By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — Tom Brady is gone. It’s official. People in New England are feeling all sorts of emotions. People in Tampa? They’re jumping for joy.
That most certainly includes the web staff in charge of Buccaneers.com, the official site of the team that had a whole slew of stories ready to go live as soon as the deal was officially announced.
The headlines were, obviously, quite hopeful. The excitement was palpable.
A sampling of the Bucs’ homepage:
ALL IN! TOM BRADY, BUCS TEAM UP TO PURSUE CHAMPIONSHIPS
Photos of Tom Brady’s Six Super Bowl Wins
Tom Brady Through The Years 2000-Current | Photos
Tom Brady X Tampa Bay
MUST WATCH: Tom Brady’s Top 10 Moments
10 Things to Know About Tom Brady
Tom Brady’s Super Bowl Legacy… Thus Far
Landmark Deal: Where Will Brady Signing Fit in Free Agency History?
Tom Brady vs. Manning, Brees and the NFL’s Best
Of course, jumping to any championship conclusions for a franchise that hasn’t even made the playoffs in 12 years is jumping the gun a bit. But clearly, the folks down in Tampa are having a good time. And who could blame them?
Being an avid mouse clicker myself, I perused the offerings, ultimately landing on the photos of Brady’s six Super Bowl wins. There were 65 of them, which is a humorous number for a photo gallery of one man winning Super Bowls. There were some classics, some throwbacks, some forgotten shots. Over the course of 65 photos, you’re going to get quite the variety.
It was near the end, though, that I came across what I consider to be the quintessential Tom Brady picture. He wasn’t throwing a touchdown. It wasn’t from a statistically great game. It was from a play where, really, he wasn’t involved too much, outside of handing off the football and getting the hell out of the way.
It was this one.
Saw this in the Buccaneers' Tom Brady Super Bowl photo gallery. It is the perfect Tom Brady photo. I'll explain why. pic.twitter.com/JcMNEPTP1i
— Michael Hurley (@michaelFhurley) March 20, 2020
The picture was taken after Sony Michel plowed into the end zone in the fourth quarter of Super Bowl LIII, scoring the only touchdown for either team in what was a memorable defensive battle. The Patriots would win 13-3.
Prior to that play, the score was tied 3-3. It had been a frustrating night for Brady. His first drive ended with a tipped pass that got picked off. Prior to that touchdown drive, Brady had completed just 17 of 31 passes for 195 yards.
To receivers not named Julian Edelman, he was just 8-for-22 for 67 yards.
He was 0-for-6 when targeting Chris Hogan. He completed just one of his four passes to James White.
The game was a grind. And then some.
But, when he took the field with just under 10 minutes to play, with decent field position at his own 31-yard line, Brady decided enough was enough.
It was time to win a damn Super Bowl.
First play, a picture-perfect lob to Gronkowski, who faked like he was blocking before getting around Samson Ebukam for an 18-yard gain.
Next play: Julian Edelman chewing up Cory Littleton, who was helplessly lost in man coverage, for an easy gain of 13 yards.
Next play: A strike to Rex Burkhead for a gain of seven.
All of that set the stage for the play of the game. You know it well. It was a masterpiece, painted by two of the greatest football players in the history of the sport.
The game had been difficult. The season had been long. Coming off the Super Bowl LII fiasco, the entire calendar year had been long.
But with a Super Bowl waiting to be won, Brady went out and won it.
He went 4-for-4 for 67 yards on that drive, moving from the Patriots’ 31-yard line to the Rams’ 2-yard line in just 2:46.
The Rams could have stiffened at that point and made a goal-line stop. But Tom Brady had just sunken their spirits and stolen their souls. The Super Bowl was over, but for the details.
And so, on the next snap, Brady didn’t go hunting for a touchdown pass. He didn’t go searching for a stat. He did the same thing he had done so many times throughout that championship season.
He did what was best for his team to win the football game. He handed off the football.
What happened next was a perfect symphony of blocking. Dwayne Allen sealed off the edge. Rob Gronkowski and Trent Brown opened a hole. Joe Thuney sealed it. James Develin burst through it. And Sony Michel followed the path.
It was only one touchdown, and it only put the Patriots ahead by one score. But everyone involved in that game knew at that point that it was over.
That included Tom Brady. After a draining game, after a taxing couple of years, after rewriting what is possible for a quarterback older than 40, Brady celebrated appropriately — with what amounted to a total emotional eruption.
Brady had done it before in such spots, obviously. He had done it just two weeks prior, on the road in Kansas City. He did it against the Rams (albeit the St. Louis iteration) 17 years earlier. He did it against the Panthers in 2003, against the Eagles in 2004, against the Giants in 2007, against the Seahawks in 2014, against the Falcons in 2016, against the Eagles in 2017, and now against the Rams in 2018.
For the eighth time in nine Super Bowl appearances, Tom Brady had led the Patriots on a go-ahead drive in the fourth quarter or overtime.
The trophy may be named after Vince Lombardi, but the NFL really ought to rename the fourth quarter of every Super Bowl as Tom Brady Time. Nobody’s ever come close to owning that moment like Brady has, and nobody ever will.
And that is what the Tampa Bay Buccaneers just signed up for, and that’s the type of mindset they’re hoping can spread quickly throughout their organization. Whether one man can change everything about a hapless franchise remains to be seen. But if there’s anybody worth trying out for the job, it would be Brady.
The stats? The stats are nice. Brady’s got plenty of those. But the emotion captured in that singular moment of complete honesty and raw emotion? That’s precisely what makes Tom Brady … Tom Brady. And it’s never been able to be quantified.
Fortunately, if you’re ever short on explanations, details, facts, or figures, you can just point to that one photo to see exactly who and what Tom Brady has always been: A special player in the most special moments.