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Bill Belichick's confidence helps Patriots rally in Super Bowl LI

HOUSTON -- Falcons cornerback Robert Alford coasted for the final 25 yards of his pick-six, giving Atlanta a seemingly insurmountable 21-0 lead with just over two minutes left in the first half of Super Bowl LI. He pointed to the sky and held up an 'A' with his fingers, honoring the title-depraved city that hasn't won a championship in any sport in 22 years.

Patriots fans, clearly the more vocal supporters before kickoff, were stunned silent as quarterback Tom Brady picked himself up off the turf and walked to the sideline. Prior to last night, no team had overcome a Super Bowl deficit of more than 10 points.

But New England coach Bill Belichick, in his seventh Super Bowl in 17 years with the Patriots, never panicked or lost faith in his team.

Kicker Stephen Gostkowski's 41-yard field goal right before halftime salvaged three points before the Patriots ran to the locker room to regroup. So what was Belichick's magic message to inspire the greatest comeback in Super Bowl history?

"He cast a wizard spell over us that changed everything," offensive tackle Nate Solder joked after the game.

Patriots tight end Martellus Bennett, who finished the game with five catches for 62 yards, said the mood was calm despite trailing by 18 points. Anyone expecting Belichick to give an inspiring halftime talk worthy of Hollywood will be disappointed.

"It was nothing crazy," Bennett said. "There was no great speech. There were no guys arguing, throwing helmets or anything. We came in and made adjustments. Everyone was focused on doing what we had to do and that was it."

Plenty went wrong for the Patriots in the first half. Atlanta's defensive line sacked Brady twice. Running back LeGarrette Blount fumbled on the second play of the second quarter to kill a New England drive inside its opponent's 30-yard line. And Alford's crucial interception ended a 14-play series that saw the Falcons gift three first downs via defensive penalties.

Belichick focused instead on the positives. Brady threw for 184 yards despite constant pressure from Atlanta's defense. And New England's time of possession -- the Falcons had the ball for just over 10 minutes in the first half -- kept the league's highest-powered offense on the sideline.

"We moved the ball in the first half," Belichick said. "We gave up a touchdown on third and 10. We gave up a touchdown on an interception return. Without those two plays, it's a 10-3 game."

New England lost two yards on its opening drive of the second half but managed to pin Atlanta at its own 15. The Falcons then drove the length of the field in eight plays, extending its lead to 28-3 when quarterback Matt Ryan fired a 6-yard pass to the flat for running back Tevin Coleman. Some disgruntled Patriots fans, resigned to defeat, headed for the exits at NRG Stadium.

But no lead against New England is safe with Brady and Belichick, who Blount referred to as the greatest of all time at their respective positions. With Brady's knack for late-game comebacks and Belichick's unwavering belief in his players' full potential, even a 25-point comeback on football's grandest stage didn't seem too farfetched for the Patriots.

"He's been in this game a lot over the years," Patriots defensive lineman Trey Flowers said. "So him just preparing us to play two different games, two different halves, we knew going into the half we just had to make some plays."

Those plays -- linebacker Dont'a Hightower's sack and forced fumble, wide receiver Julian Edelman's circus catch, the two-point conversions to force overtime -- led a second-half resurgence that now puts Belichick on a pedestal all his own as the only coach with five Super Bowl rings.

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