Tom Brady, the 199th pick in the 2000 NFL draft, will start in his 10th Super Bowl this Sunday. Brady has made it to the Super Bowl in more than 50% of the seasons where he’s started more than one game.
Brady has simply too much history in the big game to expect anyone to remember all of it, so we’re providing this game-by-game primer as a refresher. If you’re someone who has never seen a Tom Brady Super Bowl but somehow clicked on this, welcome aboard.
In Part 1, we want to remember where the New England Patriots franchise was before they turned to Brady. Sure, they’d been to two Super Bowls, but they’d also been beaten pretty handily in both.
Brady’s emergence represented a good thing. Maybe the best of things.
Part 1: A New Hope for New England
Super Bowl XXXVI – Defeated St. Louis Rams 20-17
Brady took over as the starter for the Patriots in his second season when star quarterback Drew Bledsoe was injured vs. the New York Jets. The team started out 5-5, but then went on to win their remaining six regular season games and playoff bouts vs. the Raiders and Steelers.
New England faced off against the Rams whose high-power offense had been nicknamed “The Greatest Show on Turf”. The Patriots defense stifled the St. Louis offense for most of the game, but the Rams tied the game with 1:30 remaining. Brady then led the Patriots down the field to set up a game-winning field goal by Adam Vinatieri, and this was the first chapter of Brady’s storybook career.
Key Play – Law’s Pick-6
The Rams led 3-0 about halfway through the second quarter when Mike Vrabel rushed Kurt Warner into a bad pass that sailed right to Ty Law, who returned it for a touchdown and made New England fans believe anything was possible that night.
Super Bowl XXXVIII – Defeated Carolina Panthers 32-29
Brady and the Patriots missed the playoffs after their first Super Bowl win and then started out the next season 2-2. ESPN Analyst Tom Jackson famously referenced what he thought Patriots players felt about Bill Belichick by saying, “They hate their coach.” The Patriots won their final 12 regular season games and then beat the 2003 Co-MVPS (Steve McNair and Peyton Manning) in back-to-back playoff wins.
This is also one of the weirder Super Bowls in history as points were only scored in the last three minutes of the first half and in the fourth quarter. The last seven minutes of the game was a true back and forth, and the teams were tied with a little over a minute remaining. In a moment of Déjà vu that Panthers fans didn’t want to see, Brady drove the Patriots down the field for another game-winning field goal by Vinatieri.
Key Play – Kasay’s Miscue
After the Panthers tied the game at 29-29 with 1:13 remaining, John Kasay kicked the ensuing kickoff out of bounds. This resulted in a penalty giving the Patriots the ball at their own 40-yard line. New England only needed to gain 37 yards to set up Vinatieri’s winner.
Super Bowl XXXIX – Defeated Philadelphia Eagles 24-21
The Patriots matched their previous season’s record by again going 14-2 in 2004. New England then faced Peyton Manning and the Colts in their first playoff game. Manning had set the record for touchdown passes in a season with 49, but the Patriots defense held the Colts to only 3 points. Brady led the team to a victory in Pittsburgh the following week and their return to the Super Bowl was set.
The Patriots and Eagles were tied at halftime (7-7) and again at the end of the third quarter (14-14). But New England pulled away in the fourth quarter by scoring 10 points to take a 24-14 lead. The Eagles added a touchdown late in the game, but it wasn’t enough to keep the Patriots from repeating as Super Bowl Champions. Brady was now 3-0 in the Super Bowl after his first four seasons as a starter in the NFL.
Key Play – The Bruschi Gets McNabb
The Eagles had a first down on the New England 36, down 24-14 with about seven and a half minutes remaining. Instead of at least getting a field goal to pull within a single score, Donovan McNabb threw an interception to Tedy Bruschi and the Patriots were able to milk two more minutes off the game clock.
At the end of Part I we find our hero on top of the world. Four seasons as a starting quarterback in the NFL and three rings on his fingers.
It felt like it was only going to keep getting better and better for Brady and Pats fans.
But something big, bad, and blue was coming for us all.
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