Bunch of success
Pats' second-year QB takes them to Super Bowl titlePosted: Sunday February 03, 2002 10:29 PM
Updated: Monday February 04, 2002 4:10 AM
NEW ORLEANS (AP) -- The only thing spectacular about Tom Brady is his success.
The sore-ankled former fourth-stringer completed an improbable season for himself and the Patriots on Sunday, guiding New England to its first NFL title with a 20-17 Super Bowl victory against the St. Louis Rams.
Brady was selected the game's Most Valuable Player after becoming the youngest quarterback to win the Super Bowl. He completed 16-of-27 passes for 145 yards and led the Patriots to the Rams 30 to set up Adam Vinatieri's game-winning 48-yard field goal with no time left.
"That whole team, as far as I'm concerned, is MVP," said Brady, whose teammates chose not to be introduced individually in the pre-game ceremony; five of them appeared on the ceremonial Wheaties box. "I always say a quarterback is as good as the team around him, and we have some unbelievable talent."
The 24-year-old Brady played in front of 100,000-plus fans at Michigan but completed only one pass in the NFL last year. Unfazed by the Super Bowl hoopla, he returned to the locker room after the pre-game warmup and took a nap on the floor almost until gametime.
"I was relaxed ... calm and confident," he said. "The locker room was quiet, so I just put my head back and had a little snooze."
Brady hit David Patten with an 8-yard touchdown pass that made it 14-3 with 36 seconds left in the first half. But mostly what the former backup to Drew Bledsoe did was steer the offense with a steady hand and convert the opportunities handed him by the defense and special teams.
"You can't say enough about that kid. He has a tremendous amount of confidence. He has led this team," Patten said. "Maybe he doesn't have the most impressive statistics, but it doesn't matter. The kid knows how to win. He knows how to motivate other players."
Brady took over the Patriots' starting job when Bledsoe was injured in Week 2 and won it outright when the $103 million, three-time Pro Bowl selection was ready to return. Brady led the Patriots to an 11-5 regular-season record, then keyed a 16-13 overtime win against the Oakland Raiders in the playoffs.
But in the AFC Championship Game, Brady twisted his left ankle and had to leave. Bledsoe got credit for the 24-17 win that put the Patriots in the Super Bowl, but when the time came to pick his starter, head coach Bill Belichick went back to Brady.
Bledsoe took the decision with grace.
"He's been one of my biggest supporters," Brady said. "He said, 'If we're going to get this done, we're going to get it done together.' That makes me want to perform even better, because I'm out there representing him."
The three-time Pro Bowl selection helped his understudy in meetings, at practice and on the sidelines, and was there hugging Brady during the Patriots' celebration after they came in as 14-point underdogs and beat the "Greatest Show on Turf" at the Superdome.
"Obviously, I would like to have been on the field," Bledsoe said from the field as a handful of lingering fans chanted his name. "But I'm very proud of the contribution I've made to this team."
Brady had trouble holding onto the starting job at Michigan -- one reason he wasn't picked until the sixth round in the 1999 draft. But Belichick saw enough in him to keep him on the roster for all of last year as a rare fourth quarterback.
This summer, Brady started training camp as the No. 4 quarterback before being promoted to Bledsoe's primary backup. When Bledsoe was hurt Sept. 23 -- an injury that would keep him off the field for seven games -- Brady came on in relief and sparked New England's turnaround.
The Patriots, who went 5-11 last year and lost their first two games this season, were 5-4 when Bledsoe was ready to return. Belichick made a half-hearted attempt to let the two quarterbacks compete for the job, but after a loss to the Rams on Nov. 18, he decided he couldn't do that and adequately prepare for the week's opponent.
The job was Brady's for the rest of the season.
"He's been playing. I just thought that gave us the best chance this week," Belichick said. "We've got two good quarterbacks - we've got three of them with Damon Huard. You can never have too much depth at that position."