HOUSTON — By half past midnight, Tom Brady Sr. had settled back into his room at the Doubletree. And that gave him a few quiet minutes to process the impossible that the youngest of his four children, and his only son, had just pulled off.
On one hand he’s in awe like everyone else at the way No. 12 and his teammates found a way to close a 25-point gap against an athletic, aggressive Falcons team. On the other he knows this means more than just that to the 39-year-old who piloted it, because he has lived it with his son.
So now that the Patriots’ 34-28 win over the Falcons is in the books, as is a record fifth ring for the quarterback, the elder Brady can come clean: This one took on a bigger significance for the family than the other four ever could.
“Yes, it did,” he said. “It did. It did. Winning five Super Bowls, and coming back from all the stuff that he was accused of, that was a very difficult thing for the whole family, to be impugned. And lo and behold … It just meant a lot. It just meant a lot because anybody who’s watched him play football for 15 years, in cold weather, in heat, on the road or at home, knows what he’s been.
“It just meant redemption, frankly. It meant redemption. It meant that all of these people that questioned his authenticity are non-entities from this point on.”
As the world found out this week, there was more to it than that for the Bradys.
Brady’s mother, Galynn, was diagnosed with cancer about 18 months ago. Patriots owner Robert Kraft said after the team’s win that she went through radiation and chemotherapy treatments along the way. And because of that, she hadn’t been to one of her son’s games all year.
In fact, that she’d make it to this one was no sure thing. It wasn’t until she went in to be checked out in midweek at UC-San Francisco that doctors cleared her to make the trip. “We weren’t sure we’d be able to come until Wednesday,” said Brady Sr. So her presence in section 309 was a win for everyone, and maybe that’s part of why, even when things were dark, no one in the group lost faith that another one was coming.
When it was 28-3, Brady Sr. sent this to a family group text: “This is gonna be the greatest comeback ever.” And then, “I gotta believe. And I believe.” It wasn’t that he totally avoided moments of doubt. It was more that he was assured in how his son, and his team, would respond.
“He does a wonderful job just playing football during the highest moments,” Brady Sr. said. “It doesn’t change his game at all. Some people get tight. I was really concerned when we tried the onside kick, missed it, and then got the five-yard penalty on top of it—‘Ah geez, we’re pressing, we’re pressing.’ [Bill] Belichick knows what he’s doing, and the defense was magnificent. It just looked like Atlanta got real tight.”
Dad’s instinct was spot on. The younger Brady was nails the rest of the way. And that fourth quarter for the ages set off a chain of events that no one in the family’s inner circle will soon forget.
Maybe the best moment for them was the simplest. When they found one another other.
The Brady party of 10, led by Galynn and Tom Sr., was summoned by a couple of police officers from their seats about five minutes after the final gun sounded. As they made their way through the guts of NRG Stadium, Tom Jr. was headed to the podium, poking his head around to find them. He finally spotted them as he ascended the steps for the trophy presentation.
They were on the opposite end of the field. He smiled, raised his fist to them, then let emotion take over, bending over the side of the podium and burying head in his arms. And that, of course, was about far more than Deflategate.
“It was just awesome,” Tom Sr. said. “He puts everything he can into every single game. But this one, I heard he just said, ‘I’m winning this one for my mom.’ That one jerks the tear ducts big-time. … She lives and dies with every one of her children, whether it’s in a football game or anything else. And she was very thankful. Very thankful, yeah, just very thankful that this played out.”
After the trophy presentation, the Bradys got time together in a fenced-off area behind the podium before Tom Jr. went to fulfill his post-game responsibilities. From there, his dad headed to the team party at NRG Center. He waited for his son, spent about 10 minutes with him, and then it was back to the hotel for his and Galynn’s flight back to San Francisco first thing Monday morning.
The elder Brady says, of his son’s future, “I still think [he plays] another five years,” so he doesn’t expect this will be their final football memory, or close to it. But considering everything that surrounded this win, and everything that went into it, he knows it’ll be hard for anything to top this one for the family.
“I said to my daughters, my granddaughters—You will never experience a game like this again,” Tom Sr. said. “Fifty years from now, they’re gonna be talking about this game. ... It was pretty awesome. It was pretty darn awesome.”
And the circumstances that made the last couple years so tough only served to make this historic performance that much sweeter.
There were a number of times during the conversation where emotion seemed to hit Brady’s dad. At a press conference earlier in the week, Tom Jr. had called his dad his hero. It’s pretty clear the admiration is mutual.
“It was very heavy on us for two years,” Tom Sr. said. “This one puts everything behind us, and we can just say, ‘Y’know, no one gives a toot about what he was accused of, except that the league wanted to flex its muscle.’ That’s over and done with.
“It’s in the rear-view mirror. We don’t need anybody’s approval to validate everything that he’s done.”
Fair to say, Sunday took care of that.
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