Trying to turn the losingest franchise in the history of football into a winner seemed like mission impossible 10 months ago.
So did running a playoff gauntlet that included Drew Brees, Aaron Rodgers and Patrick Mahomes.
When it comes to Tom Brady, however, there’s no such thing as impossible, especially with a championship weighing in the balance.
For the GOAT, no task is too great.
Brady’s ability to win, and continue to win after two decades defies both logic and description. And yet, it really doesn’t.
At every turn, Brady has come out a winner.
After splitting with Bill Belichick, some thought he might not enjoy the same type of success he had in New England. But Brady gambled on himself.
He gambled that he could still win without the greatest coach he had ever known, and show another team the way to the Super Bowl. He left his comfort zone, and during a COVID-19 riddled season, made his new team champions, with the Buccaneers bouncing the defending champion Chiefs, 31-9 at Raymond James Stadium.
And for the icing on the cake — and to Belichick’s dismay — Brady beat the Chiefs with the help of former Patriot pals Rob Gronkowski (two touchdown catches) and Antonio Brown (1 TD). He was also the game’s MVP.
Talk about Belichick’s absolute worst football nightmare, this had to be it. The outcome merely cements the failure in Foxboro in 2020.
Belichick didn’t keep Brady, and the legend took it to the house in his first year with another team.
Belichick moved on from one of the greatest winners in professional sports, and didn’t have a plan in place to replace him.
That’s on him, and Brady holding up Lombardi No. 7 will be a constant reminder.
Looking at the big picture for Brady, this is perhaps his greatest achievement of all, and there are plenty to choose from on his resume.
“How about that!” Brady exclaimed, after raising the trophy in front of his home crowd.
As a 24-year-old, he led the Patriots on a game-winning drive to beat the highly favored Rams in Super Bowl XXXVI.
In Super Bowl LI, he brought the Patriots back from a 28-3 deficit to the Atlanta Falcons, which stands as the greatest comeback in the history of the big game. (Sorry, Patrick Mahomes).
Seven championships, three past the age of 40. Six with the Patriots, one with the Buccaneers.
This stands at the top. New team. New offense. New receivers. And a pandemic wreaking havoc and changing every dynamic in terms of practice and film time.
“I’m so proud of these guys out here,” Brady said of his teammates. “Everything we dealt with all year, we had a rough month of November, but BA (Bruce Arians) had all the confidence in us. The team had a lot of confidence. We came together at the right time. I think we knew this was going to happen.”
In Patriots fashion, the Bucs got hot, winning it’s last four games of the regular season, then winning four more in the playoffs.
Even before Brady dismantled KC, Bucs quarterback coach Clyde Christensen knew Brady was authoring something special.
“I remember telling him when he first came in, ‘This will be the hardest thing you’ve ever done in your life, but I think it may be the most rewarding, too,’’’Christensen told the media during the week, “And I think that is the case.”
On the athlete scorecard, he now has one more championship than NBA legend Michael Jordan.
Of course, no one else in the NFL has six, never mind seven.
“If Brady gets 7 rings, he should get his own wing when it comes to Canton,” ESPN analyst and former Patriot Damien Woody told the Herald prior to kickoff. “Everybody’s in Canton. The all-time greats. Now you’d need a separate room for Brady.”
The Bucs jumped out to a 21-6 lead at the half, with Brady throwing three touchdowns and the Chiefs flagged 8 times for penalties totaling 95. He completed 80 percent of his passes in that half completing 16 of 20 for 140 yards with the three scoring strikes.
Between the ineptitude of the Chiefs defense, and Bucs defensive coordinator Todd Bowles creatively giving Mahomes fits all night, taking a page out of the Patriots book by not blitzing and keeping players back in coverage, it was the Bucs game to lose.
And Brady wasn’t about to lose.
Let’s just say it wasn’t the smartest move for Tyrann Mathieu to poke the bear, jawing with Brady after his TD pass to Brown before the end of the half.
He just kept up the pace in the second half, closing out the game pretty much in the third quarter.
Leonard Fournette rushed for over 100 yards, and Brady was unbelievably efficient and mistake free, which is how you win Super Bowls.
His surrounding cast was just too good, which wasn’t the case in New England his final year.
Gronkowski finished with 6 catches for 67 yards and the two scores, as he and Brady are now the most prolific touchdown duo in the postseason, passing Joe Montana and Jerry Rice. With the two scores, the Brady/Gronk tandem boosted their total to 13 touchdown connections.
As for Brown, he had five catches for 22 yards and a touchdown.
At the outset the game was billed as a dream matchup between the GOAT and the baby GOAT.
While Mahomes figures to challenge some of Brady’s records, not so fast on GOAT status.
Before the game, former teammate Julian Edelman said during an interview with NFL Network it’s hard to bet against Brady on anything, and he was convinced the former Patriots quarterback heard all the talk about Mahomes being the next GOAT, and having a chance to surpass Brady.
“I’ll tell you right now, I’ll bet he’s heard that. I bet you that motivates him for this week,” said Edelman. “But that’s the ridiculous thing about this whole thing. He’s gone for 22 years, whatever year he’s on, and can still be so motivated. He can be that same guy, every day, coming to work, motivated. That’s the kind of stuff this guy eats for breakfast. He loves proving people wrong. It’s an extraordinary thing, I mean, this guy is 43 years old.”
And a 7-time champion. This was even more than mission accomplished.
It was another window into his greatness.
Said Brady: “I’m not making any comparisons (with past teams) . . . this team is world champions forever. You can’t take anything away from us.”