There was no passing of the torch when it ended, because Tom Brady came to Tampa and came to Super Bowl 2021 for a seventh Lombardi Trophy, for 7th Heaven, and nothing, and no one, not even Patrick Mahomes, was going to deny him.
He laughed at Father Time one more time, has never allowed himself to be satisfied with his iconic past, stomped on the narrative that the Future Was Now for young Mahomes.
One more Tom, at age 43.
They tugged on Superman’s cape when he went out on his own and left Bill Belichick.
And not even a pandemic could be kryptonite to Tom Brady.
Can you imagine Belichick sitting wherever he was watching Brady throw a pair of TD passes to Gronk — a.k.a. Rob Gronkowski — the driven quarterback who tired of him and the fun-loving TE who came out of retirement for the chance to win his fourth Super Bowl?
So Brady, the 31-9 winner, the relentless winner, goes one up on Michael Jordan, one championship up, and he made Mahomes’ chase for GOATDOM that much more uphill, a grueling climb up Mount Brady.
While Mahomes, under siege and dominated by Bucs defensive coordinator Todd Bowles and his defiant defense that blanketed Tyreek Hill this time every which way but loose, Brady oozed with an unmistakable aura and mystique that is the trademark of a living legend.
If he so chose, he could have stood atop Mount Brady and shouted this down at Mahomes, 18 years his junior, and down at Belichick as well:
“Who’s your Daddy?”
The Baby GOAT, who was kept out of the end zone, could only graze on the grass of greatness before The GOAT chased him away.
Steve Spagnuolo didn’t have Michael Strahan, Osi Umenyiora and Justin Tuck this time, 13 years after denying Brady a Perfect Patriots season, and when Tyrann Mathieu thought it was a good idea to trash talk Brady — well, Brady was all too happy to oblige him.
Mahomes, diminished to a degree by his turf toe injury, looked his age more than Brady looked his.
Brady had never thrown a TD pass in the first quarter of a Super Bowl. Until this, his 10th Super Bowl. Brady hit Gronk on a screen left for an 8-yard TD, and that meant they had combined for a record 13 postseason TDs, one more than Joe Montana-to-Jerry Rice.
Then Andy Reid’s Chiefs made the kind of fatal mistakes you cannot afford to make against Brady.
Jittery punter Tommy Townsend shanked a 28-yard punt, starting Brady at the Spagnuolo 38. The Bucs would force the Chiefs to settle for a field goal — except a fourth-and-5 offsides against Antonio Hamilton handed Brady a first down.
And that’s when Brady found Gronk with the 17-yard TD that made it Brady 14, Mahomes 3.
It was Brady 14, Mahomes 6 because Reid on fourth-and-6 at the 14 said No Risk It No Biscuit is Bruce Arians’ thing, and decided to kick the field goal and give Brady one more chance with 55 seconds left in the half.
Reid called a second timeout and on third-and-2 at his 37, Brady hit Gronk for 5 yards, then took a deep shot for Mike Evans that got him 34 yards on a Bashaud Breeland interference, then got a first-and-goal on an end-zone interference on Evans against Honey Badger Mathieu, then with six seconds and no timeouts left hit Antonio Brown low where only he could catch it against Mathieu with the 1-yard TD that made it Brady 21, Mahomes 6 at the half.
Brady’s gallant pursuit of his seventh Super Bowl championship with a coach not named Belichick but Bruce Arians and a team not named the Patriots but the Bucs must provide inspiration to those who choose to believe that if a 43-year-old quarterback can be Forever Young, they can as well.
The clock didn’t strike 12 for Tom Brady.
No. 12 struck the clock, as he has done Tom after Tom, Tom and Tom again.