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Patriots come up with critical plays just in time to help a historic comeback end in elation

The comeback will be dissected for years to come, but on a Super Bowl Sunday when both teams traded haymakers, the Patriots were merely happy to be left standing under the confetti.

HOUSTON — While the rest of us tried to make any sense of how the Patriots came back from a 25-point deficit midway through the third quarter to beat the Falcons 34–28 in overtime in Super Bowl LI, New England just enjoyed it.

In the outside world, we get caught up in the why, how, who and what with a football game. We need to know immediately why something happened, how it transpired, who was responsible, and what it all means not only for that season, but going forward.

But for the players, coaches and personnel involved on the winning side, there’s none of that. They just relish being the last team standing in early February. There are no “What the heck just happened?” stunned faces; only satisfied smiles and quiet moments.

Patriots fans, get your championship gear here | SI's Super Bowl LI commemorative package

There was Patriots quarterback Tom Brady having a meaningful embrace with just about every one of his teammates. And it wasn’t just a bro hug, it was a, “Thanks for putting in everything you have, and I love you for it”-type embrace.

There was Patriots owner Robert Kraft, celebrating his fifth Super Bowl title, passing out cigars and enjoying a moment with each player. “You’ll never have another cigar as good as this one,” he told them with a wink.

There was Chris Long, son of Super Bowl XVIII winner Howie, tasting a world championship in his first-ever postseason after eight seasons with the Rams. Football locker rooms don’t normally have champagne celebrations, but Long and his defensive linemates brought along some cheap drugstore-variety bottles and enjoyed spraying each other in their corner of the cramped locker room.

For the Falcons and their Atlanta fans, the pain of losing Super Bowl LI is all too familiar

And there was left tackle Nate Solder, who endured testicular cancer treatments two years ago and then watched his young son, Hudson, be treated for a rare form of pediatric cancer (his wife Lexi is carrying the family’s second baby), giving an interview and suddenly interjecting, “Man, this is really heavy,” as he showed off the Lombardi Trophy with a huge smile.

There wasn’t much talk about what just happened, or how or who or what. At this point, those questions or the answers don’t really matter. The Patriots are world champions for the second time in three years and the fifth time since 2001. That’s all they care about.