by Thomas U. Tuttle
Tom Brady is going to be 41 years old this August and will be playing in his 8th Super Bowl this Sunday. He’s won five of them, so he already has his “one for the thumb” SB ring and is now working on the other hand.
As has been mentioned many times before, with or without Gisele Bündchen, life is darn good for Tom Brady. And he’s won two of the last three Super Bowls in amazing fashion, including last year’s wild come-from-behind miracle.
I clearly remember his first World Championship, which was back in February of 2002 (SB XXXVI). In that one, Brady collected his first MVP award in a 20-17 victory over the St Louis Rams. Many folks will recall that football game was one of the first major sporting events after 9-11-2001, the day that changed America.
Security was intense at the New Orleans Superdome, as one might expect after our national terrorism nightmare. It was a different experience getting into the game in the Big Easy, a slow process which is now “par for the course” at all big venues and major sporting contests.
Other memories also come to mind – a future Vikings head coach rolling down Bourbon Street in, shall we say, exceedingly rare form. One of my favorite ballplayers of all time, wide-receiver Isaac Holt of the “greatest show on turf,” playing well for the losing squad while on the receiving end of QB Kurt Warner’s throws.
And for the first but far from the last time, Tom Brady moving his Patriots team into field goal range (with no timeouts left) to set up Adam Vinatieri’s 48-yard field goal game winner.
U2 was the halftime show, certainly one of the best ever, playing a powerful set that featured a passionate “Beautiful Day” with the names of the people who died in the attack appearing in the background. It was the most powerful moment of any halftime show in history.
The 2001 season was Brady’s first Pro Bowl year, which has been followed by 12 more selections, including every year from 2009 through 2017. He’s the best there ever was, as measured by the numbers, the championships, the longevity, the overall excellence – you name it. And I’m a Joe Montana guy.
So how do you beat him? The New York Giants did it twice, behind Eli Manning and a powerful defense. Michael Strahan always felt that it was up to the defense to press him constantly, get Brady out of his comfort zone, even roughing him up as much as possible (and marginally legal) after the throw.
It worked in those two games, and has to be considered a possible key to a Philadelphia victory. The Eagles showed that they can turn up the defensive heat when they beat the Vikings, and they’re going to need to bring a lot of rough stuff to downtown Minneapolis in SB LII. We know that they have a chip on their collective shoulders and are intent on bringing mayhem – like Fletcher Cox.
But the Patriots don’t fluster easily. How about this statistic: the Patriots have won 10 games in 15 consecutive seasons. Think about that! It’s simply amazing, and a testament to how hard it is to beat these guys given the crucial fact that they know how to win and find different ways to do so. It’s a workmanlike thing for them; they know how to win, never consider themselves out of a game, and have the great Gronk – Rob Gronkowski.
The New England defense is a little down this year, as the numbers indicate. They rank near the bottom in yards per play and overall yards allowed. The secondary has been shaky at times, notably in the season opening loss to Kansas City and the setback against Cam Newton and Carolina. They had no All Pro defenders this year and haven’t made a lot of big plays.
The Eagles are coming off back-to-back 7-9 campaigns, so this is very new for them. They rode the Carson Wentz experience for the best start in the league, and then the rising star went down in unlucky game number 13.
The fans (and Las Vegas) thought reality would surely set in with back-up Nick Foles at the helm, but the veteran has proven that he can play. He’s actually been superb, with playoff numbers among the best in history. One more excellent performance will be a requirement to knock off the defending champions.
Philadelphia needs a few explosive plays. They must control the ball with the run and short pass, and play stout, smart, aggressive defense… with some QB harassment thrown in.
It can be done, just ask Eli Manning and Michael Strahan. But don’t ask the others because there aren’t any.