FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — Tom Brady‘s free-agent departure from the New England Patriots to join the Tampa Bay Buccaneers was a stunning development. The six-time Super Bowl-winning quarterback started the week off with a bang, so what better way to end it than this: a Brady marathon of some of the greatest moments of his 20-year career.
That’s what ESPN has in store for its March 22 programming: NFL’s Greatest Games and Super Bowl Highlights, featuring highlights from all six of Brady’s Super Bowl victories and some of his other top playoff performances.
At what point in Brady’s career does the marathon start?
The broadcast begins at noon ET with the 2001 AFC divisional round victory against the Raiders — aka the Tuck Rule Game. It’s a fitting beginning for Patriots fans, as it set the stage for the Patriots’ two-decade run of dominance with Brady under center.
It was 25 degrees that night at Foxboro Stadium, with a light snow falling and accumulating about 3 to 5 inches. Brady had a 6-yard touchdown run midway through the fourth quarter, cutting the Patriots’ deficit to 13-10, and his emotion afterward was palpable.
But it looked like it was over for Brady and the Patriots when, after taking a snap with 1 minute and 50 seconds remaining, Brady was sacked by Charles Woodson and appeared to lose a fumble. The Raiders recovered, but the play was challenged and referee Walt Coleman instead ruled the play an incomplete pass due to the now-defunct “Tuck Rule.”
The final: Patriots 16, Raiders 13, with place-kicker Adam Vinatieri playing the role of hero.
So, the next game has to be Super Bowl XXXVI, right?
Exactly. That will kick off at 1:30 p.m. ET.
Unlike the present day, there was only one week between the AFC Championship Game and the Super Bowl, which probably was a good thing for the heavy-underdog Patriots against the St. Louis Rams and “The Greatest Show on Turf.”
The Rams tied the game at 17 with 1:21 remaining, and television analyst John Madden advised the Patriots to take a knee and play for overtime. The Patriots chose a different route, and Brady would soon be putting his hands on his head in disbelief that he was a Super Bowl champion.
On Jan. 19, 2002, the Patriots benefited from an infamous call in a playoff win against the Raiders.
What stood out about the next two Super Bowl wins?
Brady went 32-of-48 for 354 yards, with three touchdowns and one interception, against the Panthers, which showed how he was no longer a “game manager.” The fourth quarter was epic.
The victory against the Eagles wasn’t as dramatic, and Brady wasn’t the MVP. (The award went to Pats wide receiver Deion Branch.) But winning his third Super Bowl title in his fourth season as a starter elevated Brady into the discussion among football’s great winners.
It’s easy to forget, but there was a decadelong gap between Super Bowl titles. So, what’s next?
The 2014 divisional round victory against the Baltimore Ravens gets the nod (4 p.m. ET). There was some heartbreak before getting to that point — specifically, the Super Bowl losses to the New York Giants in 2007 and 2011 — and it looked like it might continue against the Ravens. The Patriots were trailing 28-14 early in the third quarter, a predicament no team wants to face.
That’s when Brady and the Patriots unveiled a wrinkle by declaring eligible receivers ineligible. And there was trickery with a double pass, as well. Brady finished 33-of-50 for 367 yards, with three touchdowns and an interception, in a 35-31 victory.
Brady threw his 46th career playoff TD pass in the game, surpassing Joe Montana for most in NFL history.
Would that game be remembered as fondly if not for how that season ended?
Perhaps not. It probably would be remembered for more heartbreak and being unable to close out the Seattle Seahawks in the Super Bowl … until Malcolm Butler saved the day with a last-minute interception.
Brady was sensational in the fourth quarter against the Seahawks — which is the next game in ESPN’s marathon (4:30 p.m. ET) — but he still needed Butler’s heroics to secure the Vince Lombardi Trophy for New England. Brady was named MVP, but he gave Butler the truck that came with the trophy.
You mentioned the comeback against the Ravens, but how about what Brady did against the Falcons in Super Bowl LI?
Unforgettable. And it comes next in ESPN’s marathon (5:30 p.m. ET).
To be down 28-3 in the third quarter and come back to win 34-28 in overtime was the type of turnaround that only seemed possible in a Hollywood script.
Brady was 43-of-62 for 466 yards, with two touchdowns and one interception.
Max Kellerman rants on why there is no comparison between Tom Brady and Michael Jordan regardless of Brady’s six Super Bowl wins.
The Patriots lost in Super Bowl LII, so fair to say that one gets skipped over?
Yes, although Brady did throw for 505 yards. He was very good in that game too, but the Brady marathon will instead move to the 2018 AFC Championship Game in Kansas City at 6 p.m. ET. Remember Brady jumping into the arms of outside linebacker Kyle Van Noy after the overtime triumph at Arrowhead Stadium?
That came after winning the coin toss, with Brady leading the Patriots 75 yards in 13 plays for the deciding TD. Brady converted third-and-10 plays three different times on the drive.
The marathon wraps up with the victory in Super Bowl LIII against the Los Angeles Rams (6:30 p.m. ET). Brady’s pass to tight end Rob Gronkowski to set up the only touchdown in that contest was something special.
Enjoy the Brady marathon.