Halfway through the third quarter of the 2017 Super Bowl Tom Brady and the New England Patriots found themselves down by 25 points to the Atlanta Falcons. If you watched the game you already know how it ended. Somehow, in true Tom Brady fashion, the New England Patriots came back and defeated the Atlanta Falcons 34 to 28 in overtime. Not only was this the first Super Bowl ever to be decided in overtime. It was also the largest Super Bowl comeback in NFL history.
Whether you’re a sports fan or not there is an important lesson here. In football the maximum number of points a team can score in one possession is eight. A touchdown is six points plus a two point conversion. Down by 25 points the Patriots had a massive uphill battle. One that would require at least four possessions without the other team scoring. Miraculously they pulled it off.
The lesson isn’t found in what they did. It’s found in what they didn’t do.
They didn’t focus on the scoreboard. They didn’t lose faith. They didn’t admit defeat.
They knew they couldn’t throw a 25 point touchdown.
This game had to be won one snap, one play, one drive, one possession, one score at a time.
Back in December 2018 on his public Facebook page Gary Keller quoted the following…
The Patriots believed it was possible and the constructive means necessary to make that possibility a reality showed up.
So how can we use this to communicate with your team that though the game has changed we aren’t slowing down?
First, use the story of the Patriots vs Falcons to set the stage. Share what happened and let the story do the heavy lifting. Help them understand that if we are going to win we have to focus on winning the day, the week, the month, and the quarter. We can’t throw a 25 point touchdown. This is a marathon not a sprint.
Second, let them know you believe in them. Let them know we aren’t asking them to do anything they aren’t capable of doing. Use these lines if necessary.
“I am not going to ask you to do anything that you cannot do as you sit here right now. I am not going to ask you to get smarter. I am not asking you to get taller. I know you are capable of doing everything winning requires you to do. The ultimate question is… are you willing?”
Third, define a first down. In October 2018 at ReCharge in San Francisco we had the opportunity to meet and listen to NFL Hall of Fame quarterback Joe Montana. The most insightful thing Joe shared with us is how his coach Bill Walsh didn’t focus on the scoreboard to win games. His strategy was simple…get 25 first downs. He believed that if his team made 25 first downs they would win the game. His track record has proven him right. What is our first down right now? What do we have 100% control over that would give our teams a sense of momentum and winning? The goal is to define a first down for your team so we keep marching forward.
I don’t know about you but I’m getting tired of living through historically significant events.
It seems like every time we turn around a new challenge is waiting for us. But what are you going to do? Quit? Give up? Those aren’t options. Heads down and Hearts up was the advice GK gave us in March of 2020. It still rings true.
The Patriots didn’t focus on what they couldn’t control. The focused on each play and won the game. Let’s do the same.
I know you can do it and I trust you will.