By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
ATLANTA (CBS) — Of all the catchphrases and slogans and rallying cries that the Patriots have developed over the years, the one generated and promoted by Tom Brady in recent weeks has been by far the most appropriate.
It’s the only way to possibly summarize what’s taken place, a remarkable, unprecedented run of success. A stretch of dominance that the NFL is designed to not allow. A near-impossible defiance of age, time, and eras.
And now, the latest addition to the unparalleled list of accomplishments is yet another Super Bowl victory. Number six.
At this point, everything that could have possibly been said about Brady has been said. No other quarterback ever won more than four; Brady now has won six. No other quarterback as even played in more than five Super Bowls; Brady has nine under his belt now.
In the most important position in professional team sports, nobody has ever been responsible for so much winning. And nobody ever will again.
Now, we can all make no mistake about it: Brady was not his usual dominant self in Sunday night’s 13-3 win over the Rams. His first throw of the night was deflected and intercepted. He skipped a pass over the middle to Chris Hogan. He threw two bad balls for incompletions to James White, and another inaccurate short pass to White that prevented the running back from picking up a first down. Rob Gronkowski made up for an inaccurate pass with some great hands. Brady held on to a ball too long and was stripped, saved only by David Andrews playing heads-up football to recover the loose ball.
In terms of a night of greatness from Brady, Super Bowl LIII was a bit of a letdown.
But we can also make no mistake about this: The Patriots are Tom Brady’s team. And while the stats (21-for-35, 262 yards, 0 TDs, 1 INT) weren’t outstanding, and while a handful of passes were uncharacteristically poor, what can get forgotten in that discussion is the fact that Brady did what he had to do in order to win the game. That is the hallmark of Brady’s career, and the fact that he continues to win, and win, and win, and win? It is no coincidence.
The victory was the 30th playoff win of Brady’s career, improving his record to 30-10. He extended his own Super Bowl records across the board, but what might stand out most is this: In nine Super Bowls, Brady now has 2,838 passing yards.
That’s obviously the most of all time. In second place in Kurt Warner, who threw for 1,156 yards in his Super Bowl career. That is to say, Brady has more than twice as many passing yards in the Super Bowl than anybody else in history.
Brady’s 30 postseason victories are also most in history. Joe Montana ranks second … with 16. Aside from those two, only eight other quarterbacks in history have won more than 10 playoff games.
Again, Brady has won 30.
And, for as much as Sunday night was about the Patriots’ defense much more than it was about Brady, it’s not as if he was a net negative for New England. He was good enough to help Julian Edelman become the seventh receiver to ever earn Super Bowl MVP honors.
He did not dominate from start to finish, but in a 3-3 game in the fourth quarter, when the fans began to chant “Brady, Brady,” the quarterback did what he always does. He focused in on the task at hand and won a football game.
It must be noted that the Patriots’ go-ahead touchdown in the fourth quarter came only after Brady lobbed a perfect pass to Gronkowski for an 18-yard pickup to start the drive, and it was more or less capped off with Brady hitting Gronkowski in traffic for a 29-yard gain to get the Patriots on the doorstep. Sony Michel did the honors from there.
And that, as much as anything, should be how the 2018 season will go down for Brady. Despite having incentives in his contract for passing touchdowns, Brady was more than happy to hand the ball off whenever the Patriots got inside the 10-yard line. He — and Josh McDaniels — trusted whichever running back was lined up to score the touchdown. Whether that was Michel, Rex Burkhead or James White, or whether it was James Develin or Cordarrelle Patterson, Brady at age 41 had no desire or urge to prove anything by inflating his touchdown total. He just wanted to win.
Though he only racked up 11 during the regular season, he collected the three most important wins possible, and he’ll have a new trophy in his cupboard to show for it. That’s all he’ll ever care about.
The league and the sport is just is not designed for one person to be able to win this much. It is a league that values, above all else, the “parity.” It is a league that boasts every year that six teams made the playoffs a year after missing the playoffs. It is a league where, for the past 20 years, winning even two Super Bowls has proven to be an extraordinary task.
The Patriots — and Brady — have won six.
Despite the undeniable greatness of Brady and Belichick — two of the best ever in their respective roles — there have clearly been a variety of camps when it comes to feelings on the Patriots quarterback. Recently, an entire cottage industry has been formed from national pundits who’ve chosen to spend their time trying to tear down the abilities and accomplishments of the greatest quarterback in NFL history.
In the current day, these loud voices certainly draw their fair share of attention. But over time, the story in history will be crystal clear. Tom Brady is the greatest in history, and he’ll always be remembered as the greatest to ever play. With each and every victory he accumulates, the case becomes irrefutable.
True greatness — rare greatness — can never be disputed. Tom Brady has been, continues to be, and will always be the greatest. Nothing anybody can say will ever change that.