By Nancy Armour |
Tom Brady will cede the title of the NFL’s best quarterback to the next generation when he’s good and ready.
And he’s nowhere close to it.
Brady won his seventh Super Bowl title Sunday night in what might be his most impressive performance yet. He’s 43, an age where his contemporaries are celebrating their gold Hall of Fame jackets, not new Super Bowl rings. He’s playing for a new team and in a new system with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and coach Bruce Arians.
And yet, he ran heir apparent Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs straight into the ground with a 31-9 victory. Kicked dirt in their face afterward, too.
OK, not actually. But he might as well have for as thorough a thrashing as the Old Man gave the NFL’s Next Big Thing. Brady won his fifth Super Bowl MVP, with three touchdowns – that weeping sound you hear came from New England as two of them went to Rob Gronkowski – and a near-perfect QB rating of 125.8, and Buccaneers defensive coordinator Todd Bowles forced Mahomes and the Chiefs into their worst game, well, ever.
Kansas City had never lost a game Mahomes started by double digits.
“I’m so proud of all these guys out here. We had a rough month of November but (Bruce Arians) had all the confidence in us, the team had a lot of confidence, we came together at the right time and I think we knew this was going to happen tonight, didn’t we?” Brady said. “We ended up playing our best game of the year.”
Now, instead of the Chiefs being the first team to repeat as Super Bowl champions since – guess who! – Brady and the New England Patriots in 2004, it’ll be Brady and the Buccaneers trying to one up themselves next year.
“Yeah, we’re coming back,” Brady said, a big smile on his face and the Lombardi Trophy by his side.
What was supposed to be a shootout between the NFL’s past and its future very quickly became lopsided. Sure, the Chiefs had roared back from a 10-point deficit in last year’s Super Bowl, scoring 21 points in the fourth quarter to beat the San Francisco 49ers.
But you can’t spot Brady points. He’ll take them – and still pick your pocket for more. Take the last drive before halftime. There were penalties, there were breakdowns, there was even some Andy Reid clock mismanagement just for old time’s sake.
Brady and the Buccaneers got the ball back with 55 seconds left, and got a whole lot of nothing on their first play, a run by Leonard Fournette. Reid then called a timeout. Why? Who knows. But Brady took advantage of it, finding Chris Godwin for an 8-yard gain on the next play.
Tampa Bay called a timeout and then, for some inexplicable reason, Reid called another one. Again, this is Tom Brady. You don’t need to give him help, a senior citizen’s discount or free flags. (The referees apparently missed that pre-game memo.)
Sure enough, Brady and Gronkowski connected on a 5-yard reception and the first down.
And then the meltdown came.
The Chiefs had been sloppy throughout the first half, with dropped passes and penalties. But this took it to another level. Brady overthrew Mike Evans, but Bashaud Breeland tripped him. Didn’t matter that the ball wasn’t catchable, you can’t do that.
The pass interference call moved the Bucs from their 42 all the way to the Chiefs 24. After Brady’s 15-yard pass to Fournette, the Bucs called a timeout. And so did the Chiefs!
Brady’s pass to Evans was incomplete again, but this time it was Tyrann Mathieu whistled for pass interference. While both pass interference calls were questionable – especially if you watched the conference championships two weeks ago – it doesn’t matter. The refs call what they call and you play with what you get.
That put Tampa Bay at the Kansas City 1, and anyone who’s ever watched a football game before knew what was coming. Brady for the touchdown, this one to Antonio Brown, and Brady could start flexing his fingers to make room for his new ring.
It’s easy to lose track of all of Brady’s superlatives. The titles. The records. But it’s important to put this championship in perspective.
“I’m not making any comparisons,” Brady said. “Every year is amazing.”
Brady had spent 20 years in New England. He could run the Patriots’ offense with his eyes closed and still wind up with an AFC championship. When he signed with the Buccaneers in March, it mean he’d have to adjust to a new coach, a new system, new teammates.
Then COVID-19 happened.
Brady needed the offseason more than perhaps any other player, and he didn’t get it. Yet here he is, the Super Bowl champ again.
And showing no signs of being ready to hand the trophy to anyone else anytime soon.
This article was republished with permission from the original author and 2015 Ronald Reagan Media Award recipient, Nancy Armour, and the original publisher, USA Today. Follow columnist Nancy Armour on Twitter @nrarmour.