The Recipe for the Patriots’ Success

How, exactly, did the New England Patriots pull off the greatest comeback in Super Bowl history?

The players and the head coach seem to credit different factors.

Maybe this is one of those All of the Above answers.

During the first half, after Atlanta Falcon Robert Alford returned an interception for a touchdown, the announcer noted no team had ever overcome more than a ten point deficit in the history of the Super Bowl. The score was 21-0, Falcons.

It looked certain the Falcons would be taking home the Vince Lombardy trophy Sunday, February 5, 2017. Even native Bostonians and devout Patriots fans like actor Mark Walberg left the game early, unable to withstand the inevitable.

But, against all odds, New England was able to tie the score with less than a minute left in the game, forcing overtime. Which they won.

How did they do it?

That question was posed to players in post-game interviews. Many shared the fact that one player, in the locker room during half-time, declared, “This will be the greatest comeback in Super Bowl history!”

One young player said he was inspired when he saw defender Dont’a Hightower riding a stationary bike on the sideline during the second half, repeating that declaration. In college, Hightower played for Alabama head coach Nick Saban who has said he learned a lot coaching under Patriots head coach Bill Belichick when they were both with the Cleveland Browns.

Hightower forces Matt Ryan fumble
The fumble the Wall Street Journal calls “The Play that Changed the Super Bowl.” Hightower’s college coach drilled into players, “Just do your job.” (CBS Boston)

Those two coaches seem to be two peas in the same pod, one in college and the other in the NFL. Each in the midst of historic dynasties and considered by many to be the greatest ever in their respective professions. More on this in a bit.

A few plays were being touted as Super Bowl LI’s  turning point, game-breaker, or game saver.

The turning point, most agree, was a fumble by Altanta’s quarterback, Matt Ryan, forced by none other than Hightower, the man on the bike with the never-say-die attitude.

An incredible – and possibly game-saving – catch by Julian Edelman has been called the best of the season and maybe ever.

The unsung hero was James White who Patriots quarterback and Super Bowl LI MVP, Tom Brady, said deserved to be so named. White scored the game-winning touchdown – barely – with a second-effort rush. “I knew I had to get in,” he humbly stated immediately after the game.

Did believing not only that they could win but would win make it so?

Did their confidence, calmness, and just-another-day-at-the-office demeanor help to demoralize the Falcons toward the end of the game?

Certainly, the positive attitude, at the very least, opened the door to victory. Had the the New England players given up at half-time like more than a few fans – and Las Vegas – they wouldn’t have had a chance.

After the game, Brady answered a question matter-of-factly, “That’s why we play 60 minutes.”

In other words, if there is time on the clock, there is no quit.

But, I contend, The Power of Positive Thinking wasn’t the only factor in this miraculous comeback.

final score of Super Bowl 51
With just over 17 minutes left in regulation, New England trailed 28-3.

Coach Belichek said nothing about staying positive at the victory celebration in Boston two days later. But he did reveal what he must have felt was the biggest factor in, not only the Super Bowl, but in the entire Patriots’ 2016 season. Maybe even his 17-year tenure as the Patriots head coach.

He put so much emphasis on this one thing that he turned it into a chant.

“No days off. No days off. No. Days. Off. No. Days. Off.”

Many fans in attendance – taking the day off from work – weren’t biting. They restarted their own favorite chant of the day. “We want six!”

Saban has a famous 48-hour rule. If they win the championship, they can celebrate for 48 hours. Then, it’s back to work.

Belichick, after leading the Pats to their fifth NFL championship, noted they are five weeks behind preparing for next season. That would be because they earned reached their goal by earning a right to play in the game’s largest stage for the highly-coveted trophy.

Even success has its drawbacks sometimes, at least in the eyes of fierce competitors.

I’m sure there is much more to the 2016 season of the Super Bowl 51 champions but it’s interesting to know what the players and coaches attribute to their success.

Never-ending positive thinking + focused effort on a daily basis = achievement at the highest level.

The recipe for the Patriots secret sauce is no longer a secret.