Deion Branch has been in the same room with Tom Brady and Bill Belichick. He won two Super Bowls with them. In fact, he was MVP of Super Bowl XXXIX.
So when the Patriots headed to the locker room down 21-3 in Super Bowl LI, Branch knew exactly what Belichick told the team.
“The way the game was flowing, our guys didn’t have any energy,” Branch said on CBS Sports Radio’s Tiki and Tierney. “There wasn’t anything going right for the guys the first half, and I felt like they were out there pressing pretty hard. I know that those guys felt the same way, and I know Bill said the same thing: You guys are pressing. You’ve been here before. You know exactly what to do. Let’s just go out and take it one play at a time, one series at a time, and go from there.”
The Falcons extended their lead to 28-3 midway through the third quarter but didn’t score again. New England scored 31 unanswered points to stun Atlanta and give Brady and Belichick their fifth Super Bowl ring.
“Atlanta had a chance to kind of seal the game in the first half and they didn’t take advantage of it,” Branch said. “They kind of let the Patriots linger around a little bit too long. Even though we spotted them easily 25 points in the game, the guys never altered. That’s one of the biggest things I always teach my kids: never give up until it’s over.”
Branch, 37, played for the Patriots from 2002-05 and again from 2012-12. He said Belichick does an excellent job of preparing his players for game situations. Belichick will give each unit a particular scenario, put a certain amount of time on the clock and then let his guys go after it.
“It’s all out 1s-against-1s,” Branch said. “There’s like a real-game setting, so you start training the guys for this type of stuff. It happens every game. The ones who execute the plays are the ones who actually know exactly what they’re doing, understand what’s going on and execute their plays.”
That includes, of course, Tom Brady, who went 43-of-62 for 466 yards, two touchdowns and one interception in Super Bowl LI. Brady, 39, hopes to play for another five years.
Branch thinks he can do it.
“The most important thing is Tom does a great job of taking care of his body,” Branch said. “If you can do that, that’s the main thing: taking care of your body and also staying healthy. I think there’s a chance he can do it.”
The Falcons, meanwhile, must continue their quest for a Super Bowl championship.
“They had a great run,” said Branch, a Georgia native. “They stumbled in the end. The first half, you couldn’t paint a better first half for the Falcons. They couldn’t have drawn that up any better for them. They just didn’t sustain that. Like I was telling a bunch of friends that I was with, ‘This is where experience kicks in.’ People are always talking about being experienced and understanding what to do certain times during the course of a game – that second half was all experience.”
Matt Ryan had a solid game – he went 17-of-23 for 284 yards and two touchdowns – but his fourth-quarter fumble gave New England life.
It was the Falcons’ first turnover of the postseason.
“He has so much time (left and will have) plenty of opportunities to get that team back in position to challenge for another Super Bowl,” Branch said. “That city is yearning for it. I sympathize for them a little, but I’m a Patriot by heart. But Matt has plenty of opportunities to get that team back (in the Super Bowl). . . . I thought (Ryan’s) fumble kind of killed them. That was big. That was huge.”