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In honor of SI's Peter King's excellent MMQB column this week, I gladly resurrect this thread...
A look into the future, withafamiliar Pats storyline
Posted: Monday June 13, 2005 10:15AM; Updated: Monday June 13, 2005 11:57AM
From a mind far, far into the 2005 NFL season ...and far, far, far away from the whiny holdout of Terrell Owens and the weird mystery of Ricky Williams, both of which will be forgotten on an icy February Sunday come Super BowlXL...
DETROIT, Feb. 5, 2006 -- Joe Montana was 33 when he won his fourth Super Bowl. Terry Bradshaw was 31.
Tom Brady is 28, and it's likely that no player -- at least since a young Gale Sayers ran wild for the Bears 40 years ago -- has ever secured a bust in Canton by age 28.
So let's just stop the nonsense that you can't compare Brady with the all-time greats. And let's cease the folderol that some other quarterback in today's game might be better than Brady. The position is about winning, first and foremost, not gaudy numbers. Brady, an amazing 12-0 in the postseason now, is 73-17 as an NFL starter. He's setting the bar so high for future Hall of Famers that no one will be able to reach it.
"Tonight,'' vanquished Minnesota safety Darren Sharper said nobly in an unashamed Vikings locker room, "Tom Brady proved he's the best football player on the planet. And the Patriots proved they're one of the best teams of all time.You've got to put them up with the old Packers and Steelers now.''
New England's 30-17 Super Bowl XL victory proved a lot of things, but we leave Ford Field knowing that we've seen greatness, in Brady and the Patriots, for the ages. Brady's third Super Bowl MVP award was well-earned on a day when the pesky Vikings got to him for five first-half sacks, three from all-world defensive tackle Kevin Williams. Brady, who took six stitches in the chin from a violent Williams sack in the second quarter, finished with the right side of his facea bloody pulp ... but also ended up, most importantly, 20 of 26 for 278 yards and three touchdowns. Two were thrown to All-Pro tight end Ben Watson.
The Patriots made NFL history by becoming the first team in the 86-year history of the NFL to win four championships during a five-year span.Pittsburgh won four in six seasons between 1974 and 1979 and the Packers won four NFL titles in six seasons in the '60s, straddling the pre- and current Super Bowl eras.
After the game, the man who now has to be mentioned with the great coaches of all time, Bill Belichick, met Brady in a dank hallway outside the Patriots locker room and embraced him like a long-lost son. This was a terrific game for Belichick as well, gets credit for more than just the head-coaching victory here.Belichick,who spent the season doubling as New England's offensive coordinator after Charlie Weis ascended to Notre Dame last year was tonight's MVAC -- Most Valuable Assistant Coach -- after calling two gutsy touchdown plays in the fourth quarter that led the Patriots back from a 17-16 deficit with 14 minutes to play.
"You're the best quarterback I've ever seen,'' Belichick said in Brady's ear.
"Well, you're a pretty good coach, too,'' Brady said, smiling, and, because he's funnier than he looks, threw in this Wolverine zinger: "But we're in Michigan. So I can't say you're better than Lloyd Carr.''
"I know I'm prejudiced,'' said Steve Belichick, the long-time Navy assistant and dad of Bill, who spent Super Bowl week, as he always does, with his son. "But I've been around this game since before Paul Brown picked up a clipboard, and the way Bill takes advantage of what the opposition can and can't do ... well, he's the best at picking apart a team in NFL history.''
Before we delve more into Belichick's brilliance, let's set the stage. Detroit was supposed to be another disappointing Super Bowl venue --a site selected asa favor to the Ford family for its years of NFL loyalty and a miserable week for everyone else. But it wasn't a bad week. It was highlighted by an Iditarod-like sled-dog race around the city in front of a huge crowd on Thursday night. National Anthem singer Bono edged famed SI writer Paul Zimmerman in the championship round of the one-mile sled race through the streets of Detroit. "What did you expect?'' Zimmerman groused. "Bono's the size of Fred Smoot. His sled was 100 pounds lighter.'' The third racer in the contest, ESPN analyst Joe Theismann, had to drop out midway through the race because one of his huskies bit him just below the right gluteus. Asked about the injury, Theismann, for the first time in his public life, had no comment.
Friday night's big commissioner's party was a gala affair, marred only by the arrest of former Pistons coach Larry Brown, now the Cleveland Cavaliers president. He was busted for getting into a skirmish with Pistons coach Ben Wallace, then jailed for giving false statements to Detroit police.
The game was better than the final score sounded. "I think everyone expected us to come in and play like the old Vikings -- you know, to fold in the clutch,'' said coach Mike Tice, rewarded during the week with a new five-year, $6 million contract, making him the 24th-highest-paid coach in the NFL. But Minnesota chased Brady all over the field during a rough first half for the Pats, forcing the QB to the locker room after the vicious Williams sack on the first play of New England's third drive of the game. Up to that point, the teams had traded first-quarter touchdowns -- a two-yard Brady pass to Watson for New England, a 69-yard bomb from Daunte Culpepper to rookie speedster Troy Williamson. For one series he missed, Brady gave way to the ageless Doug Flutie, who completed all three of his pass attempts -- for 49 yards --and scrambled twice more for 36 yards, leading to a 23-yard Adam Vinatieri field goal.
"That will not be my last moment in the sun,'' said Flutie, 43, who said after the game he is determined to be the first grandfather in NFL history to play in the league.
Vinatieri added two more second-quarter field goals, while the Vikings scored 10 second-quarter points on a Paul Edinger 56-yarder and a 56-yard burst around left end by rookie running back phenom Ciatrick Fason. At the half, Minnesota led 17-16.
Several Patriots said Belichick was particularly serene at halftime. "About the worst thing he said to the defense was, 'You guys are playing like dog dung,'" said defensive end Richard Seymour. "He's been here before. We've been here before. We took a chill pill at halftime and knew we'd get it right in the third quarter.''
They got it right all right. The Patriots allowed just three first downs in the second half to the powerful Vikings offense, and Culpepper, who won his first NFL MVP award last month -- a specially meaningful honor for him considering most of the free world thought Minnesota would collapse without Randy Moss this year -- led the Vikes to only 64 second-half yards. New England played its strange no-defensive-lineman front, with linebackers Chad Brown and Tedy Bruschi spearheading the lightning-quick New England D. Bruschi led the way with 14 tackles and a sack of Culpepper. "Not bad for a guy everyone thought would retire, huh?'' Bruschi said afterward.
"You thought you'd retire,'' he was told.
"Oh yeah,'' said Bruschi, who put off retirement despite a minor offseason stroke. "You're right.''
The fourth quarter was all Brady's ... with an assist to midseason acquisition Shaun Alexander. The Patriots gave up a second-round pick to acquire the former Seahawks holdout after Corey Dillon went down with a knee injury just before the trading deadline. Alexander contributed 62 fourth-quarter yards (and 94 total, on 23 carries) to ensure Brady wouldn't be a one-man team.
Brady's first touchdown of the quarter, an out route at the corner of the end zone, came over linebacker Napoleon Harris from eight yards out with 13:15 left in the game. That gave the Pats a 23-17 lead. After Minnesota went three-and-out and punted, New England ate up the clock like no team ever had in a Super Bowl. Going 93 yards in 18 plays -- and milking 10:02 off the clock -- Brady climaxed the drive with a 1-yard touchdown pass to Troy Brown.
Incredibly fitting, then, that Brown, forced into his 2004 nickel-back role again because two corners got hurt for New England in the first half, intercepted Culpepper with 10 seconds left on Minnesota's last-gasp drive.
How dramatic. After the game, Brown announced his retirement. "I can't imagine any better way to go out than to catch a touchdown pass and get an interception in the Super Bowl,'' Brown said.
This could be the end of an era in another way too. Eric Mangini, the boy-wonder defensive coordinator for the Patriots, said after the game he has agreed to interview with Seattle on Tuesday and with New Orleans on Wednesday. Those teams have openings after the sudden January retirement of Mike Holmgren and the firing of Jim Haslett, and Mangini is the hot guy on lots of teams' lists right now. The battered Bruschi may retire to accept a vice president's job with the Patriots to be owner Bob Kraft's right-hand man. And a quieter loss, but one just as important as the others, may be felt if personnel VP Scott Pioli, who with Belichick built the football side of the Patriots dynasty, accepts a deal from one of the three storied teams rumored to be preparing an offer for him: the Giants, Cowboys (where he would be reunited with father-in-law Bill Parcells) and Bears. Two months ago Pioli ago reportedly turned down an offer from the Patriots to remain for $2 million a year.
Those are matters for another day. After the game, Brady and his new girlfriend, Lindsay Lohan, walked arm in arm out of Ford Field. "Time to celebrate,'' said Brady, who's so much like Wally Cleaver he even talks like him. "We're headed out for a cheeseburger and a chocolate malt.''
"Anything you say, Tom,'' Lohan said. "But can you get Cristal at Steak and Shake?''