Flawed but perfect: The Super Bowl was Tom Brady’s masterpiece

Jay Croucher Columnist

By Jay Croucher, Jay Croucher is a Roar Expert

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    First it was about the Cowboys, then it was about Aaron Rodgers, and, for a while there, it seemed certain to be about the Atlanta Falcons.

    But finally, at the last possible moment (and perhaps even past that), the saloon door of inevitability hit us all in the face, and we remembered that the NFL is still about the Patriots first and everyone else second – as it has been for the past 16 years.

    New England are the modern NFL’s old empire, an unparalleled force of consistent dominance. Except ‘force’ has never really felt like the right word to describe the Patriots, at least outside of 2007, when excellence and football sadism found a happy marriage.

    The Patriots aren’t about the quick, lightning strike knockout – they’re Floyd Mayweather, always dictating the style of the match-up, playing it on their terms, and only throwing punches that they know are likely to land.

    They never get sucked in by emotion, approaching every situation with cold rationality; something that makes them both unsympathetic and inspirational. At 28-3 in the Super Bowl there was no crisis, no crippling sense of embarrassment. There was only: ‘this is how many possessions we have left, and here’s what we have to do with them’.

    This identity, at first glance robotic, at second glance incredibly and impressively human, might be Bill Belichick’s mantra but it’s Tom Brady who makes it reality. Brady has said that the Super Bowl wasn’t one of his greatest performances and the reason he gave was simple: for more than half the game he didn’t play that well.

    With two minutes left in the third quarter the Patriots had scored just three points, in part because of Brady’s errors. He missed several throws that could have gone for big gains (admittedly, his receivers didn’t help him out on several others) and the interception Robert Alford returned for a touchdown was catastrophic from the moment it left Brady’s hands, the type of throw that Eli Manning makes on his worst day (Eli, by the way, of course still being the only quarterback to topple Brady in a Super Bowl).

    New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady

    But what made the Super Bowl Brady’s greatest masterpiece, if not his most pristine, is that those mistakes propelled him instead of crushing him. Brady has the shortest memory in the sport, as well as perhaps the best and most cunning, and the form he took in the second half bore no signs of the earlier failures. The missed throws didn’t bruise him, and the battering he took only made him stand taller in the pocket.

    It was a similar performance to his last Super Bowl turn, brushing aside the two interceptions against Seattle and putting on the God-as-football-surgeon costume in the fourth quarter that fits him so well. To conclude those two games, where the Patriots were down 10 and 25 points, Brady had seven drives where a failure to score would likely mean a Super Bowl loss. The result of those drives: six touchdowns and a field goal.

    Those seven drives, ultimately, will be his legacy. The early Super Bowl performances were brilliant, but not quite as heroic, exciting or iconic. They had no Malcolm Butler interception, or the catches by Jermaine Kearse, Julio Jones and Julian Edelman, plays that will embed those games forever in NFL history, sitting comfortably alongside the David Tyree catch.

    That grab, which Tyree is still pressing against the top of his helmet, is symbolic of Brady’s greatest failure: ‘18-1′. Some can interpret that lost Super Bowl, or the other championship loss to the Giants, or Brady missing Rob Gronkowski on the two-point conversion in Denver last year, as stains on his legacy. In a way, of course, they are, but really, all they point to is Brady being human, and not the higher power he often seems to be.

    All the great ones have their failings. What makes Brady the greatest is how quickly he’s able to forget them.

    Jay Croucher
    Jay Croucher

    From MSG in New York to the MCG in Melbourne, Jay has spent his adult life travelling the world, indulging in sport and approaching it from the angle of history and pop culture. Follow him on Twitter @CroucherJD

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    The Crowd Says (12)

    • February 17th 2017 @ 7:52am
      joe said | February 17th 2017 @ 7:52am | ! Report

      The failure on the late 2 pt conversion at Denver last year in AFC title game is more a failure on Gostkowski’s part for missing the extra pt earlier in the game thus forcing a 2pt conversion.Gostkowski again screwed up in the SuperBowl this season missing an xtra pt attempt fortunately Brady & New England were able to convert two 2 pt conversions with some clever play designs to overcome Gostkowski’s error.

      • February 17th 2017 @ 2:01pm
        Keagan Ryan said | February 17th 2017 @ 2:01pm | ! Report

        Furthermore, in last year’s AFC title game the Pats didn’t have an o-line. On a good day no team could stop Denver’s defence, let alone the Patriots with their second string o-line and TB coping a beating on literally every play. It’s testament to his legacy that they got as close as they did.

    • February 17th 2017 @ 8:09am
      KingCowboy said | February 17th 2017 @ 8:09am | ! Report

      Jay i get the feeling that you don’t like the Pats but that you respect them. As a Boston fan, that is fantastic.

    • Roar Guru

      February 17th 2017 @ 9:06am
      Chris Kettlewell said | February 17th 2017 @ 9:06am | ! Report

      It is one of those funny things. The times people are most praised are when they need to do something incredible, often to overcome some issues of their own making. While the times they don’t make the earlier mistakes they don’t need to do the incredible thing to make up for it and don’t get so much praise.

      It happens everywhere. I see it at work where someone gets praise for putting in massive hours to fix something up, and I often think that if they’d done things right in the first place they wouldn’t have needed to put in all those extra hours to fix things, so the people who actually do a good job and don’t get themselves in those situations actually get less praise for their work.

      Similar where someone like Brady is going to have more people remember the efforts where he played poorly early on but then pulled out something incredible towards the end of the game to overcome that, than they will the matches where he just played well from the start and never let the opposition into the game.

    • February 17th 2017 @ 9:13am
      Mick_Lions said | February 17th 2017 @ 9:13am | ! Report

      17’s been a good year for GOAT’s so far.

      Fed nailed number 18, Serena got even more and we’re only 6 weeks in.

      I don’t usually follow NFL but I do follow legends so I watched a few clips on Brady before the game and knew his history.
      To then watch him deliver in record breaking style was truly amazing. The moment he kicked into Drive mode he was unstoppable.

      I remember watching Warney tear the Poms to shreds chasing 150 in Adelaide because no matter what the score line was he BELIEVED they could win.

      This is the legacy of the GOAT:
      The belief that your good enough to win regardless of the situation.
      Just give me the ball.

      And Brady is a GOAT

    • Editor

      February 17th 2017 @ 9:52am
      Riordan Lee said | February 17th 2017 @ 9:52am | ! Report

      I would still pick Rodgers before I pick Brady, but I can no longer argue with the stats. GOAT.

      You tried to convince us to like the Patriots a few weeks ago, Jay, but I still couldn’t do it. After the SB though, I have to admit, I’d come around,

    • February 17th 2017 @ 10:53am
      DJW said | February 17th 2017 @ 10:53am | ! Report

      Taking nothing away from Brady but the Patriots defence had to make a lot of stops in the second half for Brady to be able to do what he did. Don’t get me started on the Falcons play calling either.

      At 28-3 I did think if any team is going to come back from this it will be the Pats lead by Brady.

      Was a great game and I think would of attracted a lot of new NFL fans.

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