As Tom Brady drove the New England Patriots down the field in overtime of Super Bowl LI, he was marching toward history and a legacy that would be untouched by any other man to play his position. And in Brady-like fashion, he fulfilled that quest in the most iconic way.
With the Atlanta Falcons defense feeling the game slip away, Brady took the Patriots 75 yards in just eight plays before tossing it to James White for a 2-yard winning touchdown to cap off the biggest comeback in Super Bowl history, delivering Brady his fifth Super Bowl ring and fourth Super Bowl MVP of his career.
After trailing the Falcons 28-3 late in the third, New England looked to be a victim of a Super Bowl laugher. But then everything changed. Brady proceeded to throw for 283 of his 466 passing yards and two touchdowns to rally his team to 31 unanswered points, which included a 91-yard drive to tie the game to send it into overtime.
Now that Brady has the most Super Bowl victories of any NFL quarterback in history, it has removed all doubt that remained — Brady is the absolute greatest quarterback of all-time, proving his greatness in the greatest Super Bowl of all-time.
He’s now alone at the top of the mountain while Joe Montana, Peyton Manning and John Elway are in the tier below.
Who else is still getting their breath back?!
— NFL UK (@NFLUK) February 6, 2017
It had to be this way for Brady to cement his legacy. It had to be in the first Super Bowl to go into overtime. It had to be in the most dramatic circumstances where the stage was set for the hero to shine despite impossible odds. And true to his reputation, Brady came through when it mattered the most.
After Sunday’s game, Brady has 10 postseason game-winning drives and the 39-year old quarterback has now won five Super Bowls with a mere 19 points being the combined difference.
Unlike many of the other greats, Brady didn’t win the ultimate prize with star-studded offensive weapons. He wins with a rag-tag group of role players whose talent is elevated due to the man behind center.
The man came back from 25 points down in the Super Bowl to win with Julian Edelman, Danny Amendola, Kevin Hogan, Malcolm Mitchell, James White and Martellus Bennett as his weapons.
What is rather impressive about Brady’s legacy is that his five Super Bowl victories occurred over a 16-year span and not in one cluster. There was a 10-year break in between his third championship and his fourth championship.
His first three Super Bowl wins came between 2001 and 2004. Then he won two more rings with a completely different cast.
Montana, who Brady is compared to the most, won his four championships during a nine-year stretch. Terry Bradshaw’s four Super Bowl wins were in a six-year window. No one has experienced Brady’s success and longevity.
Whether Brady has it in him to try and pad his resume further and prolong the Patriots dynasty remains to be seen. However, he has put to rest the debates at the water cooler. There ‘s no controversy left. There’s no one to stake a claim. The dust has settled on Brady the same way it settled on Michael Jordan. He’s the best the NFL has ever seen.
Joshua Caudill is a writer for CraveOnline, a hockey fanatic, a pro wrestling connoisseur and an expert on all things Patrick Swayze. You can follow him on Twitter @JoshuaCaudill85 or “like” CraveOnline Sports on Facebook.
Photos by Al Bello/Getty Images