Tom Brady stepped off his news conference podium and walked somberly toward the exit, where his supermodel wife Gisele Bundgen stopped him with a kiss, while journalists from all over the world raced over to witness it.
He’s talented, rich, famous, has a stunning wife, is a lucky father of two boys and dresses like a model on the cover of GQ. He’s the guy with everything. Except Sunday at Super Bowl XLVI, when he finished the day without the prize.
Now along with being the guy who has won three Super Bowls, he’s also the guy who has lost two.
The New England Patriots quarterback reflected many times during Super Bowl week on the San Francisco 49ers games he would attend as a boy, he and his family idolizing legendary quarterback Joe Montana. But Sunday, Brady missed out on a shot to join his boyhood hero in an elite club.
The 34-year-old signal-caller fell shy of claiming his fourth Super Bowl ring, which would have put him alongside Montana and Terry Bradshaw as the most for a quarterback in NFL history.
It’s a day you have to believe will happen at some point. But it wasn’t to be in Indianapolis. Once again, the Giants prevented him from hoisting that Lombardi Trophy for the fourth time.
“I’ll keep coming back to this game,” said Brady. “I’d rather lose in this game than never get here at all. It’s better than staying at home.”
Brady, who completed 27 of 41 passes for 276 yards and two touchdowns, had his heroic moments Sunday. But he also had his gaffes.
The New York Giants seemed to be executing the most logical strategy for beating the New England Patriots in the first half. They were strictly keeping him off the field, nearly doubling the Pats in time of possession in the first half. And when Brady did get the ball, his Patriots were plagued by penalties or big Giants defensive plays. On first-and-10 from their own 6-yard line with nine minutes left in the first quarter, he drew a flag for intentional grounding.
Then there was 6-foot-5 Giants defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul, who got a hand up to smack down the ball, twice denying Brady a chance to get the Pats offense rolling early. But he wasn’t exactly discouraged. It only seemed to encourage the quarterback. The final few minutes of the first half were pure, focused, and methodical. Totally Tom Brady.
With 4:03 left in the first quarter, he took the Patriots on a drive that covered 96 yards in 14 plays, culminating with a cool and collected 4-yard delivery to Danny Woodhead in the seam for a touchdown.
It was the third drive of such distance in Super bowl history.
But he later made a terrible decision, lofting up a long ball in the fourth quarter as he tumbled to the turf, playing the odds that Rob Gronkowski could beat linebacker Chase Blackburn one-on-one. But on that bad ankle, it turns out, Gronkowski couldn’t elevate as usual, and Blackburn plucked it right out of the air to give the Giants back the momentum.
He also threw one behind an open Deion Branch at a moment when the receiver was open and ready.
Brady spent much of Super Bowl week making clear how disappointed he had been with his performance in the Patriots’ AFC championship victory. He won’t like the film of Sunday’s pick either.
But when Gronkowski couldn’t be the dynamic pass-catcher he needed, he knew where else to look. He hit receivers Danny Woodhead and Wes Welker at optimal times, mixed in little-used Chad Ochocinco when the time was right and found tight end Aaron Hernandez for key first downs.
But the Giants came raging late in the game. Quarterback Eli Manning stole the show, sizzling passes over to the leaping likes of Mario Manningham and Hakeem Nicks and sending Ahmad Bradshaw into the end zone for a touchdown and a Giants lead.
Brady tried to respond. Even after taking a sack, he ducked away from another on the next play and delivered a pass that moved the chains.
He then tossed up a Hail Mary pass and stared downfield for what seemed like an eternity. His pass hurdled into a mob of receivers and defenders hurdling into the end zone, but it couldn’t find Patriot hands.
“I’m not sure how close we were to getting it,” said Brady. “Obviously, I wish we could have done a little bit more.”
And so Manning who walked off with the Lombardi Trophy instead, along with the MVP award. And so that seat alongside Montana and Bradshaw remains elusive. Brady will have to wait.