By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — I can’t believe it. Can you? I can’t.
I cannot believe it.
Tom Brady is a Super Bowl champion. Again. For a seventh time.
It’s not that this was an impossible scenario to envision, not after his 40-touchdown season, not after the well-rounded Tampa Bay victories in New Orleans and Green Bay to get to this game. Beating the Chiefs — the defending champs boasting the best quarterback in the league — wouldn’t be easy, no. But it was surely possible.
Still. I cannot. Believe it.
But I should. This is, after all, the greatest winner that the NFL — and perhaps all of sports — has ever seen. From the moment he became an NFL starter, all he’s done is win football games. No, he was not responsible for every single one of his 264 career victories; that’s not how football works. But no player in any team sport impacts the win-loss record like the quarterback — on the field, off the field, in the huddle, and everywhere else possible as the face of a franchise.
And over the course of 20 long years, Brady’s made it quite clear that nobody knows how to win like he does.
As a result, he’s the champ. Again. At age 43.
This just isn’t supposed to happen.
Brady already had every record known to man, basically. All Sunday’s win over the Chiefs did was add to the most absurd resumé imaginable.
A story like this one, it’s supposed to put into perspective what an accomplishment like this means. But here’s the secret: Doing that is impossible.
As I noted a few days ago, what Brady had done even prior to this game beginning was beyond the scope of human understanding. That is to say, he’s won more than twice as many playoff games as anyone else in history. He’s taken what was thought to be the apex of the profession — winning four Super Bowls — and is now close to lapping the field.
And he’s doing it at an age were 99.9 percent of quarterbacks have been retired for almost a half of a decade.
This is all so incredibly silly.
As tends to be the case with anything Brady, not everyone’s enjoying it. As the quarterback of the hated Patriots for so long, much of America took a stance against the enjoyment of watching Brady succeed. Perhaps some of those people have found it easier to enjoy The Brady Show after he moved on to the Bucs, but Brady likely lost an equal number of Patriots fans who were left feeling like children of divorce and struggled to root for the athlete who provided them with a lifetime supply of joy and happiness. Such is the way of life when emotions are steering the ship.
But for those of us who have simply enjoyed watching the best football career we have ever seen and will ever see, it’s been quite a show. An incomparable age 43 regular season was, frankly, enough to satisfy the desire to continue watching him play. And a playoff game against a good Washington defense that involved zero bad passes from Brady? That was gravy.
Then the Bucs beat the Saints in New Orleans, ending Drew Brees’ career. In that game, Brady was OK but wasn’t overly special.
The next week in Green Bay, he was flat-out unbelievable in the first half. He was unbelievably bad in the second half, but the team won, limiting Aaron Rodgers and Co. to just seven total points off Brady’s three second-half interceptions.
And just like that, in his first year in the conference, Brady earned his first NFC championship, matching the career totals of Brees (15 years in the NFC) and Rodgers (13 years as Green Bay’s starter).
On the one hand, it was easy to envision such a run, because Brady’s teams tend to do things like that. But it still was so hard to believe it was all happening, because of … everything else.
All of which brought us to Sunday. In a game billed as the GOAT vs. the next GOAT (an idiotic, antithetical premise if there ever was one), Brady shook off a slow start to turn in one of the best halves of football by a quarterback in Super Bowl history. The old man was 16-for-20 for 140 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions. For the second straight game, he was his vintage self, calmly leading his team to a touchdown in the final seconds before halftime.
He caught some fortunate breaks, which is something that tends to happen in a football game. One of his passes was batted into the air and deflected off a running back’s hand before getting intercepted, but it was negated on the iffiest of iffy holding penalties. And the Chiefs committed not one but two pass interference penalties on that pre-halftime touchdown drive. The Chiefs also had at least one player (but maybe two players) lined up offside on a fourth-and-5, giving Tampa a free first down and turning a field goal attempt into a touchdown drive.
A couple of potential big passes from Patrick Mahomes also bounced directly off receivers’ facemasks, too.
But … that’s sports. Calls happen. Breaks go various ways. Some went against Tampa, too. Yet nobody’s capitalized on opportunities the way Brady has since 2001, and Sunday night was merely the latest example.
The man won the Super Bowl MVP — his fifth — without even really breaking a sweat. He had that thing wrapped up by halftime.
And with that performance, the man is a seven-time Super Bowl champion. It wasn’t all that long ago when he was a three-time champion, and there wasn’t anything wrong with that. Among his peers, Peyton Manning had two (one of which involved a Broncos team that made it to the playoffs with Brock Osweiler at QB for half the season, because Manning threw 17 picks in 10 games). Brees and Rodgers each had one. Eli Manning, quite randomly, had two, both of course won against Brady and the Patriots. And Ben Roethlisberger won a pair.
None of them had three, but Brady did. His legacy after Week 4 of the 2014 season was fairly solid.
Yet since that sad September night in Kansas City, Brady has started 123 football games. He’s won 96 of them.
Five of those games have been Super Bowls. He’s won four of them.
It’s just. So. Nuts.
Again, the point of a story like this one is technically to provide a frame of reference for what’s taking place. But when nobody in the sport has ever even come close to even imagining what’s taken place, there simply is no perspective.
Because absolutely, unequivocally, and without question … it is unbelievable, in the truest sense of the word. Plain and simple. Unbelievable.