Forty-three-year old Tom Brady is going to the Super Bowl.
In the immortal words of Bob Lobel, “Why can’t we get players like that?’'
All precincts have reported and it’s official: Brady has beaten Bill Belichick and Bob Kraft in a landslide. Ten months after leaving New England because the Patriots were done with him, Brady showed the world he’s still got the goods. The Patriots, who had no real plan to replace their quarterback, finished 7-9 and out of the playoffs. Meanwhile, Brady is going to his 10th Super Bowl; with the clown car Tampa Bay Buccaneers, no less.
This is like seeing the Red Sox dump Mookie Betts in the name of payroll flexibility, then watching Betts win the World Series after the Sox finish last.
Actually, no. It’s worse than that. It’s more like what Sox fans felt when Babe Ruth was sold to the Yankees and led a Pinstripe dynasty while the Sox were reduced to rubble. This is what it would have felt like if Bobby Orr had taken the Chicago Black Hawks to the Stanley Cup Final the year after he left the Bruins. Try to imagine 1990s Larry Bird joining the Orlando Magic, then leading Hooterville to the NBA Finals against the Lakers.
Like it or not, here in Patriot Nation the narrative is that Belichick ran Brady out of town and now Tom has delivered the ultimate foam finger salute in the direction of Gillette Stadium.
For Belichick, it’s worse than Spygate, worse than Deflategate, worse than David Tyree, or the Philly Special. For Kraft, it’s worse than getting rebuffed by Tom Menino when he wanted to build a stadium in Southie. Worse than watching the Tuna steal Curtis Martin. Worse than Orchids of . . . OK, not worse than that.
Brady was hardly dominant in Sunday’s NFC Championship win over the Packers. But then again, he rarely is. He completed 20 of 36 passes for 280 yards. He was carried by his defense, just as he was last week in New Orleans. After taking advantage of short fields and building a 28-10 lead early in the second half, Brady was intercepted on three consecutive possessions.
But, as ever, Tommy was a Fortunate Son. The football gods always beam their light on the handsome head of Tom Brady.
Remember all those years when everything went the Patriots’ way and it seemed like the folks on the other sideline lost their football minds at the sight of Belichick? Well, it’s becoming evident that it was the sight of Brady that made all those coaches step on their appendages when they played the Patriots. The Packers made this quite clear at Lambeau Field.
The Packers seemed to be in pretty good shape late in the first half. It looked like they were going into halftime trailing, 14-10, set to get the second half kickoff. When Green Bay’s defense stopped Tampa Bay near midfield with 13 seconds left in the half, the Packers prepared to field a punt near their goal line. That’s when coach Bruce Arians sent Brady and the offense back on the field.
Brady found Leonard Fournette for 6 yards and a first down. But, still, no problem. The ball was on the Packers’ 39 with eight seconds left and the only thing that could hurt Green Bay was a Hail Mary heave by Brady. That’s easy enough to defend, right?
Then came a mind-blowing play as Packer defensive back Kevin King allowed Scotty Miller to run past him and catch the pass undefended in the end zone for a 21-10 halftime lead. Tony Dungy said the Packers’ formation on this play was the worst defensive design he had ever seen in that situation. Green Bay defensive coordinator Mike Pettine should have been fired at halftime.
The Packers weren’t done with stupidity. After intercepting Brady three times and roaring back from an 18-point deficit, they were in position to tie the game with just over two minutes left.
It was 31-23 with 2:15 left when Aaron Rodgers rolled out on a third and goal from the 8. It looked like Rodgers could have run the ball across the goal, or certainly gotten close. Instead, Rodgers fired a pass into traffic at the goal line. Incomplete.
And then . . . on fourth and goal from the 8 — trailing by 8 points with just over two minutes left, Green Bay coach Matt LaFleur called for a field goal. The chip shot cut the lead to 31-26 and gave Brady the football with 2:05 left.
Huh? This was as bad as taking Blake Snell out of the final game of the 2020 World Series. It was almost as bad as Pete Carroll calling a slant pass when all he had to do was give the football to Marshawn Lynch in 2015.
Of course, Green Bay never saw the ball again.
Naturally, Brady had one last critical call go his way — the time-tested defensive pass interference call that’s been a major part of Brady’s arsenal in his old age. King grabbed Tyler Johnson’s jersey on an incomplete pass with 1:41 left. The late flag came from the hand of a back judge, who was 25 yards away from the play. It was probably a legit call, but not on a day when receivers were grabbed and mugged with zebra immunity.
That was it.
Strap yourself in for two weeks of hearing Tom Brady get the Full Rochie from commentators around the world. Prepare for a frothing fortnight of TB12 product, Super G, goofy Gronk videos, and Brady’s insistence that it’s so much more “fun” playing in Tampa than it was in Foxborough.
Ten months after the Patriots told him, “No thanks, Tom. We’re good,” 43-year-old Tom Brady is going back to the Super Bowl.
And we are Loserville. Once again.
- Tom Brady has been proving doubters wrong his entire career, and his 10th Super Bowl run is his best ever
- Watch: Tom Brady celebrates Buccaneers’ Super Bowl berth by asking security if he can hug his son
- As it happened: Tom Brady advances to 10th Super Bowl as Buccaneers hold off Packers, 31-26, in NFC title game
- Why didn’t the Packers go for it in the final minutes? Aaron Rodgers says, ‘That wasn’t my decision’
- Former Patriots teammates congratulate Tom Brady as he heads to Super Bowl with Buccaneers
- Chiefs run away from Bills, set sights on another Super Bowl
Dan Shaughnessy is a Globe columnist. He can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @dan_shaughnessy.