Five years before the wild culmination of Super Bowl LI, to the day if not to the minute, Tom Brady sat alone in a chair in the locker room of Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis. He had a towel over his head, his back was hunched, and he wept.
Back then, Brady could not wrap his mind around how the New England Patriots had conspired to give away a Super Bowl ring, allowing the New York Giants to grasp the biggest game of all away from them.
On Sunday night, and perhaps for the rest of his life, Brady was trying to figure out a far happier conundrum — how he and his colleagues managed to pull off the biggest and most sensational comeback in the long history of pro football’s showpiece, a 34-28 overtime win against the Atlanta Falcons.
At the end he didn’t leap or scream. He just stood, shaking his head, scarcely able to comprehend it all, as confetti of a red and blue hue cascaded around him and his teammates went berserk.
“We all brought each other back,” Brady said after his team had scored the last of its 31 consecutive points to end the game. “We never felt out if it. It was a tough battle.”
An hour earlier he was done. The Falcons could taste the champagne already, having piled on a swathe of points to capitalize on their own offensive excellence and Brady’s nightmarish start to the game.
Brady is the master of positive body language, yet there was a moment late in the third quarter when it finally seemed to betray him. His team trailing 28-3, he looked over to the Patriots bench, shrugging his shoulders and turning his palms toward the ceiling of NRG Stadium.
To anyone watching, it was a look that meant he had run out of ideas, run out of belief an improbable comeback could be kick-started, run out of patience with a night he thought would bring him a fifth Super Bowl ring but instead looked destined to offer nothing but frustration.