As the Patriots organization rallied to win its fifth Super Bowl, Bill Belichick and Tom Brady became the first head coach-quarterback duo to win five Super Bowls together. The fashion in which it was done was the greatest display of an all-time great and his competitiveness. First, credit goes to the Patriots as a whole for never quitting and continuing to execute until the very last second. As far as Brady goes, we witnessed the lowest of lows as he’s concerned and also witnessed the reason he’s established himself as arguably the greatest quarterback to play this game.
The Patriots cut Atlanta’s lead down to 19 points midway into the third quarter prior to an desperate onside kick attempt to keep Atlanta’s offense of the field. Brady to this point was not the Brady we perceived him to be, especially in this big of a moment. For three quarters of this game, he looked uncomfortable facing Atlanta’s pass rush. He moved around more than he wanted to in the pocket, his passes were constantly off the mark, poor decisions were made and one ended up in a pick six. In the few instances when he delivered good passes, they were dropped. Besides his performance as a quarterback, his offensive line gave up five sacks along with multiple QB hits. These are Brady’s lows of the game. Although he was off, and pressure was on him throughout the game, you saw a competitor.
Brady fought back, his offensive line was a problem, but stood tall in the pocket and delivered big time throws. His receivers kept dropping passes, but he continued to trust them with multiple targets each. Julian Edelman had 13, Amendola had 11, Mitchell (his most reliable of the night) had 7, Hogan had 7, and Bennett had 6. Obviously with 62 attempts there’s a lot of targets, but with shaky play from his receivers those numbers are pretty big. When nobody was open, he took off for his only run of the game to pick up a critical 1st down on 3rd and long ending the drive in a touchdown. The traits of the ultimate competitor are evident in a performance like this one, he literally did whatever had to be done. His “clutch gene” took over in the fourth quarter, leading the Patriots to three scoring drives and sealed it four minutes into overtime when James White scored the game winning touchdown run.
As Brady once told Kirk Cousins in 2015 following a 27-10 Redskins loss in New England, even at his age and experience level, he never stops learning. Cousins is going into his third year as a starter, coming off an exceptional season, but far from flawless. There will not be another Tom Brady, but the desire and preparation to be as close to Brady as possible is attainable for any quarterback in the league.
Heading into 2017, Cousins has the opportunity to take his game to another level if he took notes on Brady’s performance in the Super Bowl. Kirk is definitely a Top 15 quarterback, but Cousins can take a firm hold as a Top 10 quarterback this season if he finds a way to play from start to finish with the competitive fire we witnessed from Brady. One of the main criticisms of Cousins is that he becomes conservatives after mistakes, where as Brady just kept throwing with confidence and it resulted in plays being made. Another criticism, was Kirk’s inability to perform under pressure, Brady showed to trust not only your offensive lineman but trust your training and preparation. Last but not least, no matter who your receivers are Kirk, as Brady showed, do not be quick to quit on them. Leadership traits in football are traditionally found in the quarterbacks, the best are capable of elevating the play of those around them. With Kirk Cousins, whether he is in Washington or somewhere else, he was given a blueprint to become a better leader of men this Super Bowl by the greatest quarterback to ever do it.