HOUSTON — Tom Brady — five-time Super Bowl Champion, four-time Super Bowl MVP, newly minted owner of three Super Bowl passing records — is a real motherfucker.
The first thing he did after leading the biggest Super Bowl, playoff, or Patriots comeback of all time, after completing more passes on more attempts for more yards than any player in Super Bowl history, is take the piss out of the win.
“That was exactly the way we didn't plan it,” Brady said. “That was everything we didn't want to do in the first half, and it was better in the second half.”
Brady has what seems like a shtick, in which he never revels in anything. It was crafted in conjunction with head coach Bill Belichick. It’s this thing where he can never admit he completed a job well done, as if there could be more work to do after one of the greatest Super Bowl performance we will ever see. I think that he thinks it comes off as humble.
Really, it’s just insulting our intelligence. You ripped their hearts out, Tom. You did it without remorse. First you did it to Roger Goodell, and you liked it so much that you didn’t stop until the Atlanta Falcons — the beautiful, joyful Atlanta Falcons — were bird stumps. Just tell us how much you loved it. You don’t need to pretend.
“They're all sweet, so. They're all different,” Brady said, when asked what makes this championship special. “This has been just an incredible team, and just happy to be a part of it.”
Shut up, Tom. That was one of the most magnificent fourth quarters in NFL history and you know it.
“I wasn’t thinking much,” Brady said. “I was thinking, we've just gotta score, and then we scored the touchdown, it was nine [points], and then — Did we get the turnover? There was a lot of shit that happened tonight. I got hit pretty hard, so.”
So? Damn right you got hit pretty hard. Brady got hit so many times in the first half that, for a longer period of time than Pats fans could have been comfortable with, it looked like he would be the reason the Patriots were going to lose. He turfed the ball twice on passes intended for Julian Edelman in the second quarter. Robert Alford had been eagerly waiting for the ball when Brady threw his pick-six. Brady only ever looks human when he’s under pressure, and the Falcons got home again and again without blitzing.
We were watching Brady’s facade crumble. For the first time after a Super Bowl, there was a chance we might see some introspection from him. He was on his way to getting beat so badly that simply saying he’ll work harder in the offseason might not have been enough. For once, Brady might have had to contemplate who and what he was.
But nah. That sonuvagun knew he had the Falcons in his palm the whole time. He even filmed a commercial about his fifth Super Bowl ring ahead of kickoff.
BRADY FILMED THIS BEFORE THE GAME WITH FIVE RINGS! I AM SCREAMING pic.twitter.com/3wbowdgY6Y— Marina Molnar (@mkmolnar) February 6, 2017
On the Patriots’ five straight scoring drives to close the game, Brady went 26 for 34 for 284 yards and two touchdowns. The Falcons looked resigned during the onslaught, and players said as much after the game.
Center Alex Mack, playing on a broken fibula that would have knocked him out for at least a couple weeks if this were the regular season, blew open huge holes for running back Devonta Freeman in the first half, and somehow felt he wasn’t tough.
“It makes it all the more painful to be so close and have that lead and have it get away from you,” Mack said. “You've got to be able to finish, and it's an unfortunate lesson to have to learn.”
Kyle Shanahan, architect of one of the best NFL offenses in history, tried to make himself as small as he could in his podium seat as he explained why the Falcons were so aggressive in their play calling up several scores in the second half. Shanahan, who was known for exploiting opposing defenses, seemed to struggle with the fact that he wouldn’t be able to fix what happened.
“This is the first time I’ve had this feeling,” Shanahan said. “I think it’s tough for everybody, it’s as tough as it gets. It’s not just me, it’s everybody in this organization.”
Dwight Freeney, at 36 years old, was arguably the MVP of the first quarter. He repeatedly put left tackle Nate Solder in the spin cycle and flushed Brady off his spot. Dressed as immaculately as any player who took a podium, he admitted that he would consider retirement this offseason.
“It's tough,” Freeney said. “I don't know what the story will be for me after this. It's great being in this moment. This moment is just an amazing moment, you understand?”
And I wish you could have been there, because the way he said “you understand?” it was like he really wanted to make sure we did. Throughout Super Bowl week, the Falcons let everyone who would listen know that they really do believe in the clichés that normally go in and out of your ears coming from athletes, none more so than “In Brotherhood.”
Head coach Dan Quinn is a brilliant mind and aggressively upbeat in a way that his players somehow never found cheesy. Of course he found the silver lining in the loss.
“I told them it’s tough to find a spot for it, on a night like tonight, but the brotherhood that they have built for one another, it’s as strong as I’ve seen,” Quinn said. “To know that is inside of them, how tight they can get connected to a team, how hard they can play for one another, of course there’s things to gain from that.”
Quinn is correct. Anyone can see the future is bright for the Falcons. They are tough, smart, talented, close-knit, and young. Early odds have them at 10-to-1 to win the Super Bowl next year, just after the Patriots at 7-to-1. They likely would have won the Super Bowl on Sunday, but for one missing trait.
“What I can tell you is you can’t truly be relentless until it’s right there and you’ve got to take it away or you didn’t get it,” Quinn said.
The Falcons were an exquisite team. They were deserving champions, both in the way they played throughout the playoffs and the joy that a championship would have given Atlanta. For a while, it looked like we were going to get the ending that felt most right. For nearly three quarters, nothing suggested the Patriots had a chance.
And then Brady — that impeccable, unkillable dillweed — destroyed that beautiful thing, and didn’t even seem to enjoy it.
We know this isn’t true. No one gets to be the greatest of all time if winning doesn’t sustain them somehow, especially for relatively average physical athletes like Brady. He has to know what a relentless, inevitable force he is because even his own teammates can’t hold back their awe.
“I'm trying to tell you that Tom Brady is the Michael Jordan of football,” safety Duron Harmon insisted that he told his teammates at halftime that the Patriots would pull off one of the greatest comebacks ever. “He led that team down there that whole fourth quarter, man. That's the Tom Brady quarter, man. Tom Brady quarter: That's what we're going to call it from now on.”
Brady has to know. No one that good could possibly be that simple. No one could be that oblivious, and still be able to moderate his own Super Bowl press conference.
“Last one guys,” he told reporters, “and I'm going to take a shower.”