Patriots Ecstatic to Reach Super Bowl, Call It ‘A Dream Come True’

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Patriots Ecstatic to Reach Super Bowl, Call It 'A Dream Come True'FOXBORO, Mass. — Confetti covered the Gillette Stadium field, championship hats adorned every head and music pumped through the Patriots' locker room as the Lamar Hunt Trophy made the rounds.

The Patriots are heading back to the Super Bowl, and they were ecstatic about it.

New England outlasted Baltimore, 23-20, in a dramatic AFC Championship Game on Sunday, and the Patriots earned their seventh trip to the Super Bowl in franchise history. It will be their fifth trip to the season's penultimate game in the last 11 years.

"It's unreal," tight end Rob Gronkowski said. "Second year in the league, playing with a great team, you've got to enjoy the moment right now. It's crazy. It doesn't even feel right. It's wild."

The victory was clinched when Billy Cundiff hooked a 32-yard field goal with 15 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter, sending New England's sideline into a celebration that spilled over from the field to the locker room to points unknown.

"You can't even explain it right now," cornerback Devin McCourty said. "Just happy. When he missed that field goal, I just sprinted down the field. Just knowing you're going to the Super Bowl, it's what you dream about as a kid and what you watch growing up your whole life, it's an incredible feeling."

New England has a young roster, and it's got four full draft classes who will make their first trip to the Super Bowl. But there are also some longtime veterans like right guard Brian Waters and defensive lineman Gerard Warren who have never played for the world title.

As it stood, there are only five players on the active roster who have won a Super Bowl as members of the Patriots, so this will be a new experience for dozens of players.

"There's a lot of us making that first appearance," Warren said. "It feels great to get in. I've been on the doorstep before, and I didn't get in. We pushed through to win, and now there's only one thing left to do — complete the journey."

For the players, they wanted to cherish the journey as much as the moment. Even with the unique aspect of the lockout, this game is a year in the making, from offseason workouts to two-a-days in training camp to the grind of the regular season. Now, the end is in sight.

"I can't even put it into words to be honest with you," wide receiver Matthew Slater said. "We put so much into this — days when your body is hurting, you're tired, and you feel like it's going to be tough today. You fight through those days, and it all makes it worth it. And you'd do it all over again. You'd change nothing. It's an unbelievable feeling."

They're making history, too. Tom Brady and Bill Belichick became the first quarterback and head coach to advance to five Super Bowls together, and Brady will tie former Broncos quarterback John Elway for the most starts in a Super Bowl with five. And Brady will attempt to match former 49ers quarterback Joe Montana and former Steelers quarterback Terry Bradshaw with a fourth Super Bowl victory.

"It's incredible," Brady said. "You watch this game. I was a kid growing up, I was a 49er fan, so I got to watch a lot of Super Bowls. You pinch yourself to get this opportunity. I'm privileged to be a part of an incredible organization, to play with a great group of teammates. It's a privilege to play quarterback on this team."

But that's a challenge that will begin Monday. For Sunday night was about the moment, as the Patriots took home the conference title in a thriller at Gillette.

"I just want to enjoy this moment," linebacker Brandon Spikes said. "It hasn't even set in yet. I'm pretty sure later on tonight when I'm laying in the bed, I'll be like, 'Wow, we're going to the Super Bowl.' It's a dream come true."

Have a question for Jeff Howe? Send it to him via Twitter at @jeffphowe or send it here. He will pick a few questions to answer every week for his mailbag.

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