MORRISSEY: Young Tom Brady saves the nation from a no-name Super Bowl
In hindsight, there were only two questions that should have been asked heading into Sunday’s AFC Championship Game:
Why in the world would anybody believe that Tom Brady had a serious hand injury, as the Patriots implied he had?
And even if he were down to two fingers, one leg and an uncooperative kidney, why would anyone think he wouldn’t beat the Jaguars?
Brady, 40 years young, is going back to the Super Bowl because he’s Brady. That’s it. He threw for 138 yards and two touchdowns in the fourth quarter to lead the Patriots to a come-from-behind, 24-20 victory. That’s what he does. We keep measuring him for a casket, and he keeps getting measured for rings.
He succeeded despite a cut on his right hand that reportedly had required 10 stitches. He won without tight end Rob Gronkowski, sidelined in the second half with concussion-like symptoms. And he advanced amid lingering stories that he and coach Bill Belichick are at odds.
Given the Patriots’ history of shenanigans when it comes to the weekly injury report, Brady’s injury should have raised eyebrows heading into the AFC title game. Or, to put it another way, if the Patriots said that Brady was hurt in practice during the week and that his status was shaky, we should have seen Sunday coming from a mile away.
On the second play of the game, the quarterback with black tape on his right hand hit Brandin Cooks for 31 yards. Can we see the doctor’s report, please?
“I’ve had a lot worse,’’ Brady said of the injury after the game. It would have been nice if he had told ESPN that before it crammed a month’s worth of medical coverage into three days.
Late in the fourth quarter, he threw a four-yard pass that Danny Amendola somehow corralled in the back of the end zone for what ended up being the winning score.
Jacksonsville, a very good team with very little star power, could do nothing but shrug. Most of the Jaguars had grown up watching Brady do these same things, and now they were seeing it live and in person. He was headed to his eighth Super Bowl. They were going home.
Whatever Brady is doing, whether it’s a matter of great genes or whatever his private trainer is foisting upon the world, it’s amazing. In a sport that is more car accident than sport, he remains standing.
Most of America is saying “thank you’’ today. You might be sick of Brady and the Patriots’ brilliance, but how would you have felt watching Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles slinging it in Super Bowl LII? Exactly.
For 24 hours after Sunday’s game, you would have had the nice story of a less-publicized team beating the team that gets all the ink and pixels. And for the next two weeks, you’d have Bortles, an average quarterback who had a very good game against New England. Watching him Sunday was like watching Mike Glennon in one of Bears GM Ryan Pace’s training camp dreams. Lots of short to medium completions that moved his team down the field. The Little Quarterback Who Could might make for a great story, but it doesn’t make for great TV.
Love him or hate him, Brady does. For the next two weeks, a spotlight will be trained on the alleged rocky relationship between quarterback and coach. Brady will smile and not say much. Belichick won’t smile and will say even less. And the Patriots will love it. They’ll love it the way they probably loved the intense fascination with Brady’s mysterious hand injury. Diversionary tactics have been Belichick’s constant friend.
His best friend should be Brady. He has helped bring him five Super Bowl titles. He has done all that despite a constantly changing cast – and a cast not filled with superstars. That’s why Sunday’s victory was so special. Gronkowski, the one superstar teammate Brady does have, was not on the field in the second half. And Young Tom Brady carried on as if he were removing a pebble from his line before he putted. He had that ridiculously good fourth quarter, and he did it against one of the best defenses in the NFL.
He’ll be in Minneapolis on Feb. 4 for Super Bowl LII, and he’ll be looking for back-to-back championships. He has been the Super Bowl Most Valuable Player four times. It would be very, very foolish to dismiss his chances of winning the award a fifth time.
No one should be surprised if he’s hugging his coach in celebration that night, despite those reports of tension between the two. They seem to find common ground over winning.
Brady has said he wants to play until he’s 45. Anybody doubt he’ll do it?