive lineman Alan Branch. “We went out there firing off on all cylinders on all three teams: special teams, offense and defense. We all started playing well and executing. I think the biggest thing was execution. We were definitely doing that in the second half.”
Julian Edelman’s Catch
The Patriots receiver had his ups and downs, but he came through with an incredible bobbling catch in traffic that would make David Tyree jealous. Brady went Edelman’s way over the middle of the field, and there were three Atlanta defenders around the receiver with different body parts flailing as he corralled the ball. It went down as a 23-yard grab that put New England on the Falcons’ 41-yard line, and four plays later the Patriots had tied it up at 28-28 with 57 seconds left.
“I knew I had a good feel on it. I didn’t know if a piece of the ball was touching. I don’t know what the dang rule is. No one knows what the rule is. I am pretty sure I caught it,” Edelman said.
“It was one of the greatest catches I’ve ever seen,” said Brady. “I don’t know how the hell he caught it. I mean, I don’t think anybody – I don’t think he does, but that’s the way it goes.”
Edelman was happy to hear such kind words from his quarterback: “I think that’s just because we have our bromance.”
“I was actually right in front of him when he caught it. I was pretty sure that he caught it,” said White. “It was a big play in the game. It seems like there is one of those catches every Super Bowl. I’m just glad it went our way this time.”
“Throughout the game, Edelman has always been a guy to make big plays. He made a big catch and a fantastic one right there,” said Bennett. “You saw Julio Jones tiptoe on the sideline. You saw Julian Edelman catch a ball between seven guys’ legs. There was a lot of awesome stuff happening on the football field. There were just a bunch of guys that really wanted to win.”
“Julian has great concentration. He is a tremendous competitor. As good of a competitor as anyone that I have coached,” said Belichick. “This guy has played slot defensive back for us, returns kicks, covers kicks, blocks, catches tough passes, runs the ball for us on sweeps and stuff like that. He does whatever it takes. He made a tremendous play. It is not the first one he has made, but that was obviously a big one.”
“I think to win a game like this, you’re probably going to need a few plays like that and that was one of them,” said offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels.
“That is the best catch that I’ve ever seen in person, hands down,” proclaimed linebacker Dont’a Hightower. “I thought, I couldn’t even tell, ‘Did he catch that?’ Incredible man, really incredible. Big call. I’m glad and I’m so, so blessed that catch was made.”
“Honestly, I didn’t think he caught it. I hate to say it. Not being back there knowing that he got it, and I didn’t think he got it. Once that call was made that he actually caught it, I started going crazy,” said Branch. “It was one of the better catches I’ve seen. The concentration that he had to be able to pack it down and put his hand up under it. He’s an elite receiver in the League for a reason.”
Hightower’s Forced Fumble
The comeback may have never happened if it wasn’t for Hightower forcing Atlanta’s only turnover of the game, a strip sack of Matt Ryan that Alan Branch scooped up at the Atlanta 25. It set up Brady’s touchdown to Amendola that made it a 28-20 Falcons lead with 5:56 left.
“It was all execution,” said Patriots defensive coordinator Matt Patricia. “I think ‘High’ did a great job of just getting out and disguising it a little bit and coming a little bit late. He’s got great speed for a big guy. You kind of underestimate how fast he can get there and he’s long, so he did a great job. But understand this – there’s a lot of coverage that’s being played in order for him to get there and there’s some rush inside and it’s a full complementary play. So give the credit to everybody on the defense in that particular case in executing.”
Hightower said it wasn’t a complicated play.
“I’d seen Matt Ryan with the ball in his hands and I wanted it, so I hit him and took it from him,” the linebacker said. “I don’t know if it sparked [the comeback], if it did or if it didn’t. All I know is coming out of halftime, we just knew that we had to get a three-and-out or a turnover or something to get moving. We knew that it was really on us to kind of get things moving in our favor and that’s kind of what happened. I love those boys out there and I go to battle with them each and every day. A lot of guys didn’t give us credit but we weren’t worried about that.”
How About That Brady Fella?
“There’s no doubt,” Patriots owner Robert Kraft said when asked if Brady is the greatest to ever play. “You know, I hate to say it, but, there are people who have a little jealousy toward him. And I understand that. But now, after this performance tonight … and you know what? I spoke to him in the locker room before the game, and I said, we’ve got to win this one from your mom, because I know how important his mom is, and she’s been going through chemotherapy and radiation, and this is the first game she’s come to. She came here. And I just saw her, and it was really cool.”
“Two Super Bowls we’ve been down multiple scores in the fourth quarter, and he does it. It’s not too big for him,” said Harmon. “At each moment he settles the offense and the whole team down. He says we’re going to be good, and he does it. He delivers each and every time, and that’s what makes him the best player ever.”
Duron Harmon On Patriots 5th Quarter:
“He is the greatest quarterback ever. He willed us to victory,” White said. “We couldn’t run the ball that well tonight; I think Tom threw the ball like 60 times. He did a great job reading out the coverages, finding the matchups. He is an amazing player, an amazing teammate and I’m happy to have him on my team.”
“He’s the best ever. I promise we don’t try to do this but he deserves so much credit because he knew at halftime that were some a lot of eyes on him. There was no flinch in Tom and really, that goes for our whole team,” said McDaniels.
“He’s the GOAT,” said Long. “King of the petting zoo.”