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Tom Brady defies critics, underdog status, and age in AFC championship game

If you follow sports, and we thank you for doing so, you know about the acronym GOAT, which stands for Greatest Of All Time.

It has often been assigned haphazardly over the years, usually due to overzealousness about a player who might be extraordinary but not quite monumental.

Mount Rushmore was built from 1927-1941 to commemorate the lives of Teddy Roosevelt, Abraham Lincoln, George Washington and Thomas Jefferson. They were colossal, each one  a GOAT, for some the GOAT.

If they put chisel to rock someday to honor the greatest quarterbacks in the history of the NFL, there will be a number of notable choices to chose from – Johnny Unitas, Joe Montana, Peyton Manning, Drew Brees are all profile-ready.

But let’s be honest about this. There is only one QB in the history of the NFL whose granite jaw deserves to be cut into a majestic mountainside.

And that’s Tom Brady. This is a GOAT.

On Sunday in Kansas City, the New England Patriots played with a chip the size of Montana on their shoulders.  The Vegas wise guys declared them a two-point underdog in their AFC Championship Game against the Chiefs. And this made the Pats pout.

KANSAS CITY, MISSOURI - JANUARY 20: Tom Brady #12 of the New England Patriots celebrates with Brian Hoyer #2 in the locker room after defeating the Kansas City Chiefs in overtime during the AFC Championship Game at Arrowhead Stadium on January 20, 2019 in Kansas City, Missouri. The Patriots defeated the Chiefs 37-31. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

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Within days, tee-shirts appeared blaring #BetAgainstUs across the chest. They were the manifestation of New England’s incredulity about being doubted again. How do you bet against a team playing in its ninth straight Championship Game, who had won its 14th divisional title in 15 years?

How dare they pick on the GOAT?

So admit it. As Sunday’s game moved deeper in the night, the Blood Moon beginning to form above the upper deck at Arrowhead Stadium, you knew Tom Brady would figure out a way to beat the Chiefs. And he did.

“The odds were stacked against us,” he said after engineering his 57th career game-winning drive (12 in the playoffs) to bring the Patriots back from a fourth-quarter deficit or tie.

“It hasn’t been that way for us for a while. It certainly was this year. We started off so slow (1-20).”

As long as there are enough ticks left on the clock, Brady will always have a chance to figure something out.  The comeback he engineered on Sunday, resulting in New England’s 37-31 overtime win, was the 57th game-winning drive he’s orchestrated in his career. Laid side-by-side, that’s more than 3 ½ complete seasons watching Brady pull off miracles week after week.

Let’s look at what he Brady did.

Down 28-24, the ball on New England’s 35 with, Brady led them downfield with Rex Burkhead’s four-yard TD giving them a temporary 31-28 lead. But Brady’s young rival, Kansas City quarterback Pat Mahomes, used the final 32 seconds to set up Harrison Butker’s 39-yard field goal with 11 seconds to play that sent the game into overtime.

After the Chiefs had tied the game, the Pats essentially won it when their special teams captain correctly called heads on the coin flip, giving the Patriots the first chance to end the game by scoring a touchdown.

“As soon as I saw it was heads, I ran off (the field). I have seen this before,” said Pats safety Devin McCourty. “Anytime we go to overtime and get the ball, I’m not really worried about anything. I’m going to get comfortable.”

Brady moved the team 60 yards with completions on the game-winning drive culminated by Burkhead’s 2-yard touchdown run. The Pats had scored touchdowns on their final three possessions of the game, during which he was 11-of-16 for 147 yards. Two of those completions were the tight end Rob Gronkowski, for 25 and 15 yards, on the final two that led to touchdowns.

KANSAS CITY, MISSOURI - JANUARY 20: Tom Brady #12 of the New England Patriots passes in the second half against the Kansas City Chiefs during the AFC Championship Game at Arrowhead Stadium on January 20, 2019 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by Peter Aiken/Getty Images)

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The Pats ended the season 11-5, good enough to be second seed in the conference. Even though all five losses were on the road, they had been playing exceptionally well over the last month,  confirming against that their snowball gets bigger the longer it rolls down the hill. And so does Brady.

In the bliss of the first few minutes following the win, Brady let his true feeling show.

“Everybody thinks we suck and can’t win again games,” he said on CBS after completing 30-of-46 for 348 yards and one touchdown.

“When you have 70,000 people cheering against you, it’s pretty sweet when you win on the road. That’s a hard thing to do in the NFL. It’s certainly a hard thing to do against the first-ranked team in the conference who has been playing great all year, and has certainly been playing great at home. We knew it was going to take a lot. It took some great plays and some great conversions, and just proud of us getting the job done.”

After the Chiefs had tied the game at 31-31 on the last play of regulation, the Pats essentially won the game when special teams captain correctly called heads on the coin flip, giving the Patriots the first chance to end the game by scoring a touchdown.

Brady moved the team 60 yards with completions on the game-winning drive culminated by Danny Burkhead’s 2-yard touchdown run. The Pats had scored touchdowns on their final three possessions of the game, during which he was 11-of-16 for 147 yards. Two of those completions were the tight end Rob Gronkowski, for 25 and 15 yards, on the final two that led to touchdowns.

As of late Monday morning, it seems the Pats will not have the underdog role to provide motivation. They have been installed as 2 1/2-point favorites to beat the Los Angeles Rams in Super Bowl LIII on Feb. 3 in Atlanta.

This will be New England’s third consecutive Super Bowl and its ninth in the last 18 seasons.  Only the Buffalo Bills (four) and Miami Dolphins (three) have ever done anything like it.

Still, its run is unprecedented in league history, both in length and the consistent pairing of the game’s greatest all-time coach, Bill Belichick, with perhaps its greatest all-time player, Brady. Many marriages don’t last as long as their relationship (which began in 2001) has.

KANSAS CITY, MISSOURI - JANUARY 20: Head coach Bill Belichick of the New England Patriots holds the Lamar Hunt Trophy after defeating the Kansas City Chiefs during the AFC Championship Game at Arrowhead Stadium on January 20, 2019 in Kansas City, Missouri. The New England Patriots defeated the Kansas City Chiefs 37-31. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

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“I don’t even know how you criticize the guy,” said Gronkowski said. “I mean, I would say he’s one of the hardest-working Americans out there. How you criticize a guy that works hard every single day, comes in and wants to do his job the best he can, and that’s what’s so great about him. It’s what’s so great about playing with him. You see his approach, and it’s second to none. You want to learn from it. That’s how good it is.”

If the Pats win the Super Bowl, Brady will be the only player in league history to win six of them. He is also the all-time Super Bowl leader in passing yards (2,576), completions (235) and touchdown passes (eight).

So be careful with throwing GOATS around. There is only one. And it’s a story about a man named Brady.

 

 

 

 

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