There were some significant differences the last time the Patriots played the Rams in a Super Bowl.
For one, the Rams were St. Louis’ in February 2002, given the solid, rock-ribbed midwestern fan base that came standard with the address. For another, Tom Brady hadn’t yet begun hoarding Super Bowl titles like a survivalist does potted meat.
But in one important way, nothing is different. Brady at 24, in winning his first Super Bowl, was just as clutch as the 41-year-old Brady who shepherded New England through the maze of fourth-quarter lead changes here in Sunday’s AFC Championship then onto an overtime touchdown drive and the Atlanta Super Bowl.
Despite the Rams big change in time zones, there is a familiar, full-circle sort of feel to Brady meeting the big-horned franchise again at this late stage of his greatness. It was Super Bowl XXXVI against those migratory Rams, after all, where Brady first displayed his penchant for last-act drama on the biggest stage.
A two-touchdown underdog that day, the Patriots got the ball with 90 second left and no timeouts after St. Louis scored a tying touchdown. That, we have since discovered, is child’s play for Brady. Even as John Madden, from the television booth, was advising New England to play for overtime, Brady and Bill Belichick were conspiring for the win.
Brady moved his team just enough for Adam Vinatieri to kick a 48-yard field goal as time expired. Little did we know at the time how unwilling Brady would be to let anyone else win this thing over the next 17 years.
By this stage we have come to look at Brady as some kind of escape artist there to entertain us with his last-second break from the clutches of defeat. It is almost like a waste of everyone’s time if he doesn’t do something dramatic with the clock expiring, preferably while wrapped in chains and hung upside down in a tank of water. New England should dock his pay unless those watching him are held breathless just to the point of passing out.
Why, anybody can win a game. But only Brady can so consistently while performing the football equivalent of walking a tightrope while carrying a small child on his back.
There are so many “Brady Moments” that is difficult to rank Sunday’s, although Brady himself said that win was as emotional as any in a long time.
He throws a game-winning pass to Danny Amendola with 2:48 minutes left in the 2017 AFC Championship – with a cut on his throwing hand.
He leads New England to 10 points late in the fourth quarter to beat San Diego in the 2007 playoffs.
He throws for 354 yards and set up another last-second Vinatieri field goal to beat Carolina in Super Bowl XXXVIII.
He misses the 2008 season with a knee injury, and on his first game back rallies the Pats past Buffalo with two late touchdown passes.
The litany goes on and on. Leaving us to wonder how he will build upon this base Feb. 3 inside Mercedes-Benz. Certainly, he is planning something big. It’s too late in the game for Brady to start doing the ordinary.
I’m thinking 50-yard Hail Mary game-winner with his left arm in a sling.
Or maybe this time, he kicks the game-winning field goal after doing the work to get New England in position. He’s earned that shot.
We’re waiting, Mr. G.O.A.T. So, wow us.
Every magician has to top his last trick.
It would be nice if, while in Atlanta, he did something that bumped a certain Super Bowl 28-3 comeback from No. 1 on his greatest hits list.