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tara sullivan

What was most impressive about Tom Brady’s latest feat? Take your pick

"He’s probably the biggest reason we are where we are," said Tampa Bay receiver Scotty Miller of teammate Tom Brady.
"He’s probably the biggest reason we are where we are," said Tampa Bay receiver Scotty Miller of teammate Tom Brady.Jeffrey Phelps/Associated Press

It’s time to put the Tom Brady/New England scorecard away. Brady delivered the knockout punch with Sunday’s Super Bowl-securing win. That fight is over.

Now it’s Tom Brady versus history.

Tom Brady versus immortality.

Tom Brady versus the greatest team athletes we’ve ever known, regardless of sport, regardless of city, regardless of age, regardless of jersey. In taking the former punch-line Buccaneers to the championship game in his first year with them since leaving the Patriots, Brady closed the book on his time in New England with an undisputed and unanimous decision, heading to the Big Game while the team he left behind has been sitting at home since the regular season ended.

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Time to leave that behind, and look at Brady against a bigger backdrop.

His time with the Patriots was historic: 20 years, six championships, and a coach/quarterback partnership that is unmatched in the history of the game. As much as Brady has done so much better with his first post-divorce season than Bill Belichick did with his, don’t forget for a second that the Brady who led the Bucs past the Packers was built under the tutelage of Belichick. The work ethic, the discipline, the knowledge, the belief, the will, all of them were honed by the foundation and structure provided by Belichick.

But the bird flew the nest, and what we’ve seen since is nothing short of stunning. That Brady could take all of that and transfer it so seamlessly to a new locker room is a credit to the parts of him that were always there: the confidence, the leadership, the desire, and maybe, above all, the unyielding determination to prove doubters wrong.

He’s not about to say so out loud, busy as he is posting new videos to his social media accounts, but his personal postgame party with Rob Gronkowski (a remake of one they’d done in 2019) was just another reminder that he is the one still celebrating.

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But Brady proved his worth to all of his teammates, not just the ones he worked hard to import from up North. As he stood in front of the national television cameras answering questions after the game, he quickly ceded the spotlight by saying, “Let’s get some other people up here.”

Bucs coach Bruce Arians took his place, and as Brady melted into the crowd of teammates, his No. 12 jersey gleamed against the sea of gray NFC Champions t-shirts already covering the uniforms of the others. But he fit right in anyway, swallowed by an ocean of high-fives and hugs, visual proof that status and fame don’t create bonds with teammates — hard work and shared purpose do.

Brady hadn’t played a perfect game. A torrid first half gave way to a terrible second-half stretch that included interceptions on two consecutive throws and three picks overall. But he did more than enough, closing the game when the Packers inexplicably gave him the ball with a lead and only 2:02 to kill, after stunning them with just one second left in the first half by hitting Scotty Miller with a beautiful 39-yard touchdown pass.

No wonder Miller declared later, “Tom is a goat.”

Above all, he made them believe. He was their rising tide, lifting all ships.

“Last year we were 7-9 and right now we’re heading to the Super Bowl,” Miller said. “That tells you — we added other stuff, but he’s at the helm and he’s our leader. He’s probably the biggest reason we are where we are.

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“He’s a great player, a great leader. It was easy for us to all get behind him and follow him. His composure, he’s been here before. We know he’s going to get it done. Yeah, he threw a couple of picks, but we know when the game’s on the line he’s going to make plays.”

Make them he did.

His list of accomplishments is mind-numbing, and it’s impossible to decide which is most impressive.

Tom Brady waves to spectators after Sunday's win.
Tom Brady waves to spectators after Sunday's win.Morry Gash/Associated Press

Take your pick:

He’s going to his 10th Super Bowl, extending his record.

He’s going for his seventh title, which would pass the Patriots and Steelers as the most by any single NFL franchise.

He’s doing it in his first year with a new team, amid a pandemic that stole offseason workouts and altered preseason training camp.

He’s 43 years old.

He has won three straight road playoff games.

He beat Drew Brees and Aaron Rodgers along the way, quarterbacks with a combined 36 NFL years between them, and tied them each with one NFC championship to their names.

Subtract the year he got injured and played only one game, and he has appeared in the Super Bowl in more than half of the seasons he’s played.

He’ll be playing the Super Bowl in his home stadium, something that has never been done before.

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That last one managed to leave even Brady in awe.

“A home Super Bowl for the first time in NFL history, I think, puts a lot of cool things in perspective,” he said. “Any time you’re the first time doing something, it’s usually a pretty good thing.”

Tom Brady holds the NFC Championship trophy after Sunday's game.
Tom Brady holds the NFC Championship trophy after Sunday's game.Matt Ludtke/Associated Press

But even if he believed it would happen, he wasn’t owning up to that Sunday, saying, “I think it’s hard to envision. This is a goal, but at the same time, it’s a week-to-week league.”

When you’re battling history, you don’t talk about it. You just do it.

“We were at 7-5 seven games ago, not feeling great,” Brady said. “We felt like we needed to find our rhythm, and [we] played four great games down the stretch the last quarter of the season. After that, it was all bonus.”

And all history-making.

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Tara Sullivan is a Globe columnist. She can be reached at tara.sullivan@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @Globe_Tara.