On Sunday night we once again got to see the “GOAT” in action when he booked yet another Super Bowl date as the New England Patriots beat the Kansas City Chiefs in overtime. The “GOAT” is an acronym for “Greatest Of All Time” and has most recently been assigned to Patriots quarterback Tom Brady.
Brady has racked up 29 play-off wins, the most by any quarterback ever. Add to that his five Super Bowl wins in eight appearances, and surely there is no doubt over his right to that title.
His statistics are inarguable, his consistency unrivalled, and his trophy cabinet must now be more of a room. But what has Brady had around him which always made it an unfair playing field for others?
Brady is undoubtedly excellent, but he has never played without head coach Bill Belichick at his side.
What the duo have done will always be looked upon as one of the greatest feats in NFL history. Belichick’s coaching brilliance gave – and still gives – Brady a chance in every single game. His unrivalled ability to adjust to the other team’s tactics meant that even after being 28-3 behind in Super Bowl LI the Patriots managed to add title No 5. That was just another example of the wonders Belichick has regularly pulled off.
Yes, Brady is going down in history but, when you have a coach who can seemingly out-coach everyone else in the league, doesn’t that stack the deck in your favour?
On Sunday night, against a Kansas City Chiefs team that had scored with freedom all year, Belichick gave another example of his adaptability. The strategy was clear from the start, keep the Chiefs’ offense off the field by taking as much time as possible.
On the first drive, it took eight minutes for the Patriots to score a touchdown and they carried that on all game – controlling the time of possession.
On defence, Belichick changed it up, too, playing it almost flawlessly as he confused Kansas City quarterback Patrick Mahomes by using plays the Patriots hadn’t used all season.
That took away the main crutch of every young quarterback – extensive scouting reports.
Not to do a disservice to Brady, he indeed has defied every expectation – including, at 41, keeping age-related decline at bay – but would he ever have achieved the lofty heights of “Greatest Ever” without the guidance of the greatest-ever coach?
Brady often gets the glory, but the ever stoic and unemotional Belichick must be recognised as a significant factor in the quarterback’s success and, without him, surely Brady would never have reached such heights.
Back to Sunday night, where the NFC and AFC championship games decided which two teams will meet in the Super Bowl in Atlanta in the early hours of 4 February. The answer took longer to find out than expected as both games took overtime to determine the outcome.
In the NFC title game, the New Orleans Saints and Los Angeles Rams met in a repeat of a regular season game when the Saints eventually won 45-35.
Sunday’s game woke up in a second half that saw the teams exchanging scores until, with little time left on the clock, the officials blew a big call. A blatant pass interference was missed which would have given the Saints a first down and the chance to run out the clock.
Instead, the Rams tied the score with a late field goal.
In overtime, the Saints got the ball first, but quarterback Drew Brees was hit as he threw and intercepted by the Rams. LA then moved the ball to the edge of kicker Greg Zuerlein’s range and he delivered with a monster 57-yard field goal to clinch a Super Bowl berth.
In the AFC, Mahomes, at 23 years of age, became the youngest player to quarterback in the championship game but it wasn’t to be his night in an equally dramatic game.
The Patriots managed to disrupt his rhythm and led 14-0 at half-time.
The Chiefs came out fighting, though and, after exchanging scores in the third quarter, Kansas City found their feet late on.
Mahomes managed to lead the offense to 24 points in the fourth quarter to tie the game at 31-31.
The Patriots received the OT kick-off and slowly moved the ball downfield until running back Rex Burkhead broke through the Chiefs defence to score the winning touchdown.