JACKSONVILLE, Fla. Tom Brady was far from flawless.
Except when it mattered most.
A tough week ended sweetly for the NFL's latest matinee idol when the New England Patriots finally wriggled free of the Philadelphia Eagles, 24-21, to claim their third Super Bowl in the last four years. His numbers weren't eye-popping they never are but they were good enough, as usual.
The win made Brady 9-0 in the postseason, a record that puts him level with former Green Bay great Bart Starr. It may not be much longer before we stop comparing Brady to Joe Montana and start comparing Montana to him.
Montana is one of only two quarterbacks with more Super Bowl wins, but it took him nine years to collect his four. The other four-time winner, former Steelers great Terry Bradshaw, gathered his in just six years.
That may explain why, just before handing over the Lombardi Trophy to Brady on the field, Bradshaw leaned in and said, ''This is not that easy, you do know that?''
''Oh, believe me,'' Brady smiled back. ''I do know that. It's ... what a game, what a tough opponent.''
Everybody talks all the time about what Brady has good looks, money, an icy-cool demeanor, the best team the league has seen in some time and yet he spent more than a few hours the past few days thinking about what he had lost.
His grandmother, Margaret Brady, died Wednesday night in the San Francisco area at age 94, and he spent much of the next morning remembering in a dreamy tone visits to her backyard swimming pool when he was young and the Super Bowl parties she hosted in a nursing home the last few years, always calling him afterward.
''I'm sure she'll be looking down on us Sunday,'' Brady said. ''That's one more person up there who will be cheering for us.''
Later that evening, though, the grandson was focusing on the job at hand and looking at film.
''It had to be tough,'' offensive coordinator Charlie Weis said. ''The rest of the family is all back home and he's got so much on his plate already. But after a while, he called me up to his room and wanted to start breaking stuff down.
''He does that so much,'' said Weis, who is leaving the Patriots staff to take over the head coaching job at Notre Dame, ''that he can really be a pain in the butt sometimes.''
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