For five plays, and for 2 minutes, 49 seconds, Tom Brady looked like Tom Brady and the Patriots offense looked like it had most of the season.
Turns out, that’s all they needed.
On a day that knocked two of the NFL’s high-flying scoring machines back into the 1970s, Brady mustered one good drive when it mattered.
He went 4-for-4, including a perfect teardrop nestled into the hands of Rob Gronkowski, to set up the game’s only touchdown on the way to a 13-3 victory over the Los Angeles Rams. New England won its record-tying sixth Super Bowl title.
“Took us a while, but you’ve got to grind it out and find a way,” Brady said.
This one will be remembered for defense. And kicking. And Julian Edelman, the diminutive receiver who found gaps in the Los Angeles zone and caught a game-high 10 passes for 141 yards. He was named Most Valuable Player.
Brady, who has won that award four times, was fine _ but nothing more _ until the drive that began with 9:49 remaining and the game tied at 3.
He hit Gronkowski for 18 yards, found Edelman in the zone for 13. He threw a dump-off pass to Rex Burkhead for seven. Then, the best pass of the day _ the 29-yard completion to Gronkowski, who was double-covered and had Rams linebacker Cory Littleton practically dragging him to the ground as he made the catch.
“Tom threw it to me and I had to make a play,” Gronkowski said. “I just come through whenever it’s that time. He knows to trust in me.”
Sony Michel took the handoff on the next play for a 2-yard score. Anyone who had only tuned in for that drive might have wondered what all the fuss was.
But even with Edelman’s chain-moving ability, Brady and the Patriots struggled all day and looked nothing like the team that averaged more than 27 points a game this season. Brady finished 21 for 35 for 262 yards and an interception.
The 41-year-old quarterback’s very first pass _ after New England started the game with four straight runs that got them to the Rams 34 _ got tipped up by receiver Chris Hogan, who collided with Nickell Robey-Coleman, then picked off by Littleton.
After that, the Patriots moved the ball, but ended up with very little to show for it. They outgained Los Angeles 195-57 in the first half but had one Stephen Gostkowski field goal _ and another Gostkowski miss _ and a paltry 3-0 lead.
The Rams tied it late in the third quarter, and this became the first Super Bowl in the 53-year history to head into the last 15 minutes without a touchdown.
Then, suddenly, Brady looked like Brady again. It didn’t last long. It was all the Patriots needed.