Tom Brady was untouchable.
The Rams struggled to get close to him. And so did Kevin Simkins, the burly NFL Films cameraman who has shot all six of the New England quarterback’s Super Bowl victories.
The crush of people surrounding Brady after Sunday night’s game was so thick, that Simkins actually felt his feet lift off the ground when the pack moved.
“I was bouncing around like a piece of popcorn out there,” said Simkins, built like a linebacker.
Chad Steele knows the feeling. He’s assigned by the NFL to shepherd the winning quarterback from spot to spot after the Super Bowl, yet this year was especially difficult.
“Everybody’s pushing and pulling different directions,” said the 6-foot-7 Steele, in charge of media relations for the Baltimore Ravens when he’s not working Super Bowls. “You’ve got his teammates trying to come see him, his coach trying to come see him. You don’t know which way to go, because he’s turning left, turning right. It’s just crazy.”
Then again, it’s riding shotgun to NFL history. Brady is the first starting quarterback to win six NFL championships — and that includes the era before the Super Bowl. He had been tied at five with Green Bay legend Bart Starr.
At 41 years, 183 days, Brady extended his record as the oldest quarterback to win a Super Bowl.
“It’s kind of chaotic, but it’s really cool,” Steele said. “It’s history. You see him and the emotion that he has, the emotion that his teammates have, it’s amazing.”
With Brady at quarterback and Bill Belichick as coach, the Patriots have won six Super Bowls in 18 seasons. No matter what you feel about the franchise — and it is football’s most polarizing — that’s stunning. An average of one Lombardi Trophy every three years during that span — and in the salary-cap era, no less, when it’s nearly impossible to keep the core of teams together from year to year.
The one constant on the field for the Patriots is Brady, who, as ESPN number crunchers point out, has six game-winning drives in the fourth quarter or overtime of Super Bowls. Nobody else in the modern era has more than six in all of the playoffs.
Sunday night, all that Brady-Belichick experience was on display. The quarterback and coach are a combined 107 years old, whereas the Rams’ Jared Goff and Sean McVay are a combined 57. In Super Bowl LIII, that seasoning showed.
It was far from an offensive masterpiece for New England, but Brady was happy to direct the spotlight to the other side of the ball.
“How about our defense?” he said. “They played unbelievable. Challenged all these plays and we finally had a touchdown drive in the fourth quarter. Took us a while, but you’ve got to grind it out and find a way. We did that against [Kansas City], we did it against L.A. [Chargers], and then obviously again tonight.
“All different teams. All different styles. But world champs, man.”
If there was a signature play in what was an uneven performance by Brady, it was his pristine pass to diving tight end Rob Gronkowski for a 29-yard gain to the two-yard line midway through the fourth quarter. One snap later, the Patriots scored the game’s only touchdown.
“Tom threw it to me and I had to make a play,” Gronkowski said. “He knows to trust in me and throw that ball, and I’m going to grab it.”
This was the first of Brady’s nine Super Bowl appearances in which he didn’t throw a touchdown pass. It was his fifth such postseason game, and the Patriots are 5-0 in those.
The 13 points by the Patriots matched the fewest they have scored in any of Brady’s postseason starts.
Still, is there any debate Belichick and Brady are the greatest coach and quarterback, combined or individually, in NFL history?
Certainly not in New England’s locker room.
“The comparisons should have been dropped long ago,” said Jonathan Kraft, president of the Patriots. “Anybody who thinks you can compare Bill Belichick and Tom Brady to any other coach or quarterback is just wrong. There’s no relative comparison. You think of greatness in other fields, and there’s just nothing. And it’s keeping that competitive hunger over such a long period of time.”
Brady and Belichick, Kraft said, even top the singular Boston sports icon of the generation past.
“I watched Larry Bird, I love Larry Bird,” Kraft said. “I’m not being critical of him. But Tom and Bill transcend him. Any comparisons are a joke. If someone’s comparing them to anyone, they have another agenda.”
As the throng around Brady continues to grow, everyone gets closer to him — yet he only creates more separation.