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In the seventh episode of the Tom Brady documentary, “Man in the Arena,” the 44-year-old quarterback’s family receives some focus while the story of the 2016 Patriots is recounted.
Interwoven with details about one of New England’s most celebrated championships—culminating with the comeback from a 28-3 deficit in Super Bowl LI — Brady’s three older sisters chronicle both his career and growth off the field from their unique perspective.
Maureen, Julie, and Nancy Brady joined their brother to be interviewed for the episode, discussing the team’s on-field success simultaneous to the more personal story of their mother battling cancer.
Here are a few takeaways from Episode 7, titled, “Surrender”:
After receiving coverage in the previous episode, the “Deflategate” controversy was once again back in the documentary as Brady’s 2016 four-game suspension was discussed.
In Brady’s view, the entire subplot was “a lot about who had power and authority.”
“What it started out as vs. what it became were two totally different things,” he explained.
Brady’s siblings shared that view, noting that accusations drifted over time as the initial reports of discrepancies in the pressure of footballs were seemingly disproven by the ideal gas law.
“A lot of people were waiting for that moment to kind of dig in,” said Nancy. “It was vicious.”
Ultimately, Brady believed that it wasn’t productive to continuously defend his actions.
“I don’t need to defend myself,” he said. “I’ve defended myself for a long time. I said what I had to say multiple times, in front of a lot of different people, in court, in public. I felt I had given them what they needed to make the right decision, but I feel like they had their mind made up.”
“I realized I wasn’t going to win,” Brady said of the protracted court procedure. “It’s hard to beat 31 billionaires in court. I thought we gave it a great fight but in the end just dealing with the results of what the New York circuit judge decided. I decided to put that behind me and then move on to the next year.”
While the 2016 season was ultimately a happy memory for Patriots fans, it was a difficult time for the Brady family. When asked what came to mind about the year, Maureen became emotional.
“That was a hard year,” she recalled. “That was a really hard year. We had a lot going on with my mom and Tommy.”
Galynn Brady was diagnosed with breast cancer and myeloma in 2016. She immediately began to receive treatment, which eventually meant a difficult period of chemotherapy.
Brady offered an introspective recollection from that time.
“I tried to remain poised and say, ‘Don’t worry, mom, we’re going to get through it,'” said Brady. “And then I automatically — maybe it’s a little bit of a toughening up that I’ve had, but maybe I’m not the most empathetic or sympathetic — I’m trying to solve it.
“I’m saying, ‘Mom, come on, this is what we’ve got to do, we’ve got to send you to this person, or this person,'” Brady continued. “We’re going to fix this.”
Having to serve a four-game suspension at the outset of the 2016 season provided a stark change of pace for Brady.
“It was the first September that I’d had off since my eighth-grade year,” Brady recalled. “I didn’t even know what a September was like without football.
Brady said that he decided to go on vacation to Costa Rica to be with his wife.
“That was really good for our relationship,” he said of the trip with Gisele Bündchen.
“A very small gesture like that allowed me to recognize the things that I need to do in our relationship to make sure that she feels supported too,” said Brady, “because she’d supported me for the previous year and a half. She held me up when I was weak and angry and sad and depressed. That was a really dark time.”
But after the brutal period of “Deflategate,” the suspension that finally resulted from it was a positive moment.
“It actually worked out awesome for them,” said Maureen. “He saw our family. We haven’t had a family holiday together since he was at Michigan.”
Brady said he was working out while watching backup quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo and the Patriots play the Cardinals in the opening game of the 2016 season.
“I watched the first game, I was in the gym working out,” he remembered. “When the team was working out, I wanted to be working out too.”
“I’m nervous, I’m pacing,” Brady said of how he felt in that moment. “These are all my boys out there playing, I’m kind of living and dying with every play.”
Again, he chose to use the time away to travel and spend time with his wife. By the third and fourth games of the suspension, Brady was in Italy with Bündchen.
“We went to the Amalfi Coast and had probably one of the best moments of our marriage,” Brady said.
After Brady helped the Patriots’ win in his Week 5 return against the Browns in Cleveland, he finally got a home-field welcome in Week 6 against the Bengals at Gillette Stadium.
In addition to the support for Brady, his family also said that they enjoyed hearing from Patriots fans.
“Without the fan support, it would’ve been a lot harder,” Julie said of the impact of “Deflategate” on the family
“They were so happy to have him back,” said Maureen of New England fans.
Had events gone differently, and the Patriots hadn’t managed to make a miraculous comeback, one of the enduring images of Super Bowl LI might have been Brady collapsed on the ground after missing a tackle as Falcons cornerback Robert Alford returned an interception for a touchdown during the first half of the game.
“Robert Alford makes a hell of a play,” Brady said, thinking back on the moment. “He felt it and he just jumped the route. And just as I let [the ball] go, literally as it was leaving my fingertips, I was like, ‘Oh s***.’ So I took off running for him, I dove, I mean I didn’t have any chance of getting him. He was out of my grasp.
“And you look up and you see this dude running away, and you’re like, ‘F*** man, if we lose this game, that’s going to be the play. That’s the play I’m going to be thinking about for the rest of my career.'”
Another Brady recollection from the first half of the game was that the Patriots, despite managing just a field goal, had totaled a decent amount of yardage.
“If you look at the first half, it’s not like we weren’t moving the ball,” Brady explained. “We moved the ball. We just didn’t do anything with it once we got into the scoring zone. We crossed the 50 and we had no production.
“We went in at halftime and we were like, ‘Look, all the s*** we got is still good,'” Brady added. “You look at that call sheet. This is all going to still work.”
Despite a flicker of optimism at halftime, things only got worse for Brady and New England in the third quarter.
The Falcons famously took a 28-3 lead, which (at the time) seemed like an absolutely daunting margin.
“I was like, we need a lot of s*** to go right now,” Brady said of the moment. “28-3, man. Coach [Belichick] said 21 points isn’t going to be enough to beat us, 28 points might be enough to beat us today.”
For a period of time, Brady acknowledged that his thought process shifted away from winning the game.
“You’re not thinking about winning the game at that point,” he said. “You’re thinking about, ‘How do we not embarrass ourselves at this point? It’s a different mentality. We have to score, man. We have to be proud of the fight.”
The one asset Brady and the Patriots felt they had in the game was stamina.
“We ran a lot of plays and we felt like they were going to be pretty gassed.”
Of course, after trailing by as much as 25 points in the third quarter, the Patriots staged the greatest rally in Super Bowl history.
New England came all the way back. Amid a recapping of events that Patriots fans are generally familiar with at this point, another Brady opinion of the Falcons’ performance stood out.
“We were going against an opponent that played a great game,” said Brady. “They didn’t play bad. Matt Ryan may have had a perfect quarterback rating. If you’re to say the league MVP’s basically going to have a perfect quarterback rating. I’m going to throw a pick-six, and we’re somehow going to find a way to win that game? I mean no one would believe that. That’s almost impossible.”
Summarizing the 2016 season, Brady said that there was “a lot of support from my wife, a lot of support from my kids, a lot of support from my family, but it was a mutual, unconditional support for my parents for what they were going through.”
And as for how he regarded the rest of the football world, Brady had a blunt acronym.
“It was an FEA year,” Brady joked, adding later that it stood for “f***’em all.”
“They ain’t cheering for you anyway, so you may as well go out there and win,” said Brady. “[You can] go try to please everybody and get everyone to like us by losing. F*** that. We’re not doing that. We’re going to f***’em all.”
“That’s something for me to remember for the rest of my life,” Brady said of the comeback. “If there’s one game that signifies what our team was always about, it’s Super Bowl LI.”
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