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Super Bowl Recap: Tom Brady’s dominance is practically witchcraft

Mike Tanier investigates Tom Brady’s performance in the Bucs’ win over the Chiefs in the Super Bowl 55 Recap — did luck play a role for Tom?

Super Bowl Recap: Tom Brady's dominance is practically witchcraft
TAMPA, FLORIDA - FEBRUARY 07: Tom Brady #12 of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers celebrates with the Lombardi Trophy after defeating the Kansas City Chiefs in Super Bowl LV at Raymond James Stadium on February 07, 2021 in Tampa, Florida. The Buccaneers defeated the Chiefs 31-9. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)

All the marvelous things ever said about Tom Brady are true. He’s the G.O.A.T., the greatest football player of all-time, the greatest champion of our era in any sport, and so forth. Super Bowl Recap is familiar with Tom Brady euphoria.

Super Bowl Recap — the context of Tom Brady’s 7th Super Bowl ring

Brady’s performance in the 31-9 Tampa Bay Buccaneers victory over the Kansas City Chiefs in Super Bowl LV — 21 of 29 passing for 201 yards and 3 touchdowns — only reconfirmed things we already knew. After all, what’s the difference between a seventh Super Bowl ring and *merely* six? A fifth Super Bowl MVP and four?

Heaping superlatives on Brady became boring years ago, and reaching for new ones now is pointless because you don’t want to read them. Brady’s excellence and dominance are “water is wet, 2 + 2 = 4” stuff.

And yet…did you get the feeling during Super Bowl LV that an almost absurd amount of things went Brady’s way?

Big-impact penalties

There were the penalties, of course. One second-quarter drive started with a 56-yard punt that became a 29-yarder due to a penalty, followed by a Tyrann Mathieu interception that became a first down because of a penalty, followed by a field goal attempt that became a first down and a touchdown to Rob Gronkowski because of a penalty.

Before halftime, the Buccaneers’ touchdown drive was made up almost exclusively of pass interference penalties on what appeared to be uncatchable balls. And it all happened after a 2020 regular season in which the Buccaneers benefitted from an all-time record 24 pass interference penalties.

Brady benefitted from more than just some lopsided-looking officiating. Patrick Mahomes’ receivers slipped and fell all over the field at the start of the third quarter and dropped some pinpoint passes.

Other mishaps and tangents from the Super Bowl Recap

Antoine Winfield caught a tip-drill interception to crush a Chiefs drive. And the Buccaneers’ defensive line dominated the Chiefs’ offensive line, in large part because backup left tackle Mike Remmers (filling in for injured Eric Fisher) was no match for Shaq Barrett and the other Bucs defenders who lined up against him.

Come to think of it, lots of things went Brady’s way in the 2020 season. And lots of things have gone Tom Brady’s way over the last 20 years as well, Super Bowls or not. Why, it’s almost as if we are all living in some pocket reality in which he controls the narrative and makes sure he always gets a happy ending. Maybe we are all trapped in a prestigious streaming-service superhero/fantasy property! All it needs is a catchy name …

BradyVision: A Tale from the Super Bowl Recap Cinematic Universe, Episode I

(The setting: a high-tech temporary military compound erected on the perimeter outside Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida. The stadium is surrounded by an eerily glowing forcefield).

NONTHREATENING FEDERAL AGENT FROM THE ANT-MAN MOVIES: What’s going on inside the stadium? And why are you watching the Super Bowl on that obsolete television?

ADORKABLE SCIENTIST FROM THE THOR MOVIES: This isn’t Super Bowl LV. It’s the 2001 AFC Divisional Round game! Someone or something is altering the fabric of reality and space-time inside the stadium.

NONTHREATENING: My goodness! Two football teams and 25,000 fans are trapped in there. What could possibly be happening?

(Within the bubble, the 2001 New England Patriots face the Oakland Raiders).

ANNOUNCER: The Patriots are desperately driving through the snow to come back from a 13-10 deficit here in the fourth quarter. The unheralded youngster Tom Brady drops back to pass and — boom! He’s flattened by future Hall of Famer Charles Woodson. The ball is loose. The Raiders recover! Well, young Brady tried his best in 2001, but Drew Bledsoe will return as the Patriots’ quarterback next year, and maybe this Belichick guy will prove he’s not just another flailing Bill Parcells assistant …

(Brady trudges slowly, ominously through the snow and stares directly into the broadcast cameras.)


(Reality blips.)

ANNOUNCER: Well, um, would you look at that? The officials are calling it an incomplete pass. It seems something called the “Tuck Rule” just appeared in the NFL rulebook, almost by magic! I have a feeling things will be going Tom Brady’s way for a while!

(Back at the government facility)

NONTHREATENING: Did you see that? It’s like the whole broadcast just glitched!

ADORKABLE: Not only that, but now it time-skipped ahead to Super Bowl XXXVI.

ANNOUNCER: (Over old television) Adam Vinatieri’s field goal is good! Brady and the Patriots have just defeated Kurt Warner and the St. Louis Rams!

ADORKABLE: And now suddenly it’s Super Bowl XXXVIII, two years later …

ANNOUNCER: (Over old television) Adam Vinatieri has kicked yet another game-winning Super Bowl field goal as the Patriots defeat Jake Delhomme and the Carolina Panthers!

NONTHREATENING: Jake Delhomme in a Super Bowl with Tom Brady? That can’t be real history. Someone must really be meddling with the fabric of space-time.

ADORKABLE: Hush! It just fast-forwarded to Super Bowl XXXIX.

ANNOUNCER: (Over old television) I cannot believe this, folks. Donovan McNabb has just puked all over Terrell Owens’ jersey.

ADORKABLE: Those fans are trapped in a world where Tom Brady wins everything almost every year.

NONTHREATENING: What a nightmare.

BradyVision: A Tale from the Super Bowl Recap Cinematic Universe, Episode II

ADORKABLE: The time jumps are accelerating. We need to switch to a flat-screen television to monitor what is happening.

NONTHREATENING: Let’s just hope our secret agent on the inside is able to stop this madness before it’s too late.

ADORKABLE: What secret agent?

(Within the bubble, where it is now 2012, on the field of Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis)

BRADY: I can’t believe you misjudged my perfect deep pass that would have gotten us back in the game, Wes Welker!

WELKER: I’m so sorry, Mister Brady, sir. Whatever you do, don’t snap your fingers and recast me as a different whi …

(Brady snaps fingers)

JULIAN EDELMAN: Happy birthday to me!

BRADY: None of this makes any sense. I, Tom Brady, lost a Super Bowl, then tore an ACL, then lost another Super Bowl. This is not how my story is supposed to go. Someone must be interfering.

ELI MANNING: Hey, tough break, Tom. But that’s the funny thing about real life, right? You win some and you lose some.

BRADY: (Suspiciously) Who are you?

ELI: What do you mean?

BRADY: (Ominously) I don’t think you belong here.

ELI: Now, Tom, I need you to listen carefully. You have a lot of people trapped in this fantasy world of yours, including my broth …

(Brady snaps fingers. Eli Manning flies backward out of the anomaly and into the real world.)

NONTHREATENING: Agent Manning, are you OK?

ELI (Getting up from the ground, dazed): Everything is so different in there. I was relevant. I was a Hall of Famer. Let me go back! Please!!!

ADORKABLE (Slapping Eli Manning a little too hard, often and gleefully): Get ahold of yourself. Now, fellow non-superpowered ancillary characters, we need a plan before the anomaly reaches real time because we don’t know what will happen then!

NONTHREATENING: We tried installing surveillance cameras to spy on Brady, but they ended up just getting the other team’s practice sessions instead.

ADORKABLE: Bad idea.

NONTHREATENING: We tried installing a microchip within the footballs themselves to gather data, but they caused the balls to deflate, and within the anomaly that turned into …

ADORKABLE: Worse idea.

(More panic starts to set in.)

NONTHREATENING: We even sent a junior agent in to try to disrupt the fairytale-like relationship between Brady, Bill Belichick, and the Patriots, but the results were suboptimal.

AGENT GAROPPOLO: I hurt myself!

ADORKABLE: We may be too late. The anomaly is approaching real time, and it’s crazy in there. Brady is clearly losing control of this strange simulation he is running. Look and listen!

ANNOUNCER: (Over old television). Well, life sure has gotten interesting here in 2020. In addition to the whole world pretty much being ablaze, Brady’s Buccaneers were 7-5 in November. Still, all of their opponents began firing coaches, watching their quarterbacks get injured or turning into the Atlanta Falcons. Meanwhile, Bill Belichick has suddenly become a whiny nincompoop whose Patriots get the snot pummeled out of them by the Buffalo Bills and Miami Dolphins, the former Patriots team chaplain has just annexed greater Houston as an independent principality, and the 49ers are hoping to trade Jimmy Garoppolo for a can of garbanzo beans.

GAROPPOLO: That seems a little harsh.

ADORKABLE: Hush, handsome. The situation is getting even worse. Reality is becoming less and less realistic as it caters to Brady’s whims. Who knows what will have to happen for him to beat Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs?

NONTHREATENING: Oh no! He even has a sitcom theme song now.

BradyVision: A Tale from the Super Bowl Recap Cinematic Universe, Episode III

(Reality itself suddenly shifts to a late-1960’s sitcom universe. Upbeat music plays).

Here’s the story
Of a man named Brady
Who was polishing six very lovely rings!
All of them brought lots of fame
And adulation
Plus all the wealth that brings.

Here’s the story
Of a lovely lady
Who was busy earning millions on her own!
They were both so gorgeous and successful
But they were all alone.

Till the one day when the lady met the fellow
And they new their lives were in for a collision
She just needed to make sure he met her standards
And that’s why she created Brady Vision!

(In a midcentury living room)

GISELE BÜNDCHEN (In a housedress and apron, and truly rocking them): Hello dear! I made you a big steak-’n’-eggs breakfast before starting my housework. Did you have fun winning another Super Bowl?

BRADY (reading a morning newspaper): Yes, but it’s the oddest thing. The Chiefs suffered so many setbacks. And I got so many calls. Heck, Mahomes almost got sick from the team barber the week before the game. All the strange coincidences and lucky breaks make me wonder if something … or someone … is trying to make life easier for me.

(Gisele looks concerned, then wiggles her nose. The door bursts open.)

ROB GRONKOWSKI: Howdy neighbor! (Audience applause). Can I borrow a six-pack, some detergent pods, and a flamethrower? I’m hosting a victory party!

GISELE: Oh, look honey, it’s our wacky neighbor Gronk!

BRADY: Yes, Gronk. Who has been showing up to distract me at just the right moment for the last decade. (Becoming more serious) Honey, are you doing this?

GISELE: Doing what, dear?

BRADY: All of this. All of the little breaks along the way. The strange events that keep happening for me. The last-second field goals. The scandals that never stick. The interchangeable fan-favorite receivers. I thought I was the one with all the power, but now I feel like you were manipulating me as well!

GISELE: Oh dear, I did it so you would not be threatened by my success. I can win next year’s Super Bowl for you, too. All I have to say is “NO MORE MAHOMES.”

BRADY: It’s over, dear. I am going to walk out that door and back into the real world.

GISELE: Please don’t. I will do anything! I will turn Belichick into a toad! He’s three-quarters of the way there already! Stop! Please!

(Brady steps through the anomaly and into the real world)

BradyVision: The Poignant Conclusion

BRADY: Is this reality? Am I who I think I am?

ADORKABLE: This is. And you are. You really are the greatest quarterback of all-time. All of those things really happened.

ELI: Including those two Super Bowls I won.

BRADY: Yeah, whatever, Eli. And was my wife really controlling everything in a weirdly-problematic “women with too much power are dangerous” sort of way?

ADORKABLE: No, it was all you, and your teammates and coaches, of course. We just thought the story needed a surprise twist and a callback to the source material.

BRADY: But do fans really feel as though they are trapped in some ironic dystopia where everything goes my way?

NONTHREATENING: Many do. But in a way, you really are the protagonist of the NFL’s story. And in another way, you are a hero for our time, in a world that needs heroes.

(Existential moment impending.)

ADORKABLE: You are destined to help define this era in American culture the way Babe Ruth helped define the Roaring Twenties or Muhammad Ali the turbulence of the 1960s and 70s. Your accomplishments — as well as all of the little scandals, peccadillos, rivalries, and personality conflicts — will help contextualize our aspirations and our errors for the era from 9-11 through the global fight against sickness. You are a champion who both worked for everything he achieved and had things come a little too easily at times, the symbol of a 21st century nation that perseveres and sometimes excels despite a touch of arrogance about its own exceptionalism.

BRADY: Wow. That’s a lot. But perhaps that means I should not act like a superhero living in a bubble fantasy for the rest of my life. I’m not going to be the typical old Hall of Fame quarterback who pokes his head up after retirement for some “get off my lawn” quotes now and then. Maybe I can use my huge platform and bigger-than-the-game reputation to make the world a better place once I retire!

ADORKABLE: That would both be swell and surprising.

BRADY: Ah, who am I kidding? I’m never gonna retire.

GRONK: (Running out of the anomaly covered in soot). Hey, sorry I am late for the Super Bowl victory party. I tried to cook Cheese Doodles with a flamethrower and things got a little smoky.

WHOLE CAST: Oh, silly Gronk!

(Lots of forced laughter. Canned audience applause. Roll credits.)

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