GLENDALE, Ariz. — Tom Brady’s methodical dissection of the vaunted Legion of Boom on Sunday featured all the elements of why many believe he deserves the title of best quarterback in National Football League history.
Using a steady diet of underneath and crossing patterns, Brady completed 37 of 50 passes for 328 yards and four touchdowns in the New England Patriots’ 28-24 victory over the Seattle Seahawks in Super Bowl XLIX.
Brady continued his assault on the NFL postseason record book, including flying past Joe Montana (11) with the most career touchdown passes in Super Bowl history with 13. He also joined Montana and Pittsburgh Steelers legend Terry Bradshaw with four Super Bowl titles, the most in NFL history, and tied Montana with his third Super Bowl MVP award.
It all adds fuel to the debate as to who is the best quarterback in National Football League history.
“I haven’t thought about that … I never put myself in those discussions,” said Brady. “That’s not how I think. There are so many great players who have been on so many great teams … I think you’ve got to just enjoy the moment.”
Nothing Brady accomplishes is by accident, and that was on full display at the University of Phoenix Stadium on Sunday. He opened the game patiently picking away at the underbelly of the league’s top-ranked defense.
Brady made a poor decision when pressured while attempting to break a scoreless tie and threw an ill-advised interception in the end zone to Seahawks cornerback Jeremy Lane. However, Lane sustained a broken arm on the play, and Brady quickly went to work on replacement Tharold Simon, who was beaten three times on the ensuing drive, including on an 11-yard touchdown to wide receiver Brandon Lafell to open the scoring.
Brady’s second scoring pass went 22 yards down the right sideline to tight end Rob Gronkowski, who was left in man coverage against linebacker K.J. Wright when cornerback Richard Sherman followed a wideout in motion. Seattle allowed 11 touchdowns to tight ends previously this season, and Brady knew he would have some mismatch opportunities with Gronkowski.
Down 24-14 after being harassed throughout the third quarter, Brady took advantage of the Seahawks losing defensive end Cliff Avril to a concussion and went back to the bread and butter in the quick passing game. After a 4-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Danny Amendola brought New England within 24-21, the Patriots defense held to get the ball back in Brady’s hands.
The veteran quarterback continued to pepper the Seahawks secondary and went back in Simon’s direction on what proved to be the game-winning, 3-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Julian Edelman with 2:02 remaining. He was 8-for-8 on the final drive.
“I didn’t think about that,” Brady said when asked if that drive will be a signature moment in his career. “It’s a team effort. There’s never one player, it took the whole team.”
A lot of quarterbacks are 6-feet-4 and 225 pounds, but Brady’s mental approach to the game is why, at 37 years old, he was able to win a title nine years after his most recent Super Bowl triumph.
“I’ve got a lot of football left,” Brady said. “It’s hard to play this game and it takes a big commitment, a lot of sacrifice.”
Super Bowl XLIX will go down as one of the most dramatic in NFL history, in large part due to the work of Brady’s counterpart.
Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson got off to an inauspicious start Sunday, failing to complete a pass until there was 5:20 remaining in the first half. However, he found little-known wide receiver Chris Matthews for a pair of critical completions and seemingly had the Seahawks in position to win their second consecutive Super Bowl title until Brady staged his comeback.
Even then, Wilson went to work with 2:02 remaining, found running back Marshawn Lynch down the left sideline for a 31-yard completion and had the Seahawks knocking on the door of a go-ahead touchdown when he was intercepted by Patriots rookie cornerback Malcolm Butler in the end zone to effectively end the game.
“It definitely hurts,” Wilson said. “I’m the one who lost it in a way. I played my heart out. The guys played their hearts out.
“One inch too far. I thought it was going to be a touchdown when I threw it. I thought it was going to be game over.”
Wilson’s mental makeup is also well-documented, but the drastic difference in style was on full display as well Sunday. While Brady was content to fire quickly from the pocket, Wilson was often dancing around behind the line of scrimmage, looking for passing windows with his 5-11 frame and buying time for his receivers to get open.
Wilson completed just 12 of 21 passes on the day, but he was accurate on several big plays that helped to rack up 247 passing yards and a pair of touchdowns. He added 39 yards on three scrambles.
In the end, Super Bowl XLIX was decided by his ill-fated attempt to hit wide receiver Ricardo Lockette in the end zone, but Wilson is still headed for a massive pay day this offseason and ultimately could enter next season as the highest paid player in the NFL.
Wilson’s star is still on the rise, but it is Brady who will be chasing a fifth Lombardi Trophy come next season.
“For all the players that have played in the past and I’ve looked up to and admired and a lot of the player now who I look up to and admire — it’s a big challenge and it’s incredible to experience this feeling once, and I’ve been fortunate to play on four really great teams,” said Brady. “So I’m really blessed.”