By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston

GLENDALE, Ariz. (CBS) — Tom Brady is the greatest of all time.

Oh, sure, Sunday night’s Super Bowl victory won’t put an end to the debates about who is the best quarterback to ever play the sport. Joe Montana was a damn fine quarterback, and perhaps he was the best. There’s no way to definitively say.

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But Tom Brady is the greatest.

It isn’t about statistics, though Brady has plenty of those. It isn’t necessarily just about wins — and he has those, too.

With Brady, his greatness has never been in his athleticism, or his natural mechanics, or his public perception.

With Brady, it’s about his fire. It’s the fire that’s burned deep within him for his entire career, that fire that inspired him to tell Robert Kraft that he was the best decision the organization ever made upon being drafted, the fire that turned the 199th pick into the greatest of all time.

The greatest. Again, there will always be debates. People love debate. But there is no way there has ever been a player who has aspired — and achieved — greatness quite like Tom Brady.

Many avenues exist to discover this greatness, but in the case of Sunday night’s Super Bowl, one need only look to the drive engineered by Brady late in the fourth quarter. Really, Brady had not played a fully excellent game to that point. He had completed 29 of his 42 passes for 263 yards, three touchdowns and two bad interceptions. Against the best defense in the league — and arguably one of the best defenses of all time — winning that elusive fourth Super Bowl would not come easy. And indeed, the quarterback had endured a rather unpleasant night.

Yet with his team trailing by three, and with his defense showing leaks, Brady dropped back at his own 36-yard line and calmly delivered a pass to Shane Vereen for a gain of eight. He hit Vereen again for a gain of five. Then he hit Julian Edelman. Then Vereen again, though it was negated by a holding penalty, which set up a second-and-11. No matter.

Brady-to-Gronkowski. Gain of 20.

He then hit Vereen, and Gronkowski again, and then Brandon  LaFell. After a two-yard run, Brady waited for Edelman to find space in the end zone. The quarterback did not miss.

Add it all up, and with his team’s season on the line, with his and Bill Belichick’s legacy hanging in the balance, with perhaps his final opportunity to play in the Super Bowl, Tom Brady did this: 8-for-8. Sixty-five yards. Touchdown.

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It was vintage Brady. This was the exact type of drive which is why we ever learned Brady’s name. The difference this time was that he left nothing up to field goals. He finished the job.

Brady, who had gone 5-for-7 for 55 yards and a touchdown on the drive before the game-winner, gave his typical answers after the game. He refused to admit that any of the outside criticism helped fuel his desire to win this game (it did), and he refused to take all the credit, saying the receivers caught the passes and the line blocked their men.

That may be true, but nobody else could have delivered those passes in that moment quite like Tom Brady.

Though Brady wasn’t willing to pat himself on the back, his teammates were more than happy to sing his praises.

“He’s won four Super Bowls, he’s been in six. He’s always going against the odds,” Edelman said on the field while confetti rained down upon him. “Just the fact how he prepares, you look at a guy like him — was is he, 42, 43? 50? Something like that. You see him and you see him working with a quarterback coach, you see him working after practice, you see him off putting in film [work]. This guy’s seen everything, and he just still keeps on working. He grinds. And everything he’s got, he’s earned.”

“Tom’s the best ever,” added Edelman, the recipient of nine of Brady’s passes for 109 yards and a score. “I’m a big Joe Montana fan. I love him to death. I thought he was the best and everything. He won four, he’s undefeated in four, but they didn’t have a salary cap back then. He had some great players around him. He had some great defenses and all that. Tom Brady came out here, he’s been to six Super Bowls. He’s won four with the salary cap. It’s hard to argue against that.”

Despite Brady’s near-perfect finish to Super Bowl XLIX, he cruelly had to witness another miracle catch made by an opponent on the very same field where David Tyree ended the Patriots’ bid for perfection seven years prior. This one came via Jermaine Kearse, who somehow kicked a ball up to his own chest while lying on his back to get the Seahawks down to the Patriots’ 5-yard line. With Marshawn Lynch in the backfield, aka the most unstoppable running back in football, reality set in for Brady that despite his best efforts, he was going to lose his third Super Bowl. Quarterbacks always receive all the praise when their teams win, and they likewise take an inordinate amount of blame when their teams lose, and this was going to be no different. Forget the fact that he twice left the field in Glendale with the lead, only to see his defense blow the game. Forget the fact that he atoned for his two picks on this night, throwing four touchdowns in a Super Bowl for the first time. Forget all of that. All people care about is wins and losses, and this one was going to be a loss.

But for the first time in a few Super Bowls, the shocking play to win a game came from a player wearing a Patriots uniform. This one came from Malcolm Butler, an undrafted rookie who played at Hinds Community College and West Alabama, a player whose path to the NFL was even longer and more unlikely than Brady’s.

And thanks to that assist, there’s no need to argue. Tom Brady is the greatest. Joe Montana will always be 4-0 in the Super Bowl, but his 16-7 postseason record doesn’t stack up to Brady’s 21-8 mark.

And again, it’s not about records. It’s about greatness. And there’s simply nobody greater than Tom Brady.

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Read more from Michael Hurley by clicking here. You can email him or find him on Twitter @michaelFhurley.