Tom Brady has Hall of Fame talent, but he wouldn't be the best quarterback in NFL history without his extraordinary mental makeup.
Perhaps the best example of Brady's mental toughness was seen in Super Bowl LI against the Atlanta Falcons during the 2016 season. Everyone knows what unfolded: the New England Patriots were down 28-3 and on the verge of a colossally bad loss on the game's greatest stage. Most players would've given up, whether they'd admit it or not. The idea of erasing a 25-point lead in about a quarter-and-a-half seemed laughable. But Brady, as Patriots fans know, doesn't think like that.
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What exactly was Brady thinking when it came time to mount a comeback? He revealed his mentality from that game during a wide-ranging interview Wednesday on "The Howard Stern Show" on SiriusXM Radio.
“We were down 28-3 against Atlanta in Super Bowl 51. You can look at that situation and basically quit and say, you know, '(expletive) it. We have no shot of winning,’ or you can say, ‘This is going to be an amazing comeback,'" Brady told Stern.
"When we come back from this, this is going to be the defining moment in life, or a defining moment in a professional career. I think when you shift your mind and think that way, it becomes very empowering as opposed to very discouraging. So anytime we’re down in a game, I think, ‘Man, if we come back and win this game, we’re the hero,’ rather than, ‘Oh, (expletive), we’re screwed. We have no shot.'”
Of course, it's one thing to feel this way, and it's quite another to put this mentality into effect and actually pull off a historic comeback against all odds. And that's exactly what Brady and the Patriots did in that Super Bowl.
The Falcons scored a touchdown to go up 28-3 with 8:31 left in the third quarter. The Patriots got the ball back and began the first of five consecutive scoring drives during which they scored 31 points, capped by a game-winning touchdown in overtime by running back James White.
Brady completed 43 of 62 pass attempts for 466 yards with two touchdowns and one interception. He was named Super Bowl MVP for the fourth time in his career.
The 25-point comeback easily was the largest in Super Bowl history and it's a record that might never be broken. It will have a lasting impact, too, because every single team that's trailing by double digits in a Super Bowl will have some level of belief they can still win thanks to what the Patriots did versus the Falcons.