This was for you, Mom Brady.
Clearly, you were on your son’s mind. And in his heart. And in all it took for Tom Brady, history’s greatest quarterback, to turn what loomed as a disappointingly one-sided night into a Super Bowl for the ages.
New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick’s hallmark is supposed to be preparation. But how do you gird yourself for falling behind the Atlanta Falcons 28-3 at the Super Bowl?
What do you do when you can’t give your star quarterback time to throw? What’s the game plan when you drop passes, can’t run the ball, commit two game-turning turnovers and back yourselves against a seemingly inescapable wall?
“I ain’t got no words, man,” said Patriots linebacker Dont’a Hightower, capturing the emotion of the finish, if not the proper semantics. “Ain’t nobody believed in us.
“We don’t care nothing about that. We’re the champions.”
Left for dead midway in the third quarter, Brady led the Patriots on a history-scripting comeback that ended with James White’s 1-yard touchdown run four minutes into overtime.
The victory in Super Bowl 51 was Brady’s and Belichick’s fifth as quarterback and head coach, respectively, both records. The depth of the comeback, 25 points, was also a Super Bowl record — by far.
Until Sunday night, in fact, no NFL team had won a playoff game after trailing by 16 points or more in the fourth quarter.
More poignantly, the Patriots never led during the game’s first 60 minutes.
“It tells you how mentally tough this team is,” New England wide receiver Julian Edelman said. “I say it’s a microcosm of our life, right there.”
The Patriots all were emotional. But none showed the weight on the night — of the week, of the 18 months just passed — more than Tom Brady, whose performance in the final 26 minutes was epic.
After White’s deciding touchdown, as waterfalls of confetti rained from the NRG Stadium rafters, Brady fell to his knees, spent, with tears filling his eyes.
“I’ve got my family here, and it’s the end of a long marathon,” he said of the tears. “I usually wear them on my sleeve.”
Galynn Brady, Tom’s mother, has been sick, the exact nature of her illness undisclosed. During Patriots interviews last week, Tom briefly alluded to his mom’s situation and each time seemed to swallow away tears.
Before Sunday’s game Brady’s wife Gisele posted a photo on Instagram of Tom’s mother and sisters. Galynn Brady wore a bandanna on her head.
As Patriots fans spilled onto the field and gathered for the presentation of the Vince Lombardi Trophy, they cheered whenever Tom Brady’s face appeared on the stadium video board.
The night had to be draining. But there was enough emotion left that the long-anticipated trophy presentation from NFL commissioner — and New England public enemy No. 1 — Roger Goodell turned into a spectacle in itself.
Loud boos erupted as soon as Goodell began to speak, almost drowning out his words.
Brady’s performance will be long remembered — 62 pass attempts, 43 completions, 466 yards, all Super Bowl records.
But the night is likely to be equally recalled as the night when the Falcons blew a 25-point Super Bowl lead.
Coach Dan Quinn will have to answer why running back Donta Freeman only had 11 carries. And how did quarterback Matt Ryan, who seemed on his way to an MVP award, allow himself to get sacked, pushing the ball out of range of what would have been a game-deciding field goal?
You don’t erase a 25-point deficit without some help, and the Falcons complied.
You don’t keep trying. You don’t show the resolve that Tom Brady did without something pushing you from within.
Before Sunday’s Super Bowl, Brady was asked whether, more than anything, he wanted to win the game for his mom.
“Of course,” said the son.