By Peter Gleason
Forty-three year-old Tom Brady’s Tampa Bay Bucs beat the defending world champion Kansas City Chiefs, 31-9, in Super Bowl 55 last night
And Boston Globe columnist Dan Shaughnessy wrote that it capped “the greatest individual sports story of this century.”
You might add the 20th century too.
Brady wn six rings with the New England Patriot, then took his ball to Tampa Bay last March when Pats owner Bob Kraft balked at paying a geezer the big bucks.
He got hot in December, then capped a playoff tour de force with three touchdown passes in one of the most-hyped matchups in the history of the Super Bowl.
He was named Super Bowl MVP for a record fifth time; John Elway is the only other quarterback to make five Super Bowl starts, period.
Brady’s touchdown passes against the Chiefs were thrown to Rob Gronkowski (two) and Antonio Brown, two more ex-Patriots. This could not have worked out better for Brady, or worse for the 7-9, non-playoff Pats.
With Brady matching up against KC young gun Patrick Mahomes, CBS billed the game as “the Super Bowl the universe has been waiting for.” A tad lofty, perhaps, but there is no such thing as overstatement when you are talking about Tom Brady.
It was a regional mind-bender for Patriot Nation. In the lead-up to the game, The Wall Street Journal featured a page one story in which clinical psychologists and “breakup coaches” — did you know they existed? — speculated on the mindset of New England football fans who feel jilted by Tom.
Indeed, even though this game pitted teams from Tampa and Kansas City, Super Bowl 55 was all about us. Here in 2021, our doctors, lawyers, stockbrokers, and parents of little children were middle schoolers eating Super Bowl sheet cakes and raising foam fingers when 24-year-old Brady beat the heavily-favored Rams in Super Bowl XXXVI on Feb. 3, 2002.
Fast forward 19 years and Brady has stopped the clock. The bells do not toll for him. The Sunday New York Times put him on a par with freak carnival figures, like P.T. Barnum’s bearded lady and four-legged girl: “. . . Brady, wearing a new costume, performs like a carnival act — Come see the ageless man! . . .”
The ageless one started slow Sunday, but got a lot of help from the Chiefs and the zebras.
Tom was smothered on Tampa’s first two possessions, which resulted in punts. And then, just as Jim Nantz and Tony Romo were telling the CBS audience that Brady had never led his team to a first-quarter touchdown in a Super Bowl, Brady drove the Bucs downfield and threw an 8-yard TD pass to Gronk for a 7-3 lead in the final minute.
It was the 13th time Brady and Gronk combined for a TD in the playoffs, a new NFL record. The biggest play of the drive was a 16-yard Brady completion to the nefarious AB, who played one game for New England in 2019.
As soon as Gronk spiked the ball, you could see the blood drain from the faces of the Chiefs. They started to do all of the stupid things teams always did against Brady and the Patriots: Mindless penalties, bad punts, missed opportunities, poor clock management.
Smelling blood, Brady went to work. His first drive after the touchdown stalled at the KC 1, but then he got a short field, taking over on the Chiefs 38 after a penalty and a hideous punt. Owed to his surprisingly great defense, the short field was Brady’s best friend in this year’s playoffs.
As usual, Tom got a big break when an interception was called back because of a hold that had nothing to do with the play. He got another when one of the Chiefs lined up in the neutral zone to keep a Tampa drive alive. It was like almost every Patriot game the last 20 years.
Brady’s second touchdown pass to Gronk was a 17-yard bullet which made it 14-3 with six minutes left in the half. The Chiefs were called for holding again, but it was a moot point. Another flurry of flags and KC’s silly timeouts put Brady and the Bucs back in the red zone in the final minute. The strike to AB made it 21-6. Brady completed 16 of 20 passes in the first half.