Perfect season ends and the perfect quarterback is no longer so perfect Print
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Sunday, 03 February 2008 23:54
NFL Headline News

 PHOENIX (AP) -There was never any reason to think Tom Brady wasn't going to do it again, no matter how much time he spent sprawled out Sunday studying the Arizona turf up close and personal. No reason at all, because he had always done it before.
Even with 29 seconds left you had to believe he would find a way. There was no way this perfect quarterback was going to let this perfect season end with such shocking and complete suddenness.
He did it in his first two Super Bowls. He did it every time he seemed to need to do it.
When he couldn't do it this time and his final pass fell to the turf he grew so well acquainted with, there was nothing left to do than walk slowly to the sidelines, helmet in hand, no longer invincible and no longer undefeated.
Not even a supermodel girlfriend could ease the pain of this one.
``I'm sure it will be tough to swallow over the coming months,'' Brady said.
This was supposed to be a coronation of a season like no other, a game in which Brady would add to his legend and win his fourth Super Bowl title. No one expected the other quarterback to lead the winning drive, and no one expected the other team to be at the podium on the 50-yard-line with silver confetti streaming from the top of the dome and the Lombardi trophy in their hands.
Tom Brady was perfect. His team was perfect.
His coach was a genius, and his big receiver was the best in the game.
And yet here he was on the ground once again, with just a few seconds left on the clock and 90 yards that would never be crossed in this game between the Patriots and the goal line. There would be one more desperation pass, but the celebration had already started on the other side of the field and one of the biggest upsets in Super Bowl history was being etched into the record books.
``I had a feeling it was going to come down to us with a few plays left,'' Brady said. ``We just didn't get it done.''
It was an odd and ugly game at best. The perfect team with the perfect quarterback playing in the perfect indoors of a perfectly new stadium was perfectly awful, at least when the ball was in Brady's hands.
waves and from all different directions.
Sacked just 21 times all year, he was dropped five times in this game alone. All told, he was on the ground a dozen or so times, enough to get such a close look at the turf that he could be hired in the offseason as an agronomist for the NFL.
At one point in the third quarter, he was on his knees after hurrying yet another throw, his hands on his hips and a look of frustration that no one had seen since the Patriots last lost in the AFC championship game more than a year ago in Indianapolis.
His helmet was on so it was hard to tell, but for all we know his hair might have even been out of place.
Dallas fans might have predicted trouble for Brady even before the opening coin flip. Their season had ended with a girlfriend being blamed for a bad night of quarterbacking, and there Gisele Bundchen was in a luxury box and looking every bit the supermodel girlfriend that she is.
But Bundchen wasn't blocking for Brady, and she wasn't throwing for him. Her only involvement in this Super Bowl might have been nursing his sore ankle, though the video was inconclusive on that.
Brady made his way slowly to the interview area after the game, taking his time to shower and put on a coat and tie. He didn't look like he had just taken a beating in a heavyweight slugfest, but the words came slow and almost every answer was a cliche.
This was the kind of game he usually won, and the kind of game he expected to win again. His first two Super Bowl rings came on last-minute drives, and when he finally got control of his team and led them down the field for a scoring pass to Randy Moss to put the Patriots ahead 14-10 it seemed like the legend would only grow.
Little did he know he had left too much time on the clock. Little did he know that a quarterback growing in stature before our eyes would use a miracle desperation pass to lead his team down field for a win in much the same way Brady always did.
The game will grow in Super Bowl lore not because it was particularly well played by either side, but because the Giants did the unthinkable and beat the team that couldn't be beaten. They rushed Brady and they rattled him, something no one thought could be done.
As he walked toward the sideline, helmet in hand and his season over, Brady was left to his own thoughts. There would be explanations to come and there would be fingers pointed.
But for now there was only one thing that mattered.
The perfect season was over, and the perfect quarterback was no longer.
------
Tim Dahlberg is a national sports columnist for The Associated Press. Write to him at tdahlbergap.org
 

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