The New England Patriots authored the greatest comeback in Super Bowl history Sunday night, and less than 48 hours later, it still feels surreal for defensive end Chris Long, who is still processing not only the victory, but also the way in which it was achieved.
“I would say neither has sunk in,” Long said on CBS Sports Radio’s The Doug Gottlieb Show. “I think it’s been a real whirlwind and you got to sit back and look at the historical kind of nature of how we won and the comeback. It’s hard to process.”
New England trailed 21-3 at halftime and 28-3 midway through the third quarter. The Patriots didn’t blink.
“We have a tough team, and I think we had been ready for tough situations all year,” Long said. “We talked about it: The Super Bowl, as long as halftime is, it’s almost like two separate games. The first half was one game, and the second half was a completely different name. We knew that if we just stayed away from turnovers and we created turnovers, we’d be able to swing the game. That’s what happened. It was like a totally different game.”
It was. New England reeled off 31 unanswered points to win the first overtime game in Super Bowl history.
“It went from being like the worst nightmare of all time to the best dream you’ve ever been in – and it was all in an hour,” Long said. “You start out the fourth quarter down three scores, we were joking on the sidelines about how many people are probably turning the game off, and once we do this, how dumb they’ll feel that they turned the game off.”
While Tom Brady was praised for leading the comeback – and rightfully so – it might not have happened without the heroics of Dont’a Hightower, whose strip-sack of Matt Ryan gave the Patriots life in the fourth quarter.
“That was huge for us,” Long said. “That changed everything. I think that was the turning point.”
Once the Patriots forced overtime, they knew the game was over.
“We just had a feeling that we had come this far and we weren’t going to be stopped,” Long said. “Atlanta had really jumped out on us and they’re a great football team, but when Tom had the ball, guys on defense (felt confident). Our offense did a great job.”
Long, the No. 2 overall pick in 2008, had a great first season in New England, and he was amazed by how much the team bonded and came together throughout the year.
“Everybody’s got a different journey,” he said. “We’ve got a bunch of different guys that came from different places. Chris Hogan’s been cut four times. Everybody’s completely different, and everybody has their own journey and their own personal struggles, and nobody’s are more important than anybody else’s. We just shared it. Everybody had a shared experience that got us there. I played with a lot of players that deserved it more than me on a lot of those bad teams. Guys like Steven Jackson, James Hall, lesser-known guys, Clifton Ryan, James Laurinaitis. It takes a lot of luck and a lot of hard work to be a part of something like this. So you can’t discount the luck part of it. You got to stay humble. It wasn’t all my doing. God has his plan when he put me in this position.”