The same age as president-elect JFK, older than Elvis lived to be, Camelot quarterback Tom Brady is still The King.
Brady, 43 years old, beat the defending world champion Kansas City Chiefs, 31-9, in Super Bowl 55 on Sunday night, capping the greatest individual sports story of this century.
After 20 seasons and six Super Bowl rings with the Patriots, Brady relocated to Tampa Bay in March and engineered the greatest revenge tour in football history. It took him a couple of months to get acclimated, but he got hot in December, then capped a playoff tour de force with three touchdown passes in one of the most-hyped matchups in the history of the Super Bowl.
It’s Brady’s seventh Super Bowl victory, more than any NFL franchise. He was named Super Bowl MVP for a record fifth time; John Elway is the only other quarterback to make five Super Bowl starts, period.
How does that taste, Bill Belichick? And what about you, Bob Kraft? Still think Brady wasn’t worth a two-year contract after six Lombardis, nine conference championships, and 17 division titles?
Not to pile on here, but it has to be pointed out that Brady’s touchdown passes against the Chiefs were thrown to Rob Gronkowski (two) and Antonio Brown, two more ex-Patriots. This could not have worked out better for Brady, or worse for the 7-9, non-playoff, Brady-less Pats. I was expecting a TD pass to Mookie Betts before the night was over.
With Brady matching up against KC young gun Patrick Mahomes, CBS billed the game as “the Super Bowl the universe has been waiting for.” A tad lofty, perhaps, but there is no such thing as overstatement when you are talking about Tom Brady.
It was a regional mind-bender for Patriot Nation. In the lead-up to the game, The Wall Street Journal featured a page one story in which clinical psychologists and “breakup coaches” — did you know they existed? — speculated on the mindset of New England football fans who feel jilted by Tom.
Indeed, even though this game pitted teams from Tampa and Kansas City, Super Bowl 55 was all about us. Here in 2021, our doctors, lawyers, stockbrokers, and parents of little children were middle schoolers eating Super Bowl sheet cakes and raising foam fingers when 24-year-old Brady beat the heavily-favored Rams in Super Bowl XXXVI on Feb. 3, 2002.
Fast forward 19 years and Brady has stopped the clock. The bells do not toll for him. The Sunday New York Times put him on a par with freak carnival figures, like P.T. Barnum’s bearded lady and four-legged girl: “. . . Brady, wearing a new costume, performs like a carnival act — Come see the ageless man! . . .”
The ageless one started slow Sunday, but got a lot of help from the Chiefs and the zebras.
Tom was smothered on Tampa’s first two possessions, which resulted in punts. And then, just as Jim Nantz and Tony Romo were telling the CBS audience that Brady had never led his team to a first-quarter touchdown in a Super Bowl, Brady drove the Bucs downfield and threw an 8-yard TD pass to Gronk for a 7-3 lead in the final minute.
It was the 13th time Brady and Gronk combined for a TD in the playoffs, a new NFL record. The biggest play of the drive was a 16-yard Brady completion to the nefarious AB, who played one game for New England in 2019.
As soon as Gronk spiked the ball, you could see the blood drain from the faces of the Chiefs. They started to do all of the stupid things teams always did against Brady and the Patriots: Mindless penalties, bad punts, missed opportunities, poor clock management.
Smelling blood, Brady went to work. His first drive after the touchdown stalled at the KC 1, but then he got a short field, taking over on the Chiefs 38 after a penalty and a hideous punt. Owed to his surprisingly great defense, the short field was Brady’s best friend in this year’s playoffs.
As usual, Tom got a big break when an interception was called back because of a hold that had nothing to do with the play. He got another when one of the Chiefs lined up in the neutral zone to keep a Tampa drive alive. It was like almost every Patriot game the last 20 years.
Brady’s second touchdown pass to Gronk was a 17-yard bullet which made it 14-3 with six minutes left in the half. The Chiefs were called for holding again, but it was a moot point. Another flurry of flags and KC’s silly timeouts put Brady and the Bucs back in the red zone in the final minute. The strike to AB made it 21-6. Brady completed 16 of 20 passes in the first half.
The Chiefs were penalized eight times for 95 yards in the first half, and 11 for 120 yards overall. Ted Wells should have been sent downstairs to investigate at intermission.
It was pure coronation in the second half as Tampa Bay’s defense stuffed Mahomes and kept giving Brady great field position.
This marked Brady’s first Super Bowl blowout. Seven of his nine with the Pats were decided by six points or less. The biggest differential of Brady’s nine New England Super Bowls was 10 — the 13-3 win over the Rams two years ago.
That game was played at the domed Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, and when the confetti fell on Brady’s handsome head after the win, we thought he’d be a Patriot forever. We also thought that might be his last Lombardi trophy.
Neither notion was true. After one more season, Brady was done with the Patriots, but he was not done winning championships. He was not done throwing touchdown passes to Gronk and Antonio Brown.
Take it away, Bob Lobel.
“Why can’t we get players like that?”
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