Tom Brady was drafted in the sixth round of the 2000 NFL draft; that was a long time ago. I was only five years old. George W. Bush had just been elected President for the first time; the show Friends was still on TV, and *NSYNC was just beginning to rock the music industry.
Since then, Tom Brady has played in a record seven super bowls. He will turn 40-years-old in August, and in football years, he might as well be a hundred. Most players his age have already retired, and those that haven’t yet retired have seen the level of their game drop dramatically.
On Sunday, Feb. 5, almost twenty years after being taken with the 199th pick in the NFL draft by the New England Patriots, at the age of 39, his team down 25 points, Tom Brady engineered the greatest comeback in sports history. Prior to the Patriots’ improbable comeback victory over the falcons, 34-28, no team had ever comeback to win a playoff game after being down by more than 17 points. In the Super Bowl, no team had ever comeback after being down by more than 10 points.
The Falcons high powered, electrifying offense scored first. And then they scored again. A key fumble and costly interception that was returned for a touchdown cost the Patriots early in the game. By the end of the first half, Matt Ryan and the Falcons had posted an impressive double-digit lead on the Patriots. Many Atlanta Falcons fans, and some Patriots’ fans for that matter, were confident the game was over.
But someone forgot to tell Tom Brady.
After a pedestrian first half with one pick six, two sacks, and several errant throws, Tom Brady responded with the second half of a lifetime. He set Super Bowl records for completions (43), passes (62), and passing yards (466). He threw a pair of touchdowns, had the longest rush of the night for the Patriots’ offense, and conducted one of the greatest game winning drives in the history of the sport.
But before any of that could happen, with 2 minutes and 12 seconds left in the third quarter, the Falcons scored, making it a 25-point game. Then, as if to give the Atlanta faithful more reason to believe they would finally be world champions, with under 10 minutes left in the game, they led the Patriots by nearly 20 points.
For Falcons fans all across the country, the final 9 minutes of regulation and then overtime would be absolutely gut wrenching.
It started for many viewers when, with about seven minutes remaining and the Falcons holding possession of the ball, the live stream of the game online disconnected. For several minutes, thousands of fans that had tuned in to watch the game online were in the dark.
And that’s when it happened.
With millions watching on TV, and thousands more listening on the radio, Dont’a Hightower’s strip-sack of Matt Ryan was the spark that ignited the comeback. After the Patriots recovered the fumble, Brady wasted not time in finding Danny Amendola from 6 yards out for the touchdown.
And just like that, the online stream was reconnected.
People like me, who were streaming the game online with their friends, had no idea what had happened. Falcons’ fans were in disbelief. Patriots’ fans were filled with hope. After converting a crucial 2-point conversion, the Patriots managed to cut the 25-point deficit to 8 points. Then, with little time left on the clock, the Patriots somehow managed to get the ball back, and Tom Brady broke the hearts of Falcons’ fans and Patriots’ haters all over the world: he took his team down to the goal line, scored, and then proceeded to promptly convert the 2 point conversion, tying the game at 28 all.
Prior to Super Bowl LI, all of New England’s four Super Bowl titles followed game winning drives with Tom Brady behind center. After winning the coin toss in the first overtime in Super Bowl history, make it five. Tom Brady trotted onto the field, buckled his chinstrap, and led the Patriots almost the full length of the field where James White punched in the game winner.
Just as suddenly as the Patriots’ impossible comeback had started, it was over. With the world cheering for him to fail, Tom Brady did it again. He won his fifth Super Bowl and became the first quarterback ever to reach that feat.
But for Tom Brady, Super Bowl LI will be special for more than just that reason. His mother has been in the hospital fighting an undisclosed illness. She hasn’t been to a game all season, but was discharged from the hospital long enough to fly to Houston to see her son play. It may very well be the last game she will ever see her son play. So, regardless of what the experts say, Tom Brady will always be the greatest quarterback to ever play in the eyes of one person: his Mom. And frankly, what could be better than that?