Patriots quarterback Tom Brady celebrates with the Vince Lombardi trophy after beating the Falcons in Super Bowl LI.
By Kelly Bell
Decades ago one of America’s sports icons, New York Yankees catcher Yogi Berra, was asked why he stayed so intense in every game even when his team had a prohibitive lead. “It ain’t over till it’s over,” he explained. Berra believed rightly that no team had an insurmountable lead until the game was over, and he never said anything about it in what sport. When New England Patriot quarterback Tom Brady led his team onto the gridiron of Houston’s NGR Stadium this past Sunday he soon had cause to cling to Berra’s philosophy.
After a tedious first quarter in which both Brady’s and the Atlanta Falcons’ offenses did little except punt, Atlanta flew higher than its namesake for more than half the game, building a 28-3 lead with two minutes to go in the third quarter. Brady had been hammered, hounded and harassed as his offensive linemen could not protect him from the rampaging Falcon defenders. He even had a pass intercepted and returned for a score. Many teams would have thrown up their hands had their Hall of Fame-bound quarterback thrown a touchdown pass for the other team, but Brady and his mates, offensive and defensive, rallied. Determined to uphold their proud tradition established by a field general who had already led them to four Super Bowl titles, they commenced scraping and clawing back into the game.
Atlanta had scored a league-high 540 points during the regular season, but after the Pats’ late-third quarter awakening the Birds were shut out for the rest of the game. Brady, meanwhile, ignored the odds and found his groove, picking apart the Falcon secondary and amassing 466 yards and two touchdowns. After cutting the gap to 28-12 the New Englanders shoved the Atlanta offense back from just outside the Patriot 20, from where they could have made an easy, game-winning field goal, to almost midfield and forced a punt. In the second half, Brady led his offense to 25 unanswered points through the tiring and demoralized Atlanta defenders, who may also have felt discouraged by the heroics of this NFL quarterbacking institution. A pair of late touchdowns and two two-point conversions evened the score at 28 to force the first overtime Super Bowl in history.
After winning the fifth period coin toss, the Pats elected to receive, and never looked back. Atlanta fielded the proper defensive alignments, but it almost seemed that although they knew what was coming on every down they were powerless to stop it as Brady marched his squad 91 quick yards to running back James White’s championship-winning two-yard-run for a 34-28 New England victory.
Brady will have to slip his latest gold ring onto his thumb. He came into this game with four Super Bowl triumphs already in his pocket. He is the first quarterback (and only the second player) to hoist the Vince Lombardi trophy for the fifth time, to be selected Super Bowl MVP for a fourth time, to bring a team back from so far behind, and to do all this at the age of 39. He refuses to let anything, even father time, to stop him. He also refuses to thump his chest, but spreads the credit around to all his teammates. After the game, he faced the press and set the facts straight.
“You know, we all brought each other back,” he said. “We never felt out of it. It was a tough battle. They have a great team. I give them a lot of credit. We just made a few more plays than them.”
Yogi Berra and Tom Brady know and practice the power of determination and self-confidence. To them adversity is a challenge to be savored and overcome rather than avoided, and their dedication to this belief has brought both of them great rewards. Brady now has five Super Bowl rings, while Berra has for decades held the record for playing in more World Series games than any other player.
All the rest of us have to do, is follow their example and remember that we can do all things through Christ who strengthens us.