Seven years ago to the day, on February 6, 2005, Tom Brady had just won his third Super Bowl over the Philadelphia Eagles. At 27, with the two-time defending NFL champions at his command, Brady appeared poised to tie Joe Montana and Terry Bradshaw for most Super Bowl rings won by a quarterback or obliterate their records while establishing the NFL's most dominant dynasty in the modern era. Today, Tom Brady still has three Super Bowl rings — but he has two losses to go with them, after the New England Patriots' 21-17 defeat at the hands of the New York Giants in Super Bowl XLVI.
Brady's performance in his last two Super Bowls runs counter to the narrative he helped cobble together in his first three. In those three games, he got better and better, improving his quarterback rating from 86.2 against the Rams in Super Bowl XXXVI to 100.5 against the Panthers in Super Bowl XXXVIII to a superb 110.2 against the Eagles in Super Bowl XXXIX. But against the Giants in Super Bowl XLII, he managed just an 82.5, and on Sunday, his 91.1 belied a second half that was all about missed opportunities.
His receivers weren't fantastic, especially late, when drops by Wes Welker, Deion Branch, and Aaron Hernandez helped scuttle the Patriots' chances of winning, and Rob Gronkowski's ankle injury limited him significantly. But Brady didn't have great receivers in his Super Bowl victories — Mike Vrabel has caught two of Brady's nine career Super Bowl touchdown passes. And Brady never made a mistake as grievous as his heave downfield to Gronkowski in the fourth quarter in any of his four previous Super Bowls.
Of course, Brady didn't break Joe Montana's record for consecutive completions in a Super Bowl in any of those Super Bowls, either, nor did he put together two consecutive drives of the caliber of the record-tying 96-yard possession to end the first half and the 79-yarder to begin the second. Brady was both good and bad on the night, and, after being hit hard enough to briefly get backup Brian Hoyer warming up on the sideline, may have had some mitigating injury factors, too.
But shortly after Sunday's game, he was trudging to the showers, "catatonic," while Eli Manning celebrated his second Super Bowl win and Super Bowl MVP award. Seven years after his last Super Bowl victory, on this Monday, February 6, 2012, Tom Brady still has three Super Bowl rings. And the time to burnish his legend and bolster his legacy is getting scarce.
For more on the Giants and their improbable run to become Super Bowl champions, visit Giants blog Big Blue View and SB Nation New York. For more on the Patriots and their Super Bowl appearance, check out SB Nation's Patriots blog, Pats Pulpit as well as SB Nation Boston. For news, recaps, videos, GIFs, and information regarding Super Bowl XLVI, please stay tuned to SB Nation's dedicated Super Bowl hub.