HOUSTON — The comeback began on a stationary bike.
That’s where Patriots safety Duron Harmon was at halftime, pedaling to keep loose during Super Bowl LI’s intermission while trying to convince teammates of what was to unfold. That seems appropriate; the Patriots had been spinning their wheels and getting nowhere.
“He was on the stationary bike and he had a positive energy that permeated through the team,” coach Bill Belichick said Monday of the Patriots’ 34-28 overtime win over the Falcons on Sunday night. “We didn’t have control of the score, but we felt like we moved the ball and made some stops. We didn’t feel like we weren’t competitive in the game; we just weren’t competitive in the score.”
There were plenty who weren’t sold. Particularly those who had been scarred by losing seasons with other franchises such as defensive end Chris Long, who spent his career with the Rams before signing with New England last offseason.
“It’s natural to have some doubts. We’re only human,” Long said of the mood at halftime when the Patriots trailed 21-3. “But we had enough guys that pulled us along. Harmon kept saying: ‘This is going to be the best comeback of all time.’ And we completely believed it.”
“You don’t have to say much,” Harmon said. “All it was was everybody saying: ‘Come on. It’s one play. All we need is one play. All we need is one play to spark this whole team.’ And that’s what happened, man. We just had each other’s back. At no point did anybody blame anybody or anybody’s head was down. It was just, literally, everybody fighting and grinding.’’
Belichick said he was not surprised by the comeback.
“It’s 21-3 at the half, but had we not given up the third-and-10 [touchdown pass to Austin Hooper] and had we not thrown an interception for a touchdown [returned 82 yards by Robert Alford], it’s a 10-3 game and it looks a lot different,” Belichick said.
Still, they had to do it. Belichick admitted he was concerned when the Pats still trailed 28-9 entering the fourth quarter.
“Our players, they compete every day, every play, as hard as any team I’ve ever coached,” he said. “What everyone saw last night from the New England Patriots in the fourth quarter and overtime is what I’ve been seeing for the past seven months.”