Super Bowl LI was yet another reminder why Tom Brady is considered by most to be the best quarterback to ever play the game. The Patriots came back from a 28-3 deficit in the third quarter to beat the surging Atlanta Falcons in overtime 34-28.
Coming out of half time the Patriots did not panic and neither did their quarterback. All they needed was a couple of positive plays on defense and the momentum would shift in their favor. Dont’a Hightower gave them that defensive play by strip sacking Matt Ryan on 3rd and 1, giving the Patriots the ball at the 25 yard line.
The fourth quarter is when the Falcons began to falter and New England came to life. Brady responded with two drives to the end zone and achieving two point conversions on each touchdown, which New England needed to tie the game.
James White was huge down the stretch, he set a Super Bowl record for receptions (14) for 110 yards and scored on a run toss that gave the Patriots the overtime win over the Falcons and completed the greatest comeback win in Super Bowl history.
Brady’s performance was one for the ages, he threw for 466 yards which is a single game record in the Super Bowl. His pass completions and attempts (43) of (62) also set a Super Bowl record. He was named the Super Bowl MVP, giving him number four in his career and most all time.
Winning five championships now ties him with NFL hall of famer Charles Haley, and has him superseding Joe Montana and Terry Bradshaw for most Super Bowl wins for a quarterback. Brady now has ten game winning drives in the post season which is the most all time.
The debate of who is the best quarterback in league history is done. Tom Brady has cemented his legacy and the resume and championships back it up. After this performance on the biggest stage, the narrative switches to whether or not Brady is the greatest football player in the 97 year history of the NFL. When it comes to ranking the top players in league history, there are four players that garner that title:
Jerry Rice (Wide Receiver)
The greatest wide receiver in NFL history. Rice holds the records for most receptions (1,549) as well as receiving yards (22,895). Total touchdowns (208) and most 1,000 yard receiving seasons with (14).
Lawrence Taylor (Line Backer)
L.T was one of the most feared and lauded linebackers ever. He revolutionized what a linebacker does, turning it into a more aggressive and explosive position. He is the only defensive player in history to win a unanimous season MVP. A two time Super Bowl champion with the New York Giants and a 10x Pro Bowler.
Jim Brown (Full Back)
One of the most renowned names in football history, Brown still holds the record of 104.3 yards per game and 5.2 yards per carry in his career. He won a championship with the Cleveland Browns and is one of the most influential and beloved figures in American sports.
Joe Montana (Quarterback)
A four time Super Bowl champion with three SB MVP’s and a two time season MVP. Montana holds the record for highest passer rating in the post season at 100. and 127.8 in his four Super Bowl appearances, which is also a standing record.
In no specific order, these hall of fame players all belong on the Mount Rushmore of NFL performers. Obviously, Brady does not compare to these players athletically, he is not the fastest or the strongest nor is he the best thrower of the football.
But Brady is operating at the highest level at the toughest position in football, the quarterback has the bulk of responsibilities on the field. Brady has found a way to keep his body healthy and has improved his mobility and throwing mechanics as he advances in age. His accuracy and pocket presence is second to none, he is able to shift and be alert enough after the snap, giving his receivers time to complete their routes and Brady almost never falters under pressure.
Lawrence Taylor was a physical specimen on defense, Jim brown was power and brunt force, Jerry Rice had lighting bolt speed and talent at the wide receiver position, Montana was a mobile quarterback that could run and throw. However, mind and heart coupled with great mechanics and an accurate arm has Brady on top of the mountain when it comes to championships and accolades.
At the age of 39 he was able to lead the Patriots back from the largest deficit in Super Bowl history against all odds to claim his 5th championship all while missing Rob Gronkowski, who was out with an injury for the second half of the season. Brady is accomplishing all this with relatively mediocre talent around him on offense.
The debate will rage on whether Tom Brady is the best football player ever in the wake of his recent performance, the veteran quarterback will be 40 years of age when the next season begins and has expressed that he wants to play for two to three more years.
The formula is New England is simple, do your job and play unselfish football, no one player is above the team and what the organization wants to achieve. It will be difficult to predict how long Brady will continue playing, but with Bill Belichick at the helm and the system in place, the Patriots will be preparing to make another run to defend their title next season.