PHOENIX - There was never any reason to think Tom Brady wasn’t going to do it again, no matter how much time he spent sprawled out Sunday studying the Arizona turf up close and personal. No reason at all, because he had always done it before.
Even with 29 seconds left you had to believe he would find a way. There was no way this perfect quarterback was going to let this perfect season end with such shocking and complete suddenness.
He did it in his first two Super Bowls. He did it every time he seemed to need to do it.
When he couldn’t do it this time and his final pass fell to the turf he grew so well acquainted with, there was nothing left to do than walk slowly to the sidelines, helmet in hand, no longer invincible and no longer undefeated.
Not even a supermodel girlfriend could ease the pain of this one.
“I’m sure it will be tough to swallow over the coming months,” Brady said.
This was supposed to be a coronation of a season like no other, a game in which Brady would add to his legend and win his fourth Super Bowl title. No one expected the other quarterback to lead the winning drive, and no one expected the other team to be at the podium on the 50-yard-line with silver confetti streaming from the top of the dome and the Lombardi trophy in their hands.
Tom Brady was perfect. His team was perfect.
His coach was a genius, and his big receiver was the best in the game.
And yet here he was on the ground once again, with just a few seconds left on the clock and 90 yards that would never be crossed in this game between the Patriots and the goal line. There would be one more desperation pass, but the celebration had already started on the other side of the field and one of the biggest upsets in Super Bowl history was being etched into the record books.
It was an odd and ugly game at best. The perfect team with the perfect quarterback playing in the perfect indoors of a perfectly new stadium was perfectly awful, at least when the ball was in Brady’s hands.
Brady and his offensive line knew they were facing a team that excelled at rushing the passer and was great at causing havoc in the backfield. It wasn’t as if they weren’t ready for it, but they seemed unprepared to deal with the intensity of Justin Tuck and the others who came at Brady in waves and from all different directions.
Sacked just 21 times all year, he was dropped five times in this game alone. All told, he was on the ground a dozen or so times, enough to get such a close look at the turf that he could be hired in the offseason as an agronomist for the NFL.
At one point in the third quarter, he was on his knees after hurrying yet another throw, his hands on his hips and a look of frustration that no one had seen since the Patriots last lost in the AFC championship game more than a year ago in Indianapolis.
Super Bowl XLII