34 thoughts on the greatest Patriots achievement of them all

Did that really happen? That really happened. All of it, and it was better than Patriots fans imagined.

Bill Belichick and Tom Brady: The greatest of all time, separately and in tandem.

COMMENTARY

Thirty-four thoughts on the most incredible thing I’ve ever seen …

  1. Here’s to One More, the Drive for Five, the Revenge Tour, and the rest of the slogans that carried the Patriots through another outstanding season that ended in a way that cannot be scripted, believed, or comprehended, even as we witnessed it happen.
  2. Here’s to the fulfilled daydream of receiving the handoff of the Lombardi Trophy from Roger Goodell, the man who abused his power to abbreviate Tom Brady’s season by four games.
  3. Here’s to the end of all arguments about whether Brady and Bill Belichick are peerless among the finest coach/QB tandems in the history of the sport.
  4. Here’s to the best-laid plans of justice, revenge and victory.
  5. Here’s to Tom Brady, the greatest of all time, who saved the most incredible and resilient performance of his career for a victory that demands he stand alone as the greatest quarterback ever to play the game.
  6. Here’s to James White, the wispy third-year running back who became Earl Campbell-tough when the Patriots needed him, scoring the final two touchdowns to cap the biggest comeback in the history of the Super Bowl, from 25 (!) points down.
  7. Hell, here’s to James White again, who became a permanent part of Boston sports lore, taking what J.R. Redmond did 16 seasons ago when all of this began and multiplying it by infinity.
  8. Oh, and here’s to all of them, the New England Patriots, the Super Bowl champions for the fifth time, 34-28 victors over an exceptional Atlanta Falcons team that could not deny Brady — or history — in the end.
  9. Here’s to Bill Belichick, of course, and his coaches who did not quit. And Devin McCourty, Malcolm Butler, the monstrous Trey Flowers, and Dont’a Hightower, the defense that woke up against the Falcons’ extraordinary offense a split second before it was too late.
  10. Maybe this is how it was supposed to be. How do you explain this? Where do you begin? Actually, the answer is easy, now that you mention it. At the end.
  11. The Patriots turned valiant — turned into themselves — at the end of the third quarter after delivering a pumpkin of a performance for so much of the game.
  12. Trailing 28-3 at one point and 28-9 after the end of the third quarter, and knowing that the biggest comeback in Super Bowl history was their 10-point rally against the Seahawks two years ago, they aimed for miracle anyway, and hit the bull’s-eye.
  13. A Stephen Gostkowski field goal made it 20-12. A Danny Amendola TD catch and two-point conversion trimmed it to 28-20. And after the defense — suddenly flying around like they’d received an injection of hope — halted the Falcons.
  14. So it was that the Patriots ended up with the ball at their own 7, with 3 minutes 30 seconds remaining and eight more points to overcome. Brady converted a third down, and then, with 2 minutes and 3 seconds,  found Julian Edelman over the middle for the kind of extraordinary, nearly unfathomable catch that always seems to happen to the Patriots late in Super Bowls. It was their Tyree moment.
  15. That was good for 23 yards, after replay confirmed its brilliance. The next throw went to Danny Amendola for 21 yards, to the Falcons’ 21. Another throw: White, 10 yards. White again, for 7. And then, improbably, White — a speedy back who doesn’t take contact with much resistance — barreled through the line for the touchdown to pull them to with 2.
  16. A season ago, the Patriots’ season ended in Denver when a 2-point attempt could not be converted. It would not happen two seasons in a row, with Brady finding Danny Amendola for — is there another word for impossible? — the tie.
  17. The Falcons had their chance to duplicate the Patriots’ final drive in 2001, when they got the ball back with a little over a minute left (the Falcons had less time) and a chance to drive for a winning kick. But Ryan could not do what Brady did then, and Matt Bryant did not get his chance to have a Vinatieri moment.
  18. Can’t you say this about the start of first overtime in Super Bowl history? It’s the only time we’ve ever wanted the Patriots to win the coin flip and take the ball.
  19. I thought Martellus Bennett had goat potential when he dropped Brady’s throw in overtime near the goal line. Jackie Smith, that sort of awful thing. But a flag went his way.
  20. A play later, White — James White! — became a permanent part of Boston sports lore, catching Brady’s soft toss and cutting into the end zone for perhaps the greatest sports moment we will ever see.
  21. And you thought Malcolm Butler’s interception two years ago couldn’t be topped. Silly you. Silly us.
  22. This will be portrayed as a Falcons choke. That happens when you blow a 25-point lead. But this was foremost a Patriots comeback, and if you’re a Patriots fans, you must respect for this Falcons team.
  23. They’re young, and even though they carried themselves with professionalism all week, there was a sense that they were still a year or two away, that they might be overwhelmed by the moment. In the end, they were. But if this doesn’t break them, they’ll be back. Thomas Dimitroff has put together a beast.
  24. For so long, it seemed the enduring image of this game would be a brilliant Julio Jones catch — you pick the one — or Brady lunging hopelessly and coming up an arm’s length short of tripping up Falcons cornerback Robert Alford on his 77-yard pick-6 in the second quarter, which put Atlanta up 21-0.
  25. It must be acknowledged, even in the magical aftermath: Brady did not play well early, or at least anywhere near his usual standard. It wasn’t just the Matt Schaub-esque pick-6 disaster. He airmailed Julian Edelman — a play that could have gone a long distance had it been completed — and Chris Hogan on their last possession of the second quarter.
  26. I do not have any inkling what happened for him to suddenly turn into the best version of himself at the start of the fourth quarter. But I know this: He is the greatest athletic competitor I have ever seen.
  27. Yes, Larry Bird included.
  28. Julian Edelman (5 catches, 87 yards) refused to be denied. James White (14 catches on 16 targets) is a superhero who ditched his disguise. Danny Amendola had perhaps his best game as a Patriot (8 catches, 78 yards). But do not forget Malcolm Mitchell (6-70), Brady’s most trusted rookie receiver since Deion Branch.
  29. The Falcons are so good, man. I hope they can overcome this. Matt Ryan, Jones, Taylor Gabriel, Devonta Freeman, Deion Jones, and Grady Jarrett (three sacks) are extraordinary players.
  30. The pro-Patriots crowd was louder than anything I’ve ever heard at Gillette Stadium.
  31. Especially when Roger Goodell showed up on stage. That was next-level booing. Almost like you guys had it pent up or something.
  32. The second half did begin with a burst of optimism for the Patriots that might be forgotten in all that happened afterward. Down 21-3, they held the Falcons to a three-and-out — Dont’a Hightower had a huge hit on Devonta Freeman that sure looked like the result of a halftime adjustment. It didn’t lead to points, but it did reveal that the Patriots’ defense would not go quietly.
  33. Seven Super Bowls. Five wins. Two losses that feel longer ago with each piece of confetti that falls from the sky here. You can tell me there’s a superior dynasty in the history of sports. I’ll listen. But right now, in the emotion of the moment, I’m not going to agree. Here’s to the Patriots, champions again, in their most extraordinary way yet.
  34. Can’t wait to see how they top it next year, when they go for one more all over again.
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