Regardless of what happened Sunday night in Glendale, Tom Brady was going to go down as one of the greatest quarterbacks to ever play the game. But after helping spark the biggest fourth-quarter comeback in Super Bowl history, Brady now finds himself on equal footing with childhood idol Joe Montana in the annals of NFL history.
Facing a 24-14 deficit in the final quarter of Super Bowl XLIX, the Patriots were in desperate need of a scoring drive. Up to that point, Brady had been decent but not great, throwing two touchdowns and a pair of interceptions. One of the picks came in the end zone, where Jeremy Lane grabbed an incredibly errant pass by Brady.
But if SBNation’s Jon Bois has taught us anything, it’s that you never count out Touchdown Tom.
Brady and the New England offense moved the ball 68 yards down the field in nine plays on a make-or-break drive, culminating with a 4-yard touchdown pass to Danny Amendola to cut the deficit to three with 7:55 remaining in the game. The touchdown pass was Brady’s 12th in a Super Bowl, moving him past Montana for the most all-time.
After the defense forced a three and out, Brady and the offense took the field with a chance to retake the lead. It was on this drive, with the Lombardi Trophy hanging in the balance, that Brady played his best football of the night.
Brady methodically led the offense on a 64-yard scoring drive, completing all eight of his passes for 65 yards (there was an offensive pass interference call on Amendola) and capping it off with a 3-yard, go-ahead touchdown strike to Julian Edelman with only 2:02 to play.
Of course, the Seahawks still had two minutes to work with to try and answer on offense, which had to leave New England fans uneasy given how the New York Giants used late scoring drives to take down the Patriots in Super Bowl XLII and Super Bowl XLVI.
It appeared as if New England would be headed for another gut-wrenching loss when Jermaine Kearse did his best Antonio Freeman impersonation to make an otherworldly 33-yard catch to give the Seahawks 1st and goal at the 5-yard line.
The look on Brady’s face said it all; the Patriots were headed for Heartbreak City yet again.
Of course, that’s not what happened. Facing 2nd and goal at the 1-yard line, Seattle opted to pass instead of run, and undrafted rookie cornerback Malcolm Butler picked off a Russell Wilson pass intended for Ricardo Lockette to seal the victory for the Patriots.
It was a play that…well, let Richard Sherman and Brady’s reactions tell you the story.
While much of the focus in the aftermath of New England’s 28-24 triumph has been on Seattle’s perplexing decision to pass at the 1-yard line, enough can’t be said about Brady’s performance in the fourth quarter to spark the Patriots’ remarkable comeback.
Just how impressive and historic was the comeback? Since 2004, Seattle had gone 49-0 when holding a double-digit lead in the fourth quarter, and no team in Super Bowl history had ever rallied back from a fourth-quarter deficit of 10 or more points.
In the fourth quarter, Brady was 13-for-15 for 124 yards and two touchdowns against the NFL’s most feared secondary. While his longest completion of the night was just 23 yards, he remained patient and stuck with the game plan needed to beat the Seattle defense: short, quick strikes. He also exploited a weakness left in the Seahawks secondary when Lane went down with a broken arm after intercepting Brady.
On the night, Brady finished 37-of-50 for 328 yards, four touchdowns and two interceptions. His 37 completions set a new Super Bowl record, and he was named the Super Bowl MVP for a record-tying third time. All four of his touchdown passes were to different receivers, making him the first quarterback in Super Bowl history to accomplish that feat. The win also gave him his fourth Super Bowl ring, tying him with Montana and Terry Bradshaw for the most all-time.
Does this move him past Montana as the greatest quarterback to ever play the game? At the very least, there can be a legitimate debate.
During his career, Montana went 4-0 in the Super Bowl, completing 83 of his 122 passes for 1,142 yards, 11 touchdowns and zero interceptions. Brady is 4-2 in Super Bowls, during which he has completed 164 of his 247 passes for 1,605 yards, 13 touchdowns and four interceptions.
While Montana’s perfect record in the Super Bowl has been used to try and any debate between the two, his overall playoff record (16-7) is about the same as Brady’s (21-8). Montana lost earlier in the playoffs more often, so it doesn’t seem fair to hold Brady’s 4-2 Super Bowl record against him.
That being said, the Montana vs. Brady debate can wait for another day. For now, let’s just marvel at what Brady has accomplished throughout his illustrious career, and especially his past season. A New England team left for dead early in the season and with arguably much less talent than the previous Patriots teams to capture the Lombardi Trophy found a way to reach the Super Bowl and knock off the defending champions.
Ten years after their last Super Bowl triumph, Brady, Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots hoisted the Lombardi Trophy once again in the same city where the Giants had ended their bid for a perfect season seven years prior.
He still has several years left in his playing career, but it’s certainly not a stretch to say that New England’s historic fourth-quarter comeback in Super Bowl XLIX could end up being the defining performance of Tom Brady’s Hall of Fame career.