The mea­sur­ing stick

Five Su­per Bowl wins for New Eng­land are all about Brady

Cape Breton Post - - SPORTS - BY BARRY WIL­NER

With a record five Su­per Bowl rings, Tom Brady cer­tainly has es­tab­lished him­self as the mea­sur­ing stick for quar­ter­backs, NFL play­ers and, just maybe, for all team-sport ath­letes.

The dif­fer­ence in the Pa­tri­ots be­ing 5-2 or even 0-7 in the big game is in­fin­i­tes­i­mal. That dif­fer­ence is the guy wear­ing No. 12.

Brady proved that again Sun­day with an epic come­back that, at 39, some might think puts a cap­per on a Hall of Fame ca­reer. Ex­cept that he plans to re­turn to at work soon pre­par­ing for another NFL sea­son, with prob­a­bly a few more to fol­low.

“I don’t feel 39. I hang out with a bunch of 20-year-olds,” he joked Mon­day morn­ing be­fore walk­ing out of the Su­per Bowl MVP news con­fer­ence with the sil­ver foot­ball that serves as the award for the hon­our. “That makes you feel pretty young.”

That Brady might be around for a while could make the rest of the NFL feel pretty down, and at least when it comes to the play­offs and Su­per Bowl, it should. Con­sider that he’s won 25 post-sea­son games; there are pro baseball, bas­ket­ball and hockey play­ers who would take that for a ca­reer.

Brady will be re­mem­bered most not for de­flated foot­balls but for the way he has pumped up the Pa­tri­ots in the most stress-filled cir­cum­stances. Sun­day’s 34-28 win over At­lanta in the first Su­per Bowl to go to over­time is the lat­est, and per­haps the most em­phatic, ex­am­ple. But it’s ed­u­ca­tional to look at all seven of his per­for­mances in the NFL cham­pi­onship game.

And you can com­pare his work to that of New Eng­land’s coach­ing staff, which, it can be ar­gued, has not come through nearly as well over the course of those seven con­tests and five ti­tles.

- When the Pa­tri­ots edged the favoured Rams 20-17 in the 2002 Su­per Bowl, that was Bill Belichick and his staff’s most im­pres­sive show­ing. Spurred on by cor­ner­back Ty Law in­sist­ing he could cover St. Louis game-break­ing re­ceiver Isaac Bruce alone, New Eng­land came up with a su­per-ag­gres­sive, hit-’em-at-all-costs cov­er­age scheme that de­railed the Great­est Show on Turf.

Yet, Kurt Warner and the Rams found a way to tie the game in the fi­nal min­utes. That’s when Brady, in just his sec­ond pro sea­son and first as a starter, led his team to Adam Vi­natieri’s win­ning field goal. It was the first ma­jor sign that Brady in the clutch was some­thing spe­cial, and he won his first Su­per Bowl MVP.

- In New Eng­land’s vic­to­ries over the Pan­thers and the Ea­gles, both by three points, the Pa­tri­ots ben­e­fited from key mis­takes by the op­po­si­tion. After Carolina tied the score 29-29 in 2004, John Kasey’s kick­off went out of bounds. Soon, Brady had the Pa­tri­ots in po­si­tion for another Vi­natieri winner.

Oh yeah, he was MVP for that game, too.

Philadel­phia melted down in the fi­nal quar­ter of the 2005 match. But there’s a case to be made that both the Pan­thers’ John Fox and the Ea­gles’ Andy Reid were at least Belichick’s equal un­til Brady turned things New Eng­land’s way.

- The two up­set de­feats at the hands of the Giants, par­tic­u­larly in 2008 when the Pa­tri­ots were seeking an un­de­feated sea­son, could have gone New Eng­land’s way, of course. But Tom Cough­lin and his as­sis­tants, par­tic­u­larly de­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor Steve Spag­n­uolo in ‘08, out­wit­ted the Pa­tri­ots. The only way to beat Brady is to make him un­com­fort­able with pres­sure, forc­ing him to throw from awk­ward spots or be­fore he wants to.

At­lanta did a nice job of that for al­most three full quar­ters this time. New York man­aged it pretty much from be­gin­ning to end.

- The most un­fath­omable of New Eng­land’s five ti­tles have been the last two.

When Brady took charge against Seat­tle’s su­perb de­fence in 2015, the fourth quar­ter be­longed to him as he grabbed another MVP award. But if not for what many be­lieve is the worst play call in NFL cham­pi­onship game his­tory — no, Mar­shawn, we’re go­ing to throw from the Pa­tri­ots 1-yard line — Pete Car­roll’s Sea­hawks would likely have won a sec­ond straight Su­per Bowl.

Then there is Sun­day night’s “mirac­u­lous” come­back, to use Brady’s word. And the stun­ning col­lapse by At­lanta, which had a first down at the New Eng­land 22 and a chance to, at the very least, move an 8-point lead to 11 late in the fourth pe­riod. It’s al­most never wise to play for a field goal against Brady, but that was one time to do so. The Fal­cons didn’t.

So Brady, helped by a stun­ning re­cep­tion by Julian Edel­man, guided the Pa­tri­ots to the ty­ing scores. And then to the win­ning TD in over­time.

No one is say­ing the Pa­tri­ots didn’t earn each of their Su­per Bowl wins — and losses. It’s an ab­so­lute, how­ever, that when praise for ev­ery­one in the or­ga­ni­za­tion is handed out, Brady must be far in front of the rest of the line.

AP PHOTO

New Eng­land Pa­tri­ots’ Tom Brady cel­e­brates with the Vince Lom­bardi Tro­phy after the NFL Su­per Bowl 51 foot­ball game against the At­lanta Fal­cons in Hous­ton on Sun­day.

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