Viewpoint Patriots and their dynasty still here
ATLANTA — He got his hands on the football that Louisiana night, 83 yards from the goal line and only 81 seconds to make an ineffaecable mark on New England sports history. Tom Brady had no timeouts.
Sitting next to Pat Summerall in the Fox broadcast booth, John Madden implored the 24-year-old quarterback out of Michigan to run out the clock, to play for overtime, not to do anything stupid. Brady could not hear Madden, of course, not that he would have listened.
This was in New Orleans, 424 miles away from Mercedes-Benz Stadium as football destiny flies. This was Super Bowl XXXVI against these same Rams. This was where the legend was born, the seeds of the dynasty was sewn.
Could it really be 17 years ago? It feels like yesterday for Patriots fans, euphoric Sunday night after this 13-3 triumph in Super Bowl LIII. Surely, it feels like an eternity for fans of everyone else, exhausted by the Patriots’ success and burning with envy.
It ended that night in 2002 with Lonie Paxton capping Brady’s masterful eight-play, 53-yard drive by chasing Adam Vinatieri’s 48-yard field goal as if he was chasing a shooting star. When the football split the uprights inside the Superdome for the Patriots’ first Super Bowl triumph, Paxton dropped in the end zone and did the damnedest thing. He started doing snow angels the way he had done a few weeks earlier when Brady tucked and ducked his way to victory over the Raiders in the snow of Foxboro.
There were no snow angels all these years later. There were mostly yawns, jokes and catcalls from a nation during the lowest-scoring Super Bowl in history. Yet in the end, there was the same quarterback, the same coach, the same team standing. The same men and the same team that have bedeviled opponents like no other in the history of the game.
“We’re still here,” said coach Bill Belichick, that master of dry humor.
Brady had started a chant with those words at a fan rally before he dropped the mic and the team climbed aboard the flight to Atlanta.
Yes, the Patriots did it again. They have tied the Steelers with a sixth Super Bowl title.
Yes, Brady did it again. He becomes the first player with six Super Bowl rings, eclipsing Charley Haley.
Yes, Belichick, who tied George Halas and Curly Lambeau with six NFL titles, did it again. He becomes the first coach to win six Super Bowls.
And, yes, they’re still here.
“An unprecedented accomplishment,” euphoric owner Robert Kraft said. “There is one constant in all those 18 years. Two men who are the best of whatever has been done in the history of the NFL. Bill Belichick and Tom Brady.”
So here was Brady immediately after the final whistle, hugging Julian Edelman, the Super Bowl MVP, for a full 20 seconds among a sea of cameras. And here he was for another full 20 seconds, hugging Kraft. One is like a little brother to Brady. The other is like a father.
“Julian played his best game of the year,” Brady said. “I’m so proud of him. I love that guy.”
“Julian played his ass off,” Rob Gronkowski shouted.
Brady was so-so for most of the night, but just like in New Orleans, just as he has done so, so many times, he led his team on the winning fourth quarter drive. This one was five plays, 69 yards. Brady to Gronkowski for 18, Brady to Edelman for 13. Brady to Rex Burkhead for 7 and then the backbreaker.
Brady feathered a 29-yard pass down the seam over Rams linebacker Cory Littleton to Gronk at the Los Angeles 2. When Sony Michel pounded in the ball for the touchdown, Brady pumped his right arm madly.
“I can’t believe it, man,” Brady said. “What a year. How about our defense, man? How about our defense? They played unbelievable. I wished we played better on offense, but it feels a lot better than last year.”
Brady threw for a Super Bowl record 505 yards last year and the Patriots lost to Eagles. There were doubters this season as the team lost five times on the road. After the playoff rout of the Chargers, Brady said, “I know everyone thinks we suck.” During the AFC Championship against the Chiefs, there was Edelman hyping up Brady on the sidelines, screaming, “You’re too old.”
Maybe they were overstating how badly they were offended by critics, yet clearly they had a chip on their shoulder.
Rams coach Sean McVay had just turned 16 when Brady led the Patriots on that march to their first Super Bowl win. Rams quarterback Jared Goff was 7. How old is Brady? At 41, he’s young enough to be the oldest starting quarterback in Super Bowl history.
Now here’s the really bad news for everybody else. Brady reiterated he has zero plans of retiring.
This was an unlikely march to the Super Bowl, but the game itself was downright freaky. The jokes on social media were better than the first 45 minutes.
Halftime score: Maroon 5, Patriots 3.
Adam Levine has been on the field longer than the Rams offense.
That’s what happens when you’ve got the lowest scoring game in Super Bowl history. That’s what happens when you’ve got the only Super Bowl game that fails to produce a touchdown in the first three quarters.
That’s what happens when the over-under is 56 points and the teams combine to finish 37 short of that number. That’s what happens when neither team got into the red zone until Gronk’s catch at the 2.
A dynasty, however, does not mean routs. The Patriots had won five Super Bowls by a total of 19 points, the largest a six-point overtime win. The largest of the three losses was by eight points last season to the Eagles. In other words, everyone of their Super Bowls was a one-score game. Except this one. Yes, the Patriots scored 13 points and won the Super Bowl for the first time by double digits.
That’s because the Patriots defense played brilliantly. Edelman was MVP, but collectively the defense ruled. They had an excellent game plan. They kept sustained pressure on Goff. They kept him out of rhythm. It certainly helped that Patriots fans filled Mercedes-Benz and were incredibly loud when the Rams had the ball.
“Like Gillette,” Brady said.
“Like a home game,” Edelman said.
Still the Rams had their chance to tie the game late. Brandin Cooks, dogged by Stephon Gilmore, couldn’t quite hold onto a Goff pass at the goal line. The next play? Goff, a 24-year-old quarterback like the G.O.A.T was all those years ago, showed exactly how difficult it is to duplicate Tom Brady. On the next play, he went back to Cooks and lofted it into the arms of Gilmore for the interception that killed the Rams’ hopes.
“It’s a great feeling,” Gilmore said. “We are the best team in the world.”
Again. For the second time in three years, the third in five and sixth since that night in New Orleans.
Yes, they’re still here.