Tramel: 19 years later, another Super Bowl prediction of 20-17, Tom Brady
Tom Brady’s 10th Super Bowl is not so much different from his first Super Bowl, 19 years ago. Beleaguered franchise. Underdog. Overmatched at quarterback. Playing against an offense for the ages.
And Brady won. His Patriots beat the Rams 20-17 and launched a dynasty rarely seen in American sport. Two decades of New England dominance.
After those two decades, we forget how low-status were both the Patriots and Brady. The Rams were a near two-touchdown underdog. Kurt Warner and the Greatest Show On Turf were a national phenomenon, on the verge of its second Super Bowl title in three years.
Brady was a first-year quarterback who frankly was a placeholder for the talented but injured Drew Bledsoe.
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But 19 years ago, on a whim, I picked a New England upset. Here’s what I wrote:
“There are more reasons to pick the Patriots than a serious head cold and allegiance to clam chowder. The Rams are 14-point favorites but didn't beat the '67 Packers to reach New Orleans.
“This is a winnable game for the Patriots. The last time St. Louis was in the Super Bowl, the Titans came within a yard of overtime. New England is a similar squad; tough defensively and cagey in the kicking game.
“Patriot coach Bill Belichick is a defensive whiz. He can devise a scheme to slow Kurt Warner's fun machine.
“Plus, the New England kicking game is world class. Adam Vinatieri is clutch on field goals, and the Patriots produced two special teams TDs to beat Pittsburgh 24-17 last week.
“The Ram defense is much better than two years ago, when St. Louis won the Super Bowl, but the Patriots won't give away this game the way Brett Favre did two weeks ago.
“Put it together, and Super Bowl XXXVI becomes a tight game. A punt return here, a field goal there, and New England wins 20-17.”
Danged if New England didn’t win, 20-17.
And every Brady Super Bowl since, nine of them, with Tom Terrific winning six, has been close. The first six were decided by three or four points, the seventh in overtime, then the last two 41-33 (loss to Eagles) and 13-3 (win over Rams, this time the Los Angeles version).
But forgotten during this remarkable career is how precarious was that first Super Bowl. The Patriots really had no business winning the American Conference that season.
They beat the Raiders 16-13 in the AFC semifinals, the notorious tuck game. That overturned fumble by Brady allowed New England to tie the game late and win in overtime.
Brady’s passing that game: 32 of 52, with one interception, 312 yards, no touchdowns. New England scored one offensive touchdown.
The next week, the Patriots got touchdowns on Troy Brown’s 55-yard punt return and Antwan Harris’ 49-yard blocked field goal return, and New England beat Pittsburgh 24-17. Brady suffered an ankle injury in the second quarter, and the Patriots’ only offensive touchdown was produced by Bledsoe.
Brady’s passing that game: 12 of 18, no touchdowns, no interceptions, 115 yards.
My intuition was right in the Super Bowl. The Patriot defense won the game.
Ty Law’s 47-yard interception return gave the Patriots an early touchdown, and New England’s only offensive TD, an eight-yard pass from Brady to David Patten, came on a 40-yard drive after a Ram fumble.
But after the Rams forged a 17-17 tie in the fourth quarter, Brady took the Patriots on a late field-goal drive, and Adam Vinatieri’s 48-yard field goal at the buzzer won it. Brady completed 16 of 27 for 145 yards, one TD and no interceptions.
Fast forward, and Brady is back to his roots. Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs are the Warner and Rams. Apparently unstoppable.
Meanwhile, Brady has been just so-so in these playoffs. His three second-half interceptions should have meant curtains for Tampa Bay. In three 2020 postseason games, Brady has completed 60 of 109 passes, a meager 55 percent, with seven touchdowns and the three interceptions, plus 860 yards. Acceptable 19 years ago but not up to 2020 standards.
But Tampa Bay’s defense has been superb. The last two weeks, the Buccaneers have held the Saints to 20 points and the Packers to 26. It won’t be easy holding the Chiefs down, but Mahomes is missing two offensive-line starters.
Let’s go with the upset, Tampa Bay to win, and just for old time’s sake, let’s call it 20-17.