Now playing in his sixth Super Bowl, Tom Brady needed a giant stroke of luck just to make it into the New England Patriots' starting lineup.
After an injury to Drew Bledsoe in the second game of the 2001 season, Brady took over as the starter for the Patriots and never looked back. We did some digging in the Sports Illustrated Vault to see what those around Brady had to say about the quarterback in November 2001, before any Super Bowl victories - and before Brady turned into the ruthless, UGGs-wearing, touchdown-throwing mercenary he is today.
David Patten, Patriots wide receiver, on Brady during minicamp:
"Tom carried himself like this was his team. I thought, If he's this confident as a backup, I can only imagine how he'd be running the show."
J.R. Redmond, Patriots running back, on Brady in the huddle:
"Some guys just say the play. He makes you think we're about to do something big."
John Mobley, Denver Broncos linebacker, on playing against Brady:
"Every time he got to the line against us, he was looking over the defense and calling audibles. He was very much in command."
Charlie Weis, Patriots offensive coordinator, on Brady responding to a poor performance with a win:
"Inexperienced quarterbacks need to show they can deal with the highs and lows of this league. The jury is still out until you face adversity, and Tom proved he can deal with it."
Drew Bledsoe, Patriots quarterback, on Brady's growth in his second season:
"He's been asking questions in meetings you normally wouldn't attribute to a second-year guy. Instead of wondering who his second receiver on a play was, he wanted to know about reading the defense or where to put the ball when he saw a specific coverage."
Brady, on if he should remain the starter:
"I'm still only a second-year player. People can talk about a quarterback controversy, but one thing I learned in college is that the coach decides who plays, and when he says to go in there, you play your butt off. That's all I've been trying to do."
Read the full story by Jeffri Chadiha here.
New England Patriots Road to the Super Bowl
The Patriots opened the 2014 season with a head-turning 33-20 loss to the Dolphins on the road. Tom Brady completed only 29 of his 56 pass attempts and threw just one touchdown. New England was outscored 23-0 in the second half.
New England’s defense and special teams played a huge role in their Week 2 win over the Minnesota Vikings, as the Patriots intercepted Matt Cassel four times and returned a blocked field goal for a touchdown.
In their home opener, the Patriots squeaked past the Oakland Raiders 16-9, marking the third week in a row in which Brady threw only one touchdown pass. DT Vince Wilfork sealed the win with an interception near New England’s goal line in the final minute
The Patriots were embarrassed on Monday Night Football in Week 4, losing 41-14 to the Kansas City Chiefs. Brady again only threw for one score (who’s counting anyway?), and was intercepted twice, while Alex Smith threw for three touchdowns and the Chiefs’ running game amassed over 200 yards on the ground.
Brady and the Patriots bounced back with a 43-17 drubbing of the Cincinnati Bengals. Brady threw for two touchdowns and 292 yards, Rob Gronkowski had 100 yards receiving and a touchdown and the running game piled up 221 yards.
The passing game remained fruitful in New England’s next game, a 37-22 win over Buffalo. Brady threw for 361 yards and four touchdowns – two of which went to Brandon LaFell -- to improve to 23-2 against the Bills in his career.
The Patriots narrowly avoided a loss to the Jets by blocking a 58-yard field goal attempt on the final play of the game. Brady remained hot, throwing three touchdown passes in the win.
The Patriots’ offense found their stride in Week 8 en route to a 51-23 win over Chicago. Brady tossed five touchdown passes, and the Pats’ defense added a fumble recovery for a touchdown for good measure.
New England continued to steamroll opponents with a 43-21 win over Denver in a rematch of last season’s AFC Championship game. Brady threw for four touchdowns and 333 yards, while Peyton Manning threw for 438 yards and two scores. Manning and Brady combined for 110 pass attempts, while Gronkowski caught nine passes for 105 yards.
In a prelude to this year’s AFC Championship, the Patriots ran right through the Colts in Indianapolis, presumably with the balls properly inflated. New England dominated on the ground, with Jonas Gray running 37 times for 201 yards and four scores. Brady threw for two more touchdowns in a 42-20 win.
The Patriots’ defense shined in their next win, a 34-9 shutdown of Detroit. Lions QB Matthew Stafford completed only 18 of his 46 passes and couldn’t find the end zone. LaGarrette Blount ran for 78 yards and two scores after being picked up by New England three days earlier.
New England suffered their first loss since September on the road at Lambeau Field. The Packers won 26-21 behind 368 yards and two touchdowns from Aaron Rodgers. A Patriots comeback was stifled late, when Stephen Gostkowski missed a 47-yard field goal with under three minutes left and the defense could not get the ball back.
New England’s defense held San Diego scoreless in the second half, locking up a 24-13 victory. Julian Edelman caught eight passes for 141 yards and a score for the Pats, and a field goal put New England ahead for good early in the fourth quarter.
New England avenged their first loss of the season with a 41-13 shellacking of Miami, clinching the AFC East in the process. The Patriots slammed the Dolphins with 24 points in the third quarter alone, the highest-scoring third quarter in team history. Gronkowski’s three catches were good for 96 yards and a touchdown.
The Jets gave the Patriots another scare in Week 16, but New England emerged from the Meadowlands with the 17-16 win after Jonas Gray scored the go-ahead touchdown early in the fourth quarter following a Geno Smith interception. The Jets had an opportunity to retake the lead with a field goal, but Nick Folk’s 52-yard attempt with over five minutes left fell short.
Resting most of their key players, New England lost to Buffalo 17-9 in a meaningless Week 17 game. Patriots rookie quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo saw his first significant action of the season, completing 10 of his 17 passes for 90 yards.
AFC Divisional Playoff
In a classic contest between AFC rivals, the Patriots rallied from two 14-point deficits to defeat the Baltimore Ravens. New England trailed 14-0 and 28-14, but outscored Baltimore 21-3 after falling behind by two touchdowns for the second time. Tom Brady threw for three scores, and Edelman threw his own touchdown pass on a trick play. The Ravens’ comeback was dealt a heavy blow when Flacco tossed an interception on the team’s second-to-last drive.
In a repeat of their regular season matchup, New England thoroughly dominated Indianapolis in the AFC championship game, winning 45-7. The Pats’ defense stifled Andrew Luck, who completed only 12 of 33 passes for 126 yards and no touchdowns. Of course, the game has since gained notoriety when the NFL investigated and confirmed that the Patriots were using illegally deflated balls.