Super Bowl XLVI is tomorrow, in case you were not aware.
As usual, by Saturday pretty much every angle of the Super Bowl has been picked apart, dissected, twisted inside and out, and we have all reached the stage of fatigue where we pretty much stay away from football today before totally immersing ourselves in it tomorrow.
But it hit me today that one video clip I thought I’d see a lot of this week, but that I’m not sure I’ve seen even once on TV – granted, I haven’t watched too much Super Bowl coverage on TV – is Tom Brady’s infamously smug response to Plaxico Burress’ score prediction before the first Patriots-Giants Super Bowl four years ago.
You’ve seen it before, like multiple times, but enjoy the Brady smugness one more time just for old time’s sake:
Burress predicted a 23-17 Giants victory, which seemed like a foolishly brash thing to do at the time, but it didn’t look quite so bad after the Giants shocked the heavily-favored Patriots 17-14 in a Super Bowl classic.
Brady met Burress’ prediction with understandable consternation and contempt considering how high-powered a machine his offense had been during the regular season. Because the Patriots lost their last game of that season, it is easy to forget just how dominant they were for most of the regular season. I mean, look at that. Only once in the regular season did the Patriots score fewer than 27 points before the paltry 14 they put up in the Super Bowl.
Who knows how much anyone could have or should have read into Brady’s response to Burress at the time, but there certainly seemed to be a bit of overconfidence on the part of the Patriots in that game, and perhaps that overconfidence coupled with a lot of bounces going the Giants way is what ultimately led to the perfect Pats’ undoing.
At the time of Brady’s quote,, New England was 18-0 and on the precipice of immortality. Ever since then, there has been a slow and steady erosion of his play in big games.
- 29-48, 266 yards, 1 TD, 0 INT in 17-14 Loss to Giants
- 23-42, 154 yards, 2 TD, 3 INT in 33-14 Loss to Ravens
- 29-45, 299 yards, 2 TD, 1 INT in 28-21 Loss to Jets
- 26-34, 363 yards, 6 TD, 1 INT in 45-19 Win over Broncos
- 22-36, 239 yards, 0 TD, 2 INT in 23-20 Win over Ravens
Here are the totals:
- 129-205 (62.9%), 264 ypg, 11 TDs, 7 INTs, 22.8 points per game in 5 games
And if you remove the best (Denver) and worst (Baltimore) games from the bunch:
- 80-129 (62%), 268 ypg, 3 TD, 3 INTs, 18.3 points per game in 3 games
This last line is probably the best and most fair snapshot of the “new” playoff Tom Brady. As cemented as his place is in the history of the National FOOTBALL LEAGUE, he has become a mediocre postseason quarterback.
Granted, he doesn’t have a weapon like Randy Moss anymore, he’s had to deal with injuries to wide receivers, and 18.3 points used to be enough to win with the vintage Belichick defenses that the Patriots no longer employ; but Tom Brady built his legend on superlative playoff performances, and frankly he hasn’t had one in a close game since uttering the infamous words in the video above.
And you can say it’s a somewhat arbitrary moment in time to have chosen for an analysis like this…but is it?
I don’t think for one second Brady or the Patriots ever expected to lose that game. When you feel invincible, and are emphatically proven otherwise, maybe your sports psyche takes a hit, and it manifests itself in the biggest moments. We’ve seen it happen to Tiger Woods, though for far, far different circumstances. But there is a parallel between these two all-time great closers enduring invincibility shattering moments and then suddenly seeming to get a bit rattled when it comes time to close.
Of course, Tom Brady can erase all of this loose conjecture on my part with a great performance tomorrow and his fourth Super Bowl title. Besides, win or loss he’s sauntering into the Hall of Fame on the first ballot, and deservedly so.
But here’s the thing about Tom Brady: I used to always trust him in big moments. I used to always think he’d come through. I knew he’d come through. But tomorrow, in the biggest of big games, against his largest nemesis over the last half decade, I will be more surprised than anything if Brady delivers a great performance that leads the Patriots to victory.
If you told Brady this in ’08, he might have smugly said, “Jerod said that?” (before then wondering “Who the hell is Jerod Morris?”)
The fact is though, Tom Brady has earned some doubt since Super Bowl 42. And one of the most fascinating aspects of tomorrow’s game for me will be watching to see if he can reverse that and restore some of the faith he always used to inspire in big games.
If New England is going to win, he sure as hell better.
And he and the Pats might want to put up more than 14 points too.