Brady takes place alongside Jordan
In 1998, I was sitting center court in Salt Lake City, Utah when Michael Jordan hit “The Shot.”
“The Shot” won Game 6 of the NBA championship for Jordan’s sixth title, cementing his “Greatest of All Time (GOAT)” status.
Sunday, I was extremely fortunate to be in attendance in Atlanta to watch Tom Brady seal his GOAT status by winning his sixth title in Super Bowl 53.
While their path to GOAT status could not be any more different — Brady was the 199th player taken in the draft and Jordan the third — both Brady and Jordan’s ability to deliver their finest performance at the most important times in a game on the biggest stage is what separates the two immortals from mere superstars.
Sunday, with the score tied in the fourth quarter, Brady completed four consecutive perfect passes to lead the Pats down for a game-winning score.
As the Pats marched down the field, the stadium, which was composed of about 70 percent Pats fans, erupted in a sustained “Brady, Brady” chant during the entire drive that kept getting louder on every completion until Sony Michel ran in the game-winning touchdown.
Bill Belichick devised a masterful defensive game plan to hold the NFL’s second-highest scoring offense to just three points. The same Rams offense tore through an excellent Dallas Cowboys defense in the first round of the playoffs as the Rams rushed for 273 yards.
Versus the Pats, the Rams struggled to gain 62 yards as the Pats completely controlled the line of scrimmage. Rams superstar quarterback Jared Goff and his 33-year-old wunderkind coach, Sean McVay, were clearly not prepared for sports greatest stage. and this was evident as early as pre-game.
The pre-game for a Super Bowl is unlike any other football game as the field is filled with photographers and VIPs so it is difficult for teams to replicate their traditional pre-game routine.
Unlike any other game where teams warm up to a mostly empty stadium, most fans arrive a few hours before the game because of security concerns.
Goff appeared tight and nervous during warmups while Brady and the Patriots were relaxed and loose. Because of all the pre-game festivities, the teams come out on the field much earlier than during a regular season or playoff game.
After they won the coin toss, the Rams made a mistake, I thought, in deciding to defer and taking the first possession to the second half.
Goff and the offense had to stand on the sidelines for almost a half an hour before they touched the ball, instead of getting any nervous energy out at the start.
Goff was flustered the entire game.
Some his throws, especially the one to a wide-open Brandin Cooks in the end zone, had very little velocity and, in person, looked like they were thrown by a high school quarterback.
In the meantime, Brady did not have a deep-threat wide receiver as Chris Hogan (zero catches) was unable to get open the entire game. However, Brady and MVP Julian Edelman, Rob Gronkowski and the running backs overcame a Rams defense filled with superstars as the Pats wore out the Rams by moving the the ball most of the game until they absolutely needed to score.
During the final two Patriots’ drives, it felt like the end of Rocky III when Rocky knocked out a tiring Clubber Lang. In the post-game celebration, as Brady was holding the Lombardi Trophy in one hand and his daughter in the other, I thought of Jordan tightly holding the Larry O’Brien trophy after beating the Jazz.
Both Jordan and Brady, in the game where each won their sixth title, willed their teams to victory with their experience, skill, drive and unquestioned leadership, but most importantly, they both loved the game and cherished the big moment.
Rather than withering, when you are a GOAT, when the biggest moments arrive, Jordan and Brady both embraced rather than feared competition on the greatest stage, thus cementing their legacies as the absolute best at their craft.
I feel blessed that I had the opportunity to witness both.
Kaufman is an Altoona native, attorney and traveling sports fan. He hosts a Monday night radio show called “Ira on Sports,” that can be heard on FM95.9 and FM106.9 in West Palm Beach, Florida and is available on Sound Cloud and iTunes under Ira on Sports.